A Memorial to Mary of Bethany

by: Gary Evans

Email: info@icogsfg.org


Just before Jesusí crucifixion, He returned for the final time to Bethany, a village probably about two miles from Jerusalem. There He shared an intimate dinner with His disciples at the home of Simon the leper. It was just after the evening meal, that Judas Iscariot agreed to betray Jesus Christ and to deliver Him into the hands of those of the chief priests that sought to kill Jesus.

Judas became offended that night and of course, that wasnít the first offence. Judas had a whole line of imagined offenses that he harbored against Jesus Christ.

It just so happened that this night it may have been the catalyst, it may have been the straw that broke the camelís back, but Judas finally turned against our Savior.

What happened that night to finally alienate Judas against Jesus Christ?

In Matthew 24, Jesus Christ warns us and He wants us to be on guard. Jesus tells us certain things will happen especially towards the end time. In verse 10 Jesus said: "And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another." Those that we think, we feel that are our brothers and sisters in Christ, some will be offended for various reasons, they will turn their backs, they will turn their love against us and they shall betray one another.

Continuing in verse 10: "And shall hate one another." It really goes beyond, and it comes to the point in their lives that the love of God has completely left them and they will begin to hate one another.

This happened to Judas Iscariot. It began to affect some of the other apostles as well, so those that we have company with, and we need to be very careful with, it might just rub off on us and that might be a bad influence.

At the dinner, just two days before the Passover, a woman anointed Jesus Christ with a special expensive ointment. We will break into the story flow in Matthew 26:6 "Now when Jesus was in Bethany" approximately two miles from Jerusalem "in the house of Simon the leper, {7}There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat. {8} But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? {9} For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. {10} When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble you the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. {11} For you have the poor always with you; but me you have not always. {12} For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial. {13} Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her. "This is certainly an important point. What she has done will also be told, in memory of her.

John 12 gives us the same account in a little more detail. "Then Jesus six days before the Passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. {2} There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him."

Mary was a personal friend of Jesus Christ, her sister was Martha and Lazarus was her brother. Lazarus was the one whom Jesus Christ raised up from the dead just a few days before. The dinner that night at Bethany was special to all, it was a celebration for the resurrection, the raising of Lazarus to life. No doubt for Jesus Christ this was a time of heaviness, because of what He would be going through, and no doubt He was thinking about the reality of His imminent crucifixion and it probably weighed very heavy on His mind.

Mary and Martha were privileged to serve that dinner to Lazarus and Jesus, as we have read, He was a guest there and during the course of the evening, Mary, no doubt, a surprise to many of them was taking an entire pound of costly ointment and she was anointing Jesus Christ with it (John 12:3.)

The Ointment was Valuable

When the disciples saw what Mary was doing, instead of honoring her, instead of showing love to her, instead of respecting her act of service and generosity, they began to find fault. They began to criticize her.

Judas Iscariot expressed the thought that what she was doing was of great waste.

Continuing in John 12:4: "Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray him, {5} Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?"

Judas estimated the spikenard value at about 300 pence. One pence would be a Roman denarius, which was a silver coin about the size of an American silver quarter. Scripture indicates that one pence or denarius was about the amount of money paid to a man laboring for one dayís work. 300 pence would be quite a bit of money. The value of this ointment would be great, nearly a yearís wages for a manís work. This ointment was very very valuable.

As I thought about this, how long did this woman, Mary, have to save to buy that pound of ointment? How long did it take her? Or was it a gift from someone? We know that this was in the plan of God. God had supplied this perhaps years before. God has worked out all things and this was in His Plan.

What was the motive of Judas?

He was complaining, and we, like Israelites, know about complaining, donít we? I know myself, I do a lot of it, and we know all about complaining. As we look at Judasí motive, it was not out of his concern for the poor, but he had lost an opportunity to gain great personal gain through theft.

Judas said this "not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein" (John 12:6.) Apparently Judas was stealing money from the substance that sustained Christís ministry, so he was a thief.

Judas wasnít alone, some of the other disciples were finding fault with Maryís actions. Some of the other disciples, as well, began to criticize and a good lesson for us that if we fellowship with individuals that are critical, that are negative, sooner or later some of that negativism will rub off on us, and then we will begin to act or do like them.

The disciples had indignation and they complained as well: "And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made?" (Mark 14:4.) They simply did not understand. "{5} For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her." If you look that up, this could be translated as: "they snorted with anger." We see there was clamor among the disciples against Mary and it became very abusive, so abusive that Jesus Christ had to come to her rescue and rebuke them telling them to leave her alone. "And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble you her? she hath wrought a good work on me" (Mark 14:6.)

