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Posts Tagged ‘Mary of Bethany’

Let’s review from Part 1 of Mary of Bethany:

There were six Mary’s in the New Testament – Mary of Nazareth (Jesus’ mother), Mary of Magdala, Mary of Bethany, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, Mary the mother of John Mark, and Mary of Rome. Of these, Jesus knew and interacted with the first four. He had very close relationships with three of the Mary’s – his mother, Mary of Magdala, and Mary of Bethany.

We don’t know how much interaction He had with Mary the mother of two of His apostles, James (sometimes called the “lesser”) and Joseph. It is likely that this Mary is the same as Mary of Clopas who was at the cross when Jesus died.  But like the other mothers of his disciples, Mary of Clopas must have occasionally been on hand to minister to her sons’ needs along with the female followers of Christ who saw to the feeding, clothing, and maybe even shelter for Jesus and the whole group of disciples.

The Rabbi’s in Jesus’ day did not teach women. In fact, many said that men should not speak with a woman, especially in the market place. But Jesus did not isolate Himself from women; in fact, He sought them out. Jesus taught women openly. He encouraged them as disciples and even depended on them for His sustenance. He allowed women to be His primary witnesses to key events in His life.

In the last few lessons we have been looking at the stories of the encounters that Jesus had with women. We started with the most important woman to Him, humanly speaking, His mother Mary. We saw Jesus’ great love and compassion for the helpless as he healed Mary of Magdala by casting seven demons out of her.

In this lesson we will continue to look at the story of Mary of Bethany. Her story is of a woman who bravely broke with the Jewish tradition that said that women could not be schooled and became disciples of Jesus.

 

Mary of Bethany – Encourager

In our last story we saw the many ways that Mary of Bethany followed Jesus. Mary and her sister Martha opened up their home for Jesus and the other disciples. Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and listened while He taught. When their brother Lazarus died, Mary and Martha witnessed one of Jesus’ most powerful miracles as He raised Lazarus from the dead. These sisters then went on to be powerful witnesses for Christ in their village.

Mary was a very remarkable disciple. Mary was gifted with the discernment to understand the significance of Jesus’ words and actions. This was a special gift to her from God. The Lord would speak of His coming death to the twelve disciples several times during His ministry but they would not understand or believe it.

 

Mark records for us one such occasion. Turn to Mark 9:30-32:

They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.

For another occasion turn to Matthew 16:21-23:

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

We should not be too hard on Peter. Jesus knew that Peter had a long way to go to maturity in his life. We have the privilege of hindsight and can look back and see when Jesus showed patience with Peter even though Jesus knew that Peter would deny him on the night of his arrest. But Jesus knew what Peter was destined for. Jesus knows our destinies too and we should be comforted.

On another occasion Jesus and the disciples were going up to Jerusalem for their third and last Passover supper with Jesus. Of course the disciples did not know this was to be the last supper with Jesus.

Turn to Matthew 20:17-19

Now Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. On the way, he took the Twelve aside and said to them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!”

Again the Twelve apostles did not understand. But there was one disciple who understood – Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. Sometime during the last few days of Jesus’ earthly ministry, Jesus and His friends went to the home of Simon the leper. While they were at dinner, Mary poured an alabaster jar of costly perfume on Jesus’ feet. John records the story. Turn to chapter 12 of John’s gospel.

Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

Mary took a pound of extremely costly perfume and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped them with her hair. Mark also gives an account of a woman, though not named, who anointed Jesus for His burial. We get some additional information. Turn to Mark 14:4-9:

 “Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.

“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Here again, we see that Mary chose the better part. She had already demonstrated that Jesus was more important to her than anything else in the world. The disciples needed to learn this lesson too. Jesus is using this occasion to teach the disciples that there are indeed many important things, like taking care of the poor, but knowing Jesus himself is the most important.

This story also reveals something else about Mary. While the Twelve were struggling to understand what Jesus was talking about when he predicted his death, Mary somehow comprehended the meaning of Jesus’ time on earth. When Mary anointed Jesus’ head and feet with the oil, she showed her gratitude to Him for her own salvation and for saving the life of her brother.

