That is a characteristic that many find difficult to have in this life. To really take the time in the presence of the Lord to hear and understand what He is saying takes time. To be the friend that is always there when needed, takes commitment and time as well. Yet, we all have lives that seem to be out of control at times. And we find ourselves at the place that we need that friend more than anything else in this world. That’s the good news for today. Jesus is that friend. He will never leave you or forsake you. He is living in you through the Holy Spirit who is able to speak truth to you to lead you in the right way and to enable you to discern things of the Spirit that bring us peace and comfort, wisdom and direction.
When we meet Mary in Luke 10:38-42, it’s a pretty common scenario that any of us can relate to. Bear with me as walk through it. I know, many of you will say you have heard everything there is to hear on this passage. That could be, but, just maybe, there are a few things you haven’t considered. I know that He is blessing me abundantly as I’m meditating on His word and giving me greater understanding of what He truly is saying.
Nowhere in scripture do we learn how Jesus and Lazarus became friends. It could be that they were childhood friends who grew up together, we aren’t told because it is not something important to our understanding. It doesn’t matter if we have known someone a long time or a short time, but if the Lord binds us together it is a blessing and we need to be spiritually alert to not miss the blessings! But we do see in other passages the deep love for one another between Jesus and Lazarus, Mary and Martha. We will get to that in a minute. But here is Jesus just dropping in to visit with His friends. Yes, His friends. Here were friends where He was welcome at any time. Let’s connect this with the statement Jesus later made to His disciples, “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15) (emphasis mine)
Is Jesus your friend? That’s an important question. For some the question may be, “Do I want Jesus as my friend?” Meditate on these questions a bit. A friend is someone we trust explicitly and share everything with. They know us better than anyone else and are there for us at all times. Right there is the problem for many, they are trying to hide thoughts, actions, problems, etc. in their lives. If they allow Jesus to be their best friend, they will no longer be able to hide. That is the point! Scripture tells us that “Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.” (Matthew 10:26) (Luke 8:17; 12:2; Mark 4:22) Nothing is hidden from the Lord and when we are willing to be transparent and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal and deliver us from these things (Psalm 139:23-24), we are free to begin the journey that the Lord has prepared for us! “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)
So let’s connect these scriptures to our study. First of all, Jesus was constantly telling His disciples and followers that He was going to be persecuted. The disciples were with Him and heard the accusations from the Pharisees and other high officials and their hatred for Jesus. But whenever He spoke about His coming crucifixion, they seemed to be deaf. Jesus spoke the same things in the house of Mary and Martha and because Mary was “listening” she not only heard but understood what was to come. “She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word.” (Luke 10:39) (emphasis mine) We need to understand the word “listening” in this passage. It means to hear with attention, implying that what was spoken was to be “heeded” or obeyed. This particular word is where “hearers” or “disciples” come from and the phrase “he who hath ears, let him hear”. So it is to learn by hearing, to know and understand or fully comprehend. In the text the word is in the imperfect tense that tells us it was a continuous action on Mary’s part.
Mary understood who Jesus was and that every word spoken was truth and life. She hid these things in her heart. She was the opposite of Peter (who also loved Jesus but had not developed his “listening” skills yet) who refused to accept Jesus’ word. “From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.” Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” (Matthew 16:21-22) (emphasis mine) Can you imagine hearing a dear friend of yours tell you that he was going to die shortly? We might likely respond as Peter did. But look at Jesus’ response, But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” (Matthew 16:23)
Mary’s response was much different, not only to Jesus’ journey to the cross, but with every situation in her life. In our opening passage in Luke when Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus, we find Martha, not only upset with Mary but also with Jesus. Scripture states that Martha was “distracted” with all her preparations. The word used for distracted means that she was agitated mentally, disturbed. She was so focused on her own agenda that she could not reasonably assess the situation or even present a reasonable demeanor. She demanded that Jesus tell Mary to help her! Listen to her words, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” (Luke 10:40) (emphasis mine) First she accuses Jesus of not caring about her and then demands Him to do her will! Notice the word “serving” that I’ve underlined? The Greek word actually means to “wait on”. Our English translations do not present the whole picture of Martha’s anger. She is actually complaining that she has to “wait on” Jesus alone! That gives a totally different picture than when we read that she was doing all of the “serving” herself.
