An Evening in Bethany
SEPTEMBER 23- Nº 266 Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; John 11:55 – 12:11
The crowds were beginning to gather in Jerusalem for the Passover Feast. They came a few days early so they could complete the mandatory cleansing ceremonies before it was time to make their sacrifices. For various reasons, everyone was looking for Jesus. They kept asking each other, “Do you think he is coming?” The chief priests and Pharisees issued an order that if anyone saw Jesus, they had to report it. (They were desperate to arrest him.) Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany just a few miles from Jerusalem. This is the village where Mary and Martha and Lazarus lived. Only a few weeks had passed since Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. A man named Simon the Leper, prepared a big meal in Jesus’ honor. Clearly, Simon had been healed from his leprosy or he would not have been able to invite people into his home. Since leprosy was a degenerative disease with no cure at the time, healing would have required a miracle (see #226 - August 14). So perhaps this meal was Simon’s way of showing his gratitude to Jesus. It is interesting to note that Simon the Leper who lived in Bethany is different from Simon the Pharisee who lived in Galilee, although a similar event took place in both their homes (see #233 - August 21). Lazarus was among the men invited to join Jesus and his disciples at the table, and Martha was there to serve. While the men were eating, Mary walked in with a pint of pure nard, a very expensive perfume worth a year’s wages. It was not unusual to anoint guests with a few drops of perfume when they entered a home, since bathing was infrequent. But this very expensive spice was usually reserved for the burial process. Mary poured all the oil that was in her alabaster jar on Jesus’ feet (some of the Gospel writers mention that she poured some on his head as well) while he reclined at the table. Then she wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the beautiful scent of the perfume. Judas Iscariot, one of the disciples, became very upset. “Why wasn’t this perfume sold so the money could be given to the poor? What a waste!” he exclaimed indignantly. But Judas wasn’t really worried about the poor. He said this because he was the treasurer for the disciples, and he liked to help himself to any money left over in the money bag! “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “She has done a beautiful thing for me. She was saving this for my burial, but she has given it to me while I am still with you. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me. Mary will be remembered forever for this meaningful gift!” Mary seemed to be the only one who truly understood that Jesus was about to die! Meanwhile, a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was in Bethany, so they made the two-mile trek from Jerusalem. They didn’t come just to see Jesus. They wanted to see Lazarus as well. They had heard that Jesus had raised him from the dead. The chief priests realized that many of the Jews now believed that Jesus was the Messiah because of what he had done for Lazarus. So, they decided to put Lazarus to death as well.
This is the third time we have run into Mary (see #252 - September 9 and #259 - September 16). Each time she has been humbly kneeling or sitting at Jesus’ feet. This event is no exception. Because of her willingness to quietly sit and listen, God gave Mary amazing spiritual insight. She seems to be the only one who really understood that Jesus had come to die. Do you spend time quietly listening at Jesus’ feet? He has so many special things to share with you!