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The Cloud of Witnesses

Former title Lessons From the People of the Bible


Mary of Bethany

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Lesson 3: Mary of Bethany – Was Passionate About Her Relationship With Jesus As Her Lord


John 12:1-10.

Was Passionate About Her Relationship With Jesus As Her Lord

Mary reminds me of King David – two people who disregarded the opinions of others and let their devotion to God overflow in complete abandonment to Him.

David was so excited at the return of the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem that he stripped off to dance with all his might. His wife sharply criticised him, but he retaliated that he would go to any extremes to worship his Lord.

Somehow Mary must have discerned that Jesus was nearing the end of His mission on earth. Before He left she wanted Him to know how much she loved Him. Nothing would be too much to ‘spend’ on Him. She saved up her nest egg and then spent it all in one reckless act of total extravagance. The perfume would have cost a year’s wages. Surely a ‘Signature’ range item would have done just as well?

No, not for Mary. Maybe she remembered Cain and Abel. Cain gave some of his crop to sacrifice it to God whereas Abel brought the best from the firstborn of his flock. Cain ended up killing his brother through jealousy.

Maybe Mary remembered Esau. Although he was the firstborn son and had inherited all the blessings of that position, he didn’t value them – he treated them as dirt. He sold them for a cup of stew.

No, Mary would not be like Cain or Esau. She would be more like Abel – she would save up to give Jesus her very best – everything she owned. Yes, she would also put some thought into it – she didn’t give Jesus money – what would he do with that but give it away. Money meant nothing to Him.

No, she would buy the very best perfume as a sort of fragrant incense to worship her Lord. Did you notice – she had to get on her knees in order to anoint Jesus’ feet?

Yes, she could not worship standing over Him; she must kneel down to pour the perfume over His feet. But wait, there is more. She wiped His feet with her hair. How would she do that – by lowering her head as low as she could in honour of her Master and King.

So, not only was her gift extravagant but so was her body position. In total humility she wiped Jesus’ feet with her hair. No wonder there was an outcry from Judas. He did not see Jesus as Mary did. He saw no reason to go overboard in wasting money on Him. The lowering of her body in extravagant worship was the last straw – who did she think Jesus was? Who did Jesus think He was to accept such a form of worship? This whole thing had got completely out of hand.

Worship has two main strands to it. 1) Worship for what God has done. He is the Author and Sustainer of life – our life and breath are in His hands. We worship Jesus for our salvation and eternal life. We worship Him for answered prayer and the many ‘things’ and miracles He does for us – and so we should.

However, there is another strand. 2) God is worthy of worship – for Who He is. Yes, just for Who He is. He is Almighty, Omnipotent – the Only True God, Creator of Heaven and Earth – the One before whom every knee must bow.

As Paul tells us – Jesus has been given the Name, which is above all Names. That at the Name of Jesus, every knee shall bow in Heaven and on earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

The interesting thing is God has given us a choice – to do it now or later or to do it now and later. We each have to make that choice. Mary chose the latter option. I have too.

And you?

Mary of Bethany would say to us today...

Until you can worship Jesus just for who He is you will constantly be open to disappointment. He is not there just to meet your needs. He is there for you to love and serve wholeheartedly, in total abandonment – whether or not He does what you want Him to do.


Father, when I consider what Mary did and look at my expressions of love to you they seem poles apart. I’m sorry for those times I take Your love and mercy for granted. Please help me develop a new love for You, which is fully expressive, and gives You pleasure. Amen.

Additional readings

2 Samuel 6:12-23; Luke 7:36-50; Luke 17:11-19; Romans 12:1-2.


What are your love languages?

How do you show your devotion to Jesus Christ? How thankful are you?

Are you able to worship God just for who He is, as well as for what He has done and continues to do for you?

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Sold Out For Jesus and Ring of Truth – daily devotionals by John White
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