Hi friends! We are in a series studying characteristics of women in the Bible. These amazing girls are foundational to our faith and teach us how to live for Jesus well. The first week we studied Jesus’ mom, Mary. Last week we studied Rebekah. Today, we are studying Mary of Bethany. She is one of my absolute favorite women in the Bible. There is so much to learn from her. Mary can be found sitting at Jesus’ feet three different times:
- When He was teaching.
The first time we see Mary sitting down at Jesus’ feet is in Luke chapter 10. Martha (Mary’s sister) invited Jesus and His disciples into her home, and prepared a meal for them.
“As Jesus and the disciples continued on their journey, they came to a village where a woman welcomed Jesus into her home. Her name was Martha and she had a sister named Mary. Mary sat down attentively before the Master, absorbing every revelation he shared. But Martha became exasperated by finishing the numerous household chores in preparation for her guests, so she interrupted Jesus and said, “Lord, don’t you think it’s unfair that my sister left me to do all the work by myself? You should tell her to get up and help me.” The Lord answered her, “Martha, my beloved Martha. Why are you upset and troubled, pulled away by all these many distractions? Are they really that important? Mary has discovered the one thing most important by choosing to sit at my feet. She is undistracted, and I won’t take this privilege from her,” (Luke 10:38-42 TPT).
I am wired like Martha. I am most comfortable behind the scenes hosting. I like to be in charge and come up with the plans, but often times end up stressing out. You should have see me an hour before my kids’ birthday parties. I used to go into full panic mode. There was so much to do: clean the house, pull the weeds, dust those darn ceiling fans that you don’t notice until people are five minutes away, prepare the food, make sure you have enough seating, and on and on.
We don’t have big, elaborate parties anymore because I realized that I was missing the joy of my babies’ birthdays, striving to make them “perfect”. My girls didn’t care if they had a homemade, themed wreath on the front door that matched their birthday party! (That sounds SO silly now but this was a very serious thing to me!) They just wanted their mama to celebrate them.
Jesus lovingly rebuked Martha right in the middle of her frustrated complaining. She was spinning her wheels striving to make every detail perfect, but the Savior of the world was in her living room and she was missing it. Mary, on the other hand, was as close to Jesus as possible, taking in every word.
2. When she was grieving.
Mary and Martha’s brother, Lazarus, got very sick. The girls knew that Jesus could heal their brother so, they asked him to come to Bethany. Jesus waited and didn’t come until 4 days after Lazarus passed away. Martha met Jesus outside and let Him know (again!) that she was frustrated with Him. When Mary found out that Jesus arrived she ran out to Him and fell at His feet.
“When Mary finally found Jesus outside the village, she fell at his feet in tears and said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus looked at Mary and saw her weeping at his feet, and all her friends who were with her grieving, he shuddered with emotion and was deeply moved with tenderness and compassion. He said to them, “Where did you bury him?” “Lord, come with us and we’ll show you,” they replied. Then tears streamed down Jesus’ face,” (Luke 11:32-35 TPT).
There was something about Mary’s grief that broke Jesus’ heart. She feel apart right on His feet. This is the only time that scripture records Jesus weeping. He knew He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead and He was still moved to tears because He cared for Mary deeply.
3. To prepare Him for death.
This is my favorite one! If you flip your Bible one page over from Luke 11 to chapter 12, you’ll see that Jesus travelled back to Bethany and visited with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus again.
“Six days before the Passover began, Jesus went back to Bethany, the town where he raised Lazarus from the dead. They had prepared a supper for Jesus. Martha served, and Lazarus and Mary were among those at the table. Mary picked up an alabaster jar filled with nearly a liter of extremely rare and costly perfume—the purest extract of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet. Then she wiped them dry with her long hair. And the fragrance of the costly oil filled the house. But Judas the locksmith, Simon’s son, the betrayer, spoke up and said, “What a waste! We could have sold this perfume for a fortune and given the money to the poor!” (In fact, Judas had no heart for the poor. He only said this because he was a thief and in charge of the money case. He would steal money whenever he wanted from the funds given to support Jesus’ ministry.) Jesus said to Judas, “Leave her alone! She has saved it for the time of my burial. You’ll always have the poor with you; but you won’t always have me.” (Luke 12:1-8 TPT).