When we think of someone “serving” they are willingly providing something that will bring others pleasure. But when we feel as if we have “to wait on” someone, we are implying that they are just sitting expecting others to do for them, as if we were their slaves! We become resentful and it becomes all about us, not what we set out to do.
What was Mary’s response? She just looked to Jesus, she never uttered a word. What Jesus said leaves no question as to what our relationship with Him should look like! But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)
Before Jesus addressed Martha’s demands, He needed to deal with Martha. He didn’t do it unkindly, but Jesus only speaks truth and that which is good for us. When He repeated her name twice, He was making sure He had her attention. It’s like a parent looking into the eyes of their child and making sure they have the child’s full attention. What Jesus was about to reveal was probably going to be a surprise to Martha. He is about to reveal to her that her problem isn’t Mary, but herself! “...you are worried and bothered about so many things”. The word “worried” means to be anxious, to be troubled with cares, her interests only. But it gets worse! He points out that she is creating an uproar (or wailing, making the atmosphere turbulent and creating much confusion) because her mind is so troubled. Jesus didn’t humiliate Martha, He simply spoke the truth in love and now Martha would either see the truth of what she was doing or deny the truth; either way she had to make a choice on how she would continue to act.
Jesus was really showing not only Mary and Martha, but all of us, that we are responsible for the choices that we make, whether they good or bad. While Martha had chosen the ways of the world, Jesus now pointed out that Mary chose the “good” thing. The word “good” is the Greek word “agathos” which means that they are the things of God and imparted by God. What Mary chose was not physical, but spiritual, and changed her life.
Not too long after this visit, we learn that Lazarus became ill and Mary and Martha called for Jesus to come. Jesus did not immediately go to Bethany, He waited because His Father told Him to go. But when Jesus heard this, He said, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” (John 11:4) Notice that Jesus did not say that Lazarus would not die, but rather that “this sickness is not to end in death”. Even His own disciples were confused. What we are about to witness is the difference of one who hears and has head knowledge of truth and the trust and surrender of one who has spiritual understanding because of an intimate relationship with Jesus.
When Martha heard that Jesus was on His way, she left the house and went out to the road to literally point out to Him that if He had come when He was summoned that Lazarus would not have died. Martha is still struggling with not being in control and again feels compelled to tell Jesus what He should have done. This is a very real picture of the majority of people who say they are believers. They treat Jesus like He is their servant to do their will. When He doesn’t comply as they directed Him to, they get angry or turn away from Him. They have the whole relationship backwards! Jesus is not on the throne of their heart, they are still on the throne calling all the shots!
The next statement she makes is very interesting, I’m still pondering the full implications of it. “Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” (John 11:22) It appears that Martha is subtly trying to tell Jesus what to do. But the tenses used in this statement are very interesting. She doesn’t say exactly what action Jesus should ask God to do, at this point, and there is doubt or uncertainty in her mind of whether Jesus will actually do anything. Again, I am reminded of someone who is trying to manipulate the situation or the person. They believe they are being intelligent and are in control, when in reality they are showing the true level of their belief, or unbelief. The loudest accusation in this verse is that Martha is saying that if Jesus would have come when she called Him, He could have made Lazarus well but He chose not to.