Mary also seemed to understand that Jesus’ time on earth was near an end. She had been attentive to the Lord’s teaching. God had blessed her with understanding. In this story as in all the stories about the incredible women in the New Testament, the women seem to be very intuitive and responsive to the Lord’s words.

The disciples complained about the “waste” of the costly perfume. They wanted to sell it and give it to the poor. We know that Judas had selfish motives for wanting to stop her. He was in charge of the moneybox and was a thief. But Jesus cut through all of the grumbling when he told the men to leave Mary alone. They probably had no idea that Jesus’ death and burial were so close. But Jesus knew that Mary understood. He received her worship on this occasion and honored her.

Jesus made a point about what is more important – that is to worship Him. The disciples had to realize that what Mary did had more significance than what they understood.

Mary’s blessing from God was that she was able to understand her Master’s teachings.

We see in this incident that Mary again “chose the better part”. Mary was so totally devoted to Christ, she was so in tune with His teaching, she was so intent on showing her love for Him that the only thing she could think of was worshiping Him. In her home she did this by listening at His feet. At Simon’s home, she did this by pouring the very costly perfume on Jesus’ head. Jesus made a point to say that wherever the Gospel was preached, her action would be spoken of. He couldn’t have made it any clearer that love and devotion for Him must come first in our lives.

There is something else interesting to note here. Jesus shatters cultural expectations by affirming the status of a woman as his disciple. Jesus is the greatest liberator of women the world has ever known.

Application

Jesus opened the door for women to have the privilege of studying the Word. Women are invited to be Jesus’ disciples and to study and learn and grow into maturity as followers of Christ. How thankful we should be for this story of Jesus and Mary of Bethany.

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A Note About Jesus and Women

There were six Mary’s in the New Testament – Mary of Nazareth (Jesus’ mother), Mary of Magdala, Mary of Bethany, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, Mary the mother of John Mark, and Mary of Rome. Of these, Jesus knew and interacted with the first four. We don’t know how much interaction He had with Mary the mother of two of His apostles, James (sometimes called the “lesser”) and Joseph. It is likely that this Mary is the same as Mary of Clopas who was at the cross when Jesus died.  But like the other mothers, Mary of Clopas must have occasionally been on hand to minister to her sons’ needs along with the female followers of Christ who saw to the feeding, clothing, and maybe even shelter for Jesus and the whole group of disciples.

The Rabbi’s in Jesus’ day did not teach women. In fact, many said that men should not speak with a woman, especially in the market place. But Jesus did not isolate Himself from women; in fact, He sought them out. Jesus taught women openly. He encouraged them as disciples and even depended on them for His sustenance. He allowed women to be His primary witnesses to key events in His life.

In the last few lessons we have been looking at the stories of the encounters that Jesus had with women. The most important woman to Him, humanly speaking, was His mother Mary. In the last two lessons, we saw Jesus’ great love and compassion for the helpless as he healed Mary of Magdala by casting seven demons out of her. Jesus also showed His great love for Mary of Magdala by taking time to comfort her after His resurrection.

In this lesson we will look at the story of Mary of Bethany. Her story is of a woman who bravely broke with Jewish tradition and became a disciple of Jesus.

 

Mary of Bethany – Encourager

Turn now to Luke 10:38-42:

 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

 We learn about Mary from the three occasions when she and Martha are with Jesus. In the account we just read in Luke’s gospel, Martha and Mary have received Jesus and his disciples in their home for a meal.

In John’s Gospel we will meet Mary and Martha again at the tomb of their younger brother, Lazarus. Jesus would raise His friend from the dead. Then in the third story, at the home of Simon the leper where everyone was probably celebrating the resurrection of Lazarus, Martha is again serving. On this occasion, Mary anointed Jesus’ head with a very costly oil. Jesus said that Mary was preparing him beforehand for his burial.

We don’t often think about the Lord Jesus’ private life. So much of his life was spent preaching and healing. He gave himself totally to his task. But we know that as a human being he could grow tired. Several times he took the disciples off to a quiet place to relax. Jesus said, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of man has no place to lay his head” (Luke 9:58). He was warning his disciples that they would be traveling a lot. They would have no permanent home. That did not mean that there would never be a place for them to lodge.

