Thinking back over my life, I have been blessed with several people who helped shape me in different ways. My grandfather, my parents, Mr. Walter (a Sunday school teacher who first instilled in me a love for God’s Word), Pastor Jeff Reason (who saw, believed in & encouraged a teen girl), Mr. & Mrs. Reuben Reason, Joy McGough, Beneth Jones, Barbara Kohl and countless others! I am sure that if you took a few moments right now, you could come up with a similar list. The people on our lists are not perfect, but they lived their lives in such a way that they are worthy of imitation.
WHAT LESSONS CAN I LEARN FROM MARY OF BETHANY?
One day, a pig and a chicken were walking down a road when they passed a church with a large sign out front advertising a benefit breakfast for a local mission.
“We should go in and donate some ham and eggs,” the chicken piped up.
“No thanks,” quickly replied the pig. “For you, it is just a contribution. For me, it is a sacrifice.”
Mary understood the difference between making a contribution and bringing a sacrifice. A contribution may only be a slight inconvenience, but a sacrifice means to give up something that costs us (Romans 12:1-2).
A few days before Passover, carrying a beautiful, long-necked, alabaster flask, Mary approached Jesus. Alabaster was a white, transparent stone mined in an Egyptian town bearing the same name. It was a decoration found only in the homes of the wealthy. Scripture tells us that the oil in the valuable flask was even more costly! The average daily wage in Mary’s day was one denarius. Her alabaster flask filled with oil was worth 300 denarii (close to a year’s wages). It was a gift given only to kings!
Mary’s alabaster jar and perfume may have been a family heirloom passed down from generation to generation. Or, maybe the expensive flask was the heirloom, and the perfume was something that, over time, Mary had saved for and purchased. It is also possible that Mary may have purchased the balm to use in the burial of her beloved brother, Lazarus, who had suddenly died only a few months before. Whatever the case, this nard, because it was rare and expensive, was considered a treasure; not merely a perfume one wore. Therefore, its use would always be with great care, not lavish. However, Mary gave no thought to the cost when she poured out ALL of her gift at the feet of Jesus.
So many times, I am willing to give Jesus my partial obedience, lip service or even my leftovers. Unlike Mary, I am not willing to give up anything that costs me. It could be my past pains, my talents, my time, my money, my children, my marriage, my singleness, my health…the list goes on. We all have things we value tucked away for safe keeping.
Whatever it may be, I have my fist tightly closed over it, refusing to give it to Jesus.
Why did Mary give such a costly gift to Jesus?
Maybe it was out of a heart filled with love and gratitude for her Master who had raised her beloved brother from the dead. In fact, Scripture mentions that Lazarus was sitting at the very table where Mary found Jesus, probably talking and eating with Him!
We tend to evaluate how much is expected of us or how much we think is reasonable and fair and we give accordingly. Mary of Bethany realized that nothing is too valuable to give Jesus. It is not about how much you give to Jesus but how much it cost YOU to give it.
When we give to Jesus, no matter how little or how big it may be, He will always give us back more than we could possibly imagine!
It would have been considered a reasonable sacrifice if Mary had anointed Jesus’ feet with just a small amount of the expensive oil. Any amount she poured out would be costly. Yet, Mary somehow understood the extravagant act her Lord was about to undertake, so she desired to show Him how lavishly she loved him. Instead of carefully pouring out some of the oil, she broke the expensive flask, pouring out all of its costly contents. She keeps none of it for herself. She held nothing back!
How many times do I do something for Jesus only if it is comfortable for me or convenient for me? How many times do I refuse to serve Him because it may cost more than I am willing to pay? How many times do I refuse to give Him all my praise because others are watching?
“Worship is giving God the best He has given you.” Oswald Chambers
3) Mary not only did what she could, she did it when she could!
According to Jesus, Mary was preparing Him for burial. Yet, Jesus was alive when she anointed Him. No wonder the disciples thought Mary’s behaviour was a bit strange. Mary, herself, probably didn’t understand all that was about to happen with her Lord, but that didn’t stop her from doing what she could at that moment.
In Jewish burial practises, when a criminal was executed, he did not receive the normal customs of washing and spices. Jesus was on His way to the cross (death of a criminal). If Mary had not anointed Jesus with her oil, then He never would have been anointed!
Easter morn, when the women went to anoint His body, the tomb was empty!
Mary knew now was the time to pour out herself, because one day soon it would be too late!
Mary lived, not a wasted life, but a life of true worship.
What pouring out opportunities do I miss each day? How many people will never know Christ because I never took the time to introduce them? How many of my family members will never know Christ because I have stopped praying for them? Am I living my life in such a way that it is a sweet-smelling aroma to God? Are my alabaster boxes broken at His feet in reckless abandonment?
If I live a life of extravagant love for my Lord, people will not always understand, but the wonderful result will be an extravagant life lived for Him.
Mary’s gift was costly and extravagant! She did what she could when she could.
What lessons can I learn from Mary today?