Summary: Ever heard the phrase, "no good deed ever goes unpunished"? Mary of Bethany may have felt that way when she showed Jesus how much she loved Him.
Based on a sermon preached at Carrington Baptist Church, Fulton, MO 3-08-2015.
(This is not an exact transcription.}
Many events took place during the last several days before Jesus died on Calvary. He had left the area some time before, according to John chapter 11, and had stayed in a rural area. Now, it was time for Jesus to take His last journey. He stopped at Bethany and was invited to a feast. That wasn’t the only thing that happened, as we’ll see in the text.
Text: [John 12:1-8, NASB] 1 Jesus, therefore, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 So they made Him a supper there, and Martha was serving; but Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him. 3 Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, who was intending to betray Him, said, 5 "Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?" 6 Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it. 7 Therefore Jesus said, "Let her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial. 8 "For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me."
We’ll notice three major events in the text: first, an act of love, by Mary of Bethany; then an accusation, by Judas Iscariot; and an answer, by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Let’s look at these in more detail:
I An act of love, by Mary
John was careful to state that this supper, or feast, took place in Bethany, and that Martha, Mary, and Lazarus were there as part of this occasion. We’ve met these folks before: Mary and Martha, twice, and Lazarus, once.
Many of us like Martha! She seemed to have a bent, maybe a talent, for keeping the household running smoothly. But she did have a problem, once before, in that she was one of the very few who dared complain directly to Jesus! Remember the account in Luke chapter 10? We don’t read anything about Lazarus, but we do notice Mary and Martha. Jesus was apparently teaching the Word of God to those who would listen.
I can just hear Martha now, stomping into the room where Jesus is teaching, and demanding, “Lord, tell my sister to help me!” I don’t know of anyone else who had the audacity or the gall to get into Jesus’ face and demand He help her!
But Martha seems to have had a change of heart. She’s still serving, but now she’s not demanding anything. She’s content, it seems, to be in the background, and to use her talents in the best possible way. And there is nothing wrong with that. There are any number of folks who don’t have the desire, the talent, or the ability, to be in an up-front position. But ask them to serve in a “behind the scenes” capacity and they’re there! May our Lord help us to realize that those who serve quietly are just as important as those who serve in a more visible position.
Lazarus was there, too, taking part of the supper. He’s only mentioned twice in Scripture, here and in John 11. We do not have a record of one single word he uttered, certainly nothing about his death and resurrection from the dead. In fact, of all the people (7 at least) who were raised from the dead, according to the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit didn’t permit any of them to have their experiences recorded. This wasn’t like any of the stories of people who claim to have visited Heaven, or even Hell, for that matter. I’m telling you, the stories of people, just like that story of the child who claimed he went to Heaven and later said, “Ah, didn’t happen” (or words to that effect) are NOT the same as Scripture. The Lord has given us a few glimpses of what lies ahead and really, that’s all He wants us to have for now, as far as that goes.
One final comment about Lazarus, in that he’s mentioned as basically eating with Jesus. Could it be that some, even though they saw the stone rolled away from his burial cave, and had heard Jesus say, “Lazarus, come forth!”, and had seen the burial wrappings or grave clothes removed, didn’t believe he was truly alive? No, we serve a perfect God and a perfect Lord Jesus Christ. He makes no mistakes, and He won’t make something incomplete.