So many details in this story were similar to the first situation we studied above in Luke 7. Martha was busy in the kitchen again, Mary was at Jesus’ feet again, and Jesus defended Mary again. But this time Mary didn’t sit at Jesus’ feet to listen to His wisdom or be comforted. She was at His feet to give back to Him, to show Him Extravagant Worship.
Something holy and brave rose up inside of Mary that day. In a day when women were culturally unimportant and uninvited, Jesus gave her access and value. She had seen her Savior teach life-altering, counter-cultural truths and perform “impossible” miracles. Jesus had saved her soul and brought her brother back from the dead. She had to do something to show her appreciation to Him.
Mary took the nicest thing she owned and poured it out all over Jesus’ feet. She anointed Jesus and distinguishing Him as her King. This was a deeply emotional, intimate moment between Mary and her Savior. The spikenard (perfume) was worth a whole year’s salary. By today’s standards, it would be worth tens of thousands of dollars. Just dumped out. On dirty feet. Why would she just dump it out on His feet?
“What a beautiful sight to behold — the precious feet of the messenger coming over the mountains to announce good news!” (Isaiah 52:7 TPT).
“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:15 ESV).
Scripture says that those who tell the world about God’s redemption (good news) have beautiful feet. Jesus had the most beautiful feet to ever walk on the earth because He WAS the good news. Those feet would soon have a nail driven through them as He hung from the cross. He was about to use His beautiful feet to save their souls and Mary was preparing Him for burial.
The next day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. Everywhere He went, the smell of her perfume would have gone with Him. It would have lasted the next week through His trial, His beatings, and while He was hanging on the cross. I imagine that Jesus caught whiffs of the perfume while He was in excruciating pain and remembered who He was suffering for.
Have you ever smelled something and had memories flood your mind? Scents hold memories. The smell of Mary’s perfume filled the house and changed the atmosphere. Everyone who was there and saw her Extravagant Worship would never be the same. Now every time they smelled spikenard, they would remember that moment.
One of my favorite worship songs was written about Mary’s story in Luke 12. Here are the lyrics and a link to listen.
“I don’t know how to say exactly how I feel
And I can’t begin to tell you what your love has meant
I’m lost for words
Is there a way to show the passion in my heart
Can I express how truly great I think you are
My dearest friend
Lord, this is my desire
To pour my love on You
Like oil upon your feet
Like wine for you to drink
Like water from my heart
I pour my love on you
If praise is like perfume
I’ll lavish mine on you
Till every drop is gone
I’ll pour my love on you”
Writer(s): Dean William Daniel, Sadler Gary Edward
We are taught to keep our emotions in check and not be “too much” during worship. Not to get carried away or bring attention to ourselves. I have been in church services where I have seen that happen. The focus ends up on the worshipper, not the One being worshipped, and it is distracting. However, Mary Worshipped Extravagantly because of who Jesus was to her. He was the object of her affection. She wasn’t concerned with anyone else in the room. When you know what Jesus has done for you, the only appropriate response is to pour out all you have before Him.
Judas got offended at her extravagance and tried to stop her. The irony is not lost on me that he was the one who betrayed our Savior to make a few bucks. People with religious spirits are blind to their own sin. Jesus rebuked Judas and honored Mary. We can’t allow other people to determine our level of worship. Yes, we need to be appropriate and stay submitted to spiritual authority, but God deserves Extravagant Worship.
Mary’s story has marked me. I want to remember where I came from and stay close to Jesus’ feet. I gave my heart to Jesus while watching middle schoolers worship with their hands raised. I was filled with the Holy Spirit in worship. All $60,000 of my college was paid for, in a worship service, by a woman I barely knew. The first time I noticed my husband was because he radically worshipped God in the middle of a formal choir concert. Worship has radically changed my life. I believe that pure, Extravagant Worship is miraculous and powerful.
The bravery of her Extravagant Worship became her reputation. Jesus said this about what she did: “Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her,” (Mark 14:3 NIV). Here we are, thousands of years later, still talking about that one sacrificial moment of worship. She is known for the fragrance of her Extravagant Worship.
May we be known for pouring out all we have in Extravagant Worship too.
Here is our Homework for this week.