Somewhere along the way Jesus had met Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. The sisters and brother became believers and good friends. Whenever Jesus was traveling to Jerusalem he knew he could stay with this family, since Bethany was only a couple of miles from Jerusalem.

On one occasion, Jesus stopped at the home of Martha and Mary. We do not know how many disciples were with him. There could easily have been twenty or more. There would have been the twelve apostles and other followers including some from the company of women that followed Jesus. Was Mary Magdalene there? How about Joanna or Susanna? If we remember from Luke, chapter 8 that many of Jesus’ disciples were women, it should not surprise us to find that Mary decided to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen while he spoke.

In Jewish culture to “sit at someone’s feet” meant that you were learning from him. You were a student and the master was training you to follow in his ways. This was a wonderful opportunity for Mary, not to be missed. She eagerly drank in Jesus’ every word. Mary comprehended everything the Lord said, in some ways even better than the other disciples.

Mary’s initiative in taking such a position at Jesus’ feet and learning was actually shocking for most Jewish men, surely for the disciples. Rabbis did not have female disciples. Girls were not allowed to receive a formal education. Indeed, one Jewish teacher, R. Eleizer is quoted as saying, “They shall burn the teachings of Torah rather than convey them to women.” Clearly, our Lord desired for women as well as men to study and learn.

Martha was understandably upset that her sister did not help her. After all, it was her home too and as hostess Mary had certain responsibilities. Perhaps Martha could see that there was no getting Mary to do her job on her own. Martha appealed to Jesus to tell Mary to help her; she knew that Mary would obey Jesus.

But Jesus said that Mary had chosen what is better. And indeed, it was the most important thing. I’m sure Jesus and his disciples appreciated Martha’s hospitality, but her busy-ness was not more important than spending time with the Master.

The next time we meet up with Mary in the bible, it is a very sad occasion. Turn to John, chapter 11 and we will read portions of the story beginning with verse 1.

Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. … So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.

So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

Jesus explained to his disciples that Lazarus was dead and that they should go to him. Continuing with verse 17:

 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

We are not sure why Mary stayed at home. Perhaps her grief was just too much to bear. In the meantime, Jesus comforted Martha with the assurance that her brother would rise from the dead. Martha proclaimed her faith in Jesus as the Messiah.

Picking up at verse 28:

After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there. When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 

Mary and the Jews who came with her were all weeping. Jesus had compassion with them and he wept too.

Jesus told men to roll away the stone from the mouth of the grave. Lazarus had been dead for four days, but Jesus, knew that these circumstances would prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was the Messiah bringing glory to God. Jesus called out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”. Lazarus came out. What joy the sisters must have felt to have their brother returned to them. The Jews who had come to visit Mary were witnesses to what Jesus had done and many came to believe in him.

Mary and Martha believed in the resurrection of the dead. Surely Mary would recall these events after Jesus died. As Jesus’ disciple Mary had not only sat at his feet while he taught, but now she was a witness to his mighty deeds.

There is much more to the story of Mary of  Bethany. Next time we will see how God gifted Mary with discernment and wisdom. Mary will be present at another important occasion in the life of Jesus – His anointing for burial. Mary was truly a gifted disciple of the Lord Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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But only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:42)

She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for the burial. Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her. (Mark 14:8,9)

In the last few weeks we have been looking at the stories of the encounters that Jesus had with women. We started with the most important woman to Him, humanly speaking, His mother Mary. Then last week we told the story of one of Jesus’ great friends, Martha of Bethany. This week we will look at the story of Martha’s sister, Mary.

We learn about Mary from the three occasions when she and Martha are with Jesus. In Luke’s Gospel we see the account of a dinner party at their home in Bethany (Luke 10:38-42). In John’s Gospel we will meet them again at the tomb of their younger brother, Lazarus. Jesus would raise His friend from the dead (John 11). Then later, at the home of Simon the leper, where everyone was probably celebrating the resurrection of Lazarus, Martha is again serving. Mary took a pound of extremely costly perfume and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped them with her hair (John 12:1-11).  Matthew and Mark also give an account of a woman, though not named, who anointed Jesus for His burial. The details in the accounts point to the fact that this woman was probably Mary (Matt. 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9).