In the natural mind of man that statement appears to be true, but if we are trusting God in our lives, we would spiritually understand that God is still in control and has a purpose for what has occurred. Sometimes He gives us insight into His plan and other times He doesn’t. That’s why it is called faith. “for we walk by faith, not by sight—“ (2 Corinthians 5:7)
Even when Jesus tells Martha that Lazarus will rise again (verse 23), Martha is quick to point out that she knows he will be at the last day when all will stand before the Lord at the Judgment Seat. This is another example of not “listening” to Jesus. He just said that Lazarus will rise again, she didn’t even consider that He meant now, she assumed she knew what He was talking about! How often we miss the blessing of what God wants to give us because of pride! Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26) (emphasis mine) Jesus brought her back to a personal question. It’s one that each of us must answer. We can’t avoid this question. Jesus is asking you and me this question right now! Martha missed another opportunity for an intimate encounter with the Lord. Her response was that she had, of course, always believed...in other words, her pride took center stage and her answer was indignant. She was offended that He would even ask her that question so she made sure He understood she believed He was the Messiah. She then left Him and went into the house and told Mary that the “Teacher” was calling for her. The wording that Martha used truly shows her heart. She just told Jesus that she knew He was the Messiah, but now that she is out of His presence she tells Mary that the “teacher/rabbi” is there. Oh dear one, could this describe you? You are willing to praise Him and worship Him while in church, but as soon as you leave it’s back to you controlling your life? Martha will continue to be offended and unhappy in her walk and relationship with the Lord until she surrenders her pride and power and control and decides to “follow”.
Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:32) Notice Mary’s posture. She immediately falls at the feet of Jesus (position of surrender to His authority as the Son of God). However her words still question His power. Her words imply that He wasn’t there “in person” so her brother died. I believe that Mary was sincere in her actions and honest in her words. She was saying I don’t understand, but I still trust You.
In verse 35 we read, “Jesus wept.” I truly believe that Jesus wept because of the people’s unbelief. It’s been widely taught that Jesus wept because Lazarus had died, but I want to challenge you to meditate on that. Jesus already knew that He was going to raise Lazarus back to life. The point of Martha sending Mary out to meet Jesus was an act of God. Jesus knew the Jews sitting with her would follow her and He was about to show them who He was. But just as when He looked out over Jerusalem and wept, He wept because they were not willing to come to Him and believe. Think about it, God the Father created us to be in relationship with Him. Now the Son of God, who had come to earth as a man, was about to offer Himself up to crucifixion on a cross and become our sin, in order to open the door for us to enter into a relationship with Him! I’m sure it was a very emotional moment for Him!
So Jesus, again being deeply moved within, *came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus *said, “Remove the stone.” Martha, the sister of the deceased, *said to Him, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days. Jesus *said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (John 11:38-40) I have to admit that I am astounded that Martha is now standing with the crowd in front of the tomb and still arguing with Jesus! It is interesting that Martha now uses here the same word for “Lord” that Mary had used when she fell at the feet of Jesus. However, by her constant opposition to Jesus in this exchange she may have been using it more as a term of respect rather than of sovereignty. Nevertheless, Jesus just repeats His earlier question to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” This was not asked as a question for discussion but really as a statement. Jesus was really saying to Martha, watch and see the glory of God!
So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me.” (John 11:41-42) But before Jesus called Lazarus out from the grave, He spoke the above so that all would fully understand that this wasn’t for His glory, all of this was a gift from God so that they would believe in Jesus and repent of their sins so they would be saved!
I am so grateful that the Lord is able to manifest His glory even when we are stumbling blocks in His way! Even in Martha’s resistance to Jesus’ plan to raise Lazarus from the tomb, He proceeded and in verse 45 we are told, “Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done, believed in Him.” (John 11:45) Not all believed, some ran off to tell the Pharisees of what they had seen and fan the flames of the Pharisees to pursue His death. Again, notice that these men, as well as the Pharisees, thought they were doing their own will. Many people, still today, use this as a reason to hate the Jews...they say the Jews killed Jesus. But if we truly listen to the words of scripture we know that they were used by God to accomplish His will. The question to us today is whether or not we are “listening” so that we “have ears to hear”.
