Below is the devotion I delivered at our ladies' meeting Monday night, which I've also posted at KJV Blog Directory today. I hope you'll enjoy it!
Mary of Bethany
Although Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus, is mentioned just a handful of times in the New Testament, the Lord Jesus had high words of praise for her, praise that we as women should strive for in our own lives: “she hath done what she could,” (Mark 14:8) and “Mary hath chosen that good part . . .” (Luke 10:42) How I’d love to hear Jesus say, “Susan, you’ve done your best; you’ve done what you could!” How can we go about making sure that we hear Him say that? What things does God look for in a woman that will please Him enough to say, “You’ve done well; you’ve done what you could?” I believe we can learn some of those things by looking at the life of Mary of Bethany.
First, Mary had a quiet spirit. Every time we see her in Scripture, she is calm, cool, and collected. Even after the death of her brother, she remained in the house, while her sister Martha went running out to find Jesus. When Jesus was in their home, Mary was at Jesus’ feet, quietly listening to His words. And when she anointed His feet with ointment, she said not a word to him; her actions spoke clearly! When those around her spoke words of criticism, she never defended herself. As a matter of fact, Jesus defended her Himself! She waited patiently for Him, and He took care of her detractors.
We see in I Peter 3:4 that a quiet spirit is “in the sight of God of great price.” To God, being calm in our spirits is a valuable trait, one we should cultivate in order to please Him. Does that mean I have to be mousy, with no opinion, living mindlessly? Absolutely not! A quiet spirit simply means “peaceable, not turbulent . . . mild, meek, contented.” While Martha was bustling around, cumbered and burdened with her serving, Mary was quiet in spirit. Even when we’re talking, playing, working, or serving, we can do so with a peaceable spirit, contented, mild, meek. God made each of us unique, with unique personalities, but He is pleased when our spirits are quiet. Having a quiet spirit means trusting Him and not allowing myself to get agitated in the midst of everyday life. I have to stop and purposely focus on Christ in the midst of the situation and allow Him to calm my heart and spirit. As I do this more and more, it slowly becomes my normal reaction, producing that quiet spirit that God so loves. No matter what a woman’s personality, her spirit can learn to become quiet!
Next, we see that Mary had a singular focus: the Lord Jesus Christ. We see her quite often at His feet. She was at his feet in service. When He was in her home, she sat at his feet. She was found at His feet in her grief. When Martha told her that Jesus had called for her, she arose immediately, ran to Him, and fell at His feet. We find her at His feet in worship, pouring expensive ointment on His feet and wiping them with her hair. We can learn great lessons with Mary at Jesus’ feet! At His feet, we see Mary’s humility as she listens to His words. In order to be near someone’s feet, a person must kneel down in front of the other; she has to humble herself.
We see Mary’s generosity as she pours out the ointment that cost her everything she had. Jesus said she had “done what she could.” She had given all! This ointment cost 300 pence. If the average worker earned a penny a day, 300 pence would be equal to almost a year’s wages. In our North American economy, that could be $30,000 worth – or more - of perfume! Are we willing to give so much to the Lord? Was Mary saving this ointment for a special occasion? Had she been saving the money for another purpose? Whatever the case, pouring it out onto someone’s feet was quite an extravagant thing to do. Judas and others even saw it as wasteful. But Jesus saw it as giving everything, and He honoured that.
Giving is also an act of worship. In the Old Testament, when people worshipped the Lord, they always gave an offering of their free will. Mary’s giving her expensive ointment was an act of worship. She knew who Jesus was, and she was acknowledging His deity by giving the best she had.
We also see Mary’s witness as others follow her to Jesus’ feet, see His miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead, and believe on Him. Apparently Martha, Mary, and Lazarus were well-known, as many of the Jews had come to comfort Mary and Martha upon Lazarus’ death. Those people stayed with Mary in the house as Martha went out to meet Jesus on his way into town. When Martha hurried out to meet Jesus, at His bidding, the people followed her. Then, after Lazarus was raised from the dead, “many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him.” We don’t know what she said, or even if she said anything to these people, but she led them to Jesus, and when they saw for themselves what He did, they believed. May we be used of God, either through a verbal witness or through a life that speaks of Him, to bring people to Jesus!
In Luke 10:42, Jesus said that Mary “hath chosen that good part . . .” Mary chose to focus on the Lord Jesus. Do you think she just woke up one day and found herself at His feet? No, she chose to follow Him, listen to Him, worship Him. And we can choose “that good part” too. We can choose to draw nigh to God, and when we do, He will draw nigh to us. (James 4:8). And when we humble ourselves in His sight, He lifts us up (James 4:10). Much of living for the Lord is choice. You choose to draw nigh to God through reading your Bible, through praying, through giving, through witnessing . . . a solid relationship with the Lord will not just happen. It’s a choice, a choice which Mary made.
My prayer is that I will learn to have a quiet spirit, waiting on the Lord, and that the Holy Spirit will constantly remind me to choose “that good part” of drawing nigh to God. May you choose that good part today too!