Martha_and_MaryIn our first story recorded for us by Luke we see that Mary had “chosen the good part” and devoted her whole attention to Jesus. Sitting at His feet she learned much from Him. She took in His every word and she comprehended it, even better than the disciples. Mary was gifted with the discernment to understand the significance of Jesus’ words.

The Lord would speak of His coming death to the twelve disciples several times during His ministry but they would not understand or believe it. Mark records for us one such occasion. While teaching in Galilee Jesus told His disciples, “‘The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later.’ But they did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask Him.” (Mark 9:31, 32) On another occasion after Jesus told the disciples about His upcoming death and resurrection, Peter exclaimed to Jesus, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You” (Matt. 16:22). Jesus rebuked Peter on this occasion. When Jesus and the disciples were going up to Jerusalem for their third and last Passover supper with Jesus (of course the disciples did not know this was to be the last one) Jesus told them again that He was to be delivered into the hands of the chief priests and scribes who would condemn Him to death and crucify Him, but on the third day He would rise up. (Matthew 20:18, 19) Again the disciples did not understand.

But there was one disciple who understood – Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. Sometime during these last few days of Jesus’ earthly ministry, Jesus and His friends went to the home of Simon the leper. While they were at dinner, Mary poured an alabaster jar of costly perfume on Jesus’ head. Jesus remarked that Mary was doing it for His burial. Her action showed that she understood what Jesus had been saying about His mission to the world – that He must die for our sins but He would rise again on the third day.

When Mary anoints Jesus’ head and feet with the oil, she is showing her gratitude to Mary-anointsHim for her own salvation and for saving the life of her brother. She also seems to understand that Jesus’ time on earth is near an end. She had been attentive to the Lord’s teaching. God had blessed her with understanding. In this story as in all the stories about the incredible women in the New Testament, the women seem to be very intuitive and responsive to the Lord’s words.

The disciples complain about the “waste” of the costly perfume. They wanted to sell it and give it to the poor. We know that Judas had selfish motives for wanting to stop her. He was in charge of the moneybox and was a thief. But Jesus cut through all of the grumbling and said, “Let her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial. For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.” (John 12:7,8)

Jesus made a point about what is more important – that is to worship Him. The disciples had to realize that what Mary did had more significance than what they understood. Mary’s blessing from God was that she was able to understand her Master’s teachings.

We see in this incident that Mary again “chose the better part”. Mary was so totally devoted to Christ, she was so in tune with His teaching, she was so intent on showing her love for Him that the only thing she could think of was worshiping Him. In her home she did this by listening at His feet. At Simon’s home, she did this by pouring the very costly perfume on His head. Jesus made a point to say that wherever the Gospel was preached, her action would be spoken of. He couldn’t have made it any clearer that love and devotion for Him must come first in our lives.

There is something else interesting to note here.

Jesus shatters cultural expectations by affirming the status of a woman as his disciple. Jesus is the greatest liberator of women the world has ever known.

Mary at Jesus' feetThis Mary is the same one who anointed Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair (Matt 26:6-7; John 11:1-2; 12:3; To sit at the feet of a respected rabbi was the position of a disciple. In Acts 22:3 Paul says he was instructed at the feet of Gamaliel, a leading rabbi of Jerusalem (Luke 8:35). Mary’s initiative in taking such a position at Jesus’ feet and learning was actually shocking for most Jewish men, surely for the disciples. Rabbis did not have female disciples. Girls were not allowed to receive a formal education. Indeed one Jewish teacher, R. Eleizer is quoted as saying, “They shall burn the teachings of Torah rather than convey them to women.”

Jesus opened the door for women to have the privilege of studying the Word. Women are invited to be Jesus’ disciples and to study and learn and grow into maturity as followers of Christ. How thankful we should be for this story of Jesus and Mary of Bethany.

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