When Jesus Christ explained to the disciples the meaning of this special service, the attitude of the disciples changed except for one, and that was Judas. Christ had explained, months before, to the disciples that when He returned to Jerusalem it would be to die, and His disciples simply didnít believe Him, or simply did not understand it. Matthew 16:21 "From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. {22} Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from you, Lord: this shall not be unto you."

Jesus was telling them and they simply didnít believe it, they didnít understand it.

Mark 14:7 "For you have the poor with you always, and whensoever you will you may do them good: but me you have not always. {8} She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying."

This is what Jesus said to the group and again Christ patiently explained to the disciples what He would have to go through in the next few days, concerning His crucifixion and they didnít understand at that particular time. All but one of the individuals began to have an open mind and Christ talked to them and they received this truth from Jesus Christ.

Judas, motivated by greed, refused to change his attitude and learn from Maryís example, instead he rejected Jesus Christ. He even entered negotiations with the priesthood to betray Christ. Judas was promised thirty pieces of silver, an amount far less than the value of the spikenard that Mary used to anoint Jesus Christ.

Matthew 26:14 "Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, {15} And said unto them, What will you give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver. {16} And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him."

There is a lesson here for us to glean of Maryís act. Matthew and Mark, both tell us of this lesson.

In Mark 14:9 Christ said: "Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her."

What Mary had done for Jesus Christ will be spoken of her for a memorial. This is amazing!

We do the work of God, as God has given us His Spirit, each of us, and everyone of us has talents and gifts to do the work. But how often do we mention this woman? How often do we talk about and mention Mary of Bethany as Christ said.

As we do the work and preach the gospel, we are to talk about this woman. Could it be because she is a woman? But as we do the work we are to talk about her, there are important points why we should discuss Mary. It has to do with the Passover and the days of Unleavened Bread.

Mary, apparently believed Jesus Christ when He said that He came to Jerusalem to die. She may not have understood the full meaning of His death. She may not have understood that He would die for all of the sins of mankind, but she believed what He said and she did what she could to assist her friend and savior in however she knew how. On the other hand, the disciples who were with Jesus Christ daily, constantly heard His preaching, saw His miracles, were eye witnesses of the raising of Lazarus from the tomb, did not understand the gospel message. They simply did not understand what Christ was teaching them.

They were witnesses to Maryís act of service to her Lord and to our Lord. The disciples found fault and one turned completely away.

Faith, Trust and Commitment

2 Corinthians 5:5 "Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit. {6} Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: {7} (For we walk by faith, not by sight)."

We walk by faith not by sight. One of the things that this lady demonstrated was faith.

In Vines Expository Dictionary (page 401), I would like to read this for you. It talks about faith. "The main elements in faith in its relation to the invisible God, as distinct from faith in man." She had this faith, and we are to have this faith. "Are especially brought out in the use of this noun and the corresponding verb, pisteuo, they are (1) a firm conviction, producing a full acknowledgment of Godís revelation of truth Ö.. (2) a personal surrender to Him Ö.. (3) a conduct inspired by such surrenderÖ."

She had full faith, even though she did not understand it all, she had full faith in Jesus Christ.

On the other hand, the disciples were with Him daily. They did not have that kind of faith, they didnít have that kind of understanding. At the end of Maryís act, many of the disciples found fault in what she was doing. They found fault with her. They didnít have any trust. Trust was another attribute that Mary had.

2 Corinthians 3:3 "Forasmuch as you are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart. {4} And such trust have we through Christ towards God."

I would like to paraphrase the word "trust" from the Vines Expository Dictionary. Trust is to have confidence. To be able to trust means that we are persuaded, Mary was persuaded, she believed Jesus Christ. Trust means to be in-trusted with. As we have faith, as we are trusted, with this, in-trusted with it, and it also means we are to hope, translated to trust and substitutes to hope to hope before.

She had that kind of trust, so we as Christians must have that kind of trust. For each of us, Mary stands as an example of faith and trust and she stands as an example of commitment.

2 Timothy 1:12 "For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed." Not discouraged, because we have hope. "For I know whom," God and Christ is who we are talking about. "I have believed,í or trusted "and am persuaded," a whole hearted conviction, "that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day." This is referring to the day of Christís return.

Commitment, as we think about the Passover and the days of Unleavened Bread, the holy day season, we are re-committing to living our lives, allowing Jesus Christ to live His life in us.

For each of us, Mary stands as an example of faith, one of trust, one of commitment to God, even though she was chastised, chided for her service by those there at that meal.

Maryís total commitment of herself, her resources to Jesus Christ stands as a memorial, a testimony to all in Godís Church of what true Christianity is all about.

As this holy day season approaches, our commitment to Jesus Christ will give us faith and trust that the work that he has started in us, He is able to finish and He will finish it. He will finish that work.

For us today, remember Mary of Bethany, her faith, trust and commitment.