Six days before the Passover Jesus and His disciples were at the home of Lazarus and Martha was again serving the meal. This time we do not hear of any arguments from Martha, she is serving willingly! But Mary….”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.” (John 12:3)
I imagine there was a moment of complete silence as this took place, then the chaos of disapproval began. After all, the worth of that perfume was great and many people could have been fed if she had sold the oil instead! What indignation! Those who are spiritually out of touch with Jesus easily turn to the ways of natural thinking and think that they are wise and have much wisdom. They will use any means to try and intimidate the other person. God just laughs at their ignorance! (1 Corinthians 1:18; 1 Corinthians 1:21; 1 Corinthians 2:14, 1 Corinthians 3:19; Proverbs 18:7; Proverbs 19:3; Proverbs 27:22; Proverbs 1:26; Psalm 2:4; Psalm 37:13; Psalm 59:8)
Mary just looked to Jesus, she didn’t defend herself, she simply stayed at His feet loving, adoring and glorifying the Lord of lords! But listen to these words of Jesus. Therefore Jesus said, “Let her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial.” (John 12:7) I never noticed before that Mary had not broken the bottle in this passage, but it appears that she opened it and poured some of it on Jesus’ feet. She had listened to the words Jesus had been sharing with her family and the other disciples and she was not ashamed to pour out her love on Him. Her love was so great to honor Him that she took the opportunity, but Jesus knew it was premature so He instructed her to keep it for His burial.
Imagine the silence that followed after Jesus spoke these words! Did anyone other than Mary really hear what Jesus said? Well, it appears they did not because four days later they were at the home of Simon the leper having a meal and Mary again came in and this time broke the vial of perfume and didn’t just anoint His feet but poured it over His head. The same outpouring of criticism filled the room...then Jesus spoke. But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to Me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me. She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for the burial. Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.” (Mark 14:6-9) (emphasis mine)
Apparently not one had listened to Jesus say He was going to die so He had to repeat it again! And He had to repeat that Mary was blessing Him as God desired. What He said next probably confused and alarmed every person at that meal! “Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.” Can you imagine the stunned silence? Yet, Mary remained silent and just looked at her Lord and Savior.
I have heard many sermons on Mary and Martha but never have I heard a sermon on Mary pouring her previous perfume over the head of Jesus because of her surrendered heart. She heard Him say He was going to be taken into custody, experience many abuses and then be given over to death. And yet, she took the most expensive precious thing she possessed and lavishly poured it over her Lord. In the following days as all these things became real, He would still carry the sweet perfume of love on His body.
Mary was not perfect, Mary still had questions, but Mary pursued her love. She would sit and listen carefully to every word that came from the mouth of Jesus. She hid the words in her heart to ponder them, to carry them with her. How about you dear friend? Do you desire to know the things of God that there are no barriers of intimidation that would hinder you?
While this is not a Christmas story or Hanukkah story, I believe it is very appropriate for this time of year, as well for every day of the year. We are all very busy shopping, decorating our houses, baking cookies, preparing meals, etc. Are you setting time aside for the Lord? Is He truly the reason for the season? Is He truly your friend, your Lord? Do you listen and obey to follow where He leads? Will you hear “Well done good and faithful servant!” when you stand before the Judgment Seat? Are you a Mary or a Martha? Martha is not surrendered to the authority of Christ. We need people who are truly gifted in hospitality, but unless they are surrendered as a Mary first, the serving will not produce the fruit that God wants to manifest to both the giver and the receiver in any situation. Until we are Mary the oil in our lamps will run out!
Abba Father, I bow down at Your feet and proclaim that You are Lord of the universe! The heavens are telling of Your glory and their expanse is declaring the work of Your hands! You created us in Your image, to be in relationship with us! You even sent Your Son as a baby to this earth to be our Savior, to redeem our sins and open the door to the kingdom of heaven! I may not have gold, frankincense and myrrh to offer, but I offer you my life. I lay it at the foot of the cross. It is Yours. Lead me, guide me, mold me to be who You created me to be. I thank You for Your mercies which are new every morning. All this I pray in the blessed name of Your Son Jesus Christ! Amen.