Mary of Bethany: Living Free Above the Fray at the Feet of Jesus
Holy Week for Christians was the most pivotal time in history, when human hearts swung from worshipping Jesus to demanding his death. Chaos seemed to rule the day, as religious leaders saw opportunity to end the life of the man who threatened their plans. More than two thousand years have passed since that pivotal week, but when we consider the chaos they were experiencing, can we not sense some of that same struggle today? We, too, often find ourselves in the midst of the fray.
As we shared back in January, fray is defined as “a disorderly fight, struggle or dispute. A raveled place or worn spot.” And shouldn’t that word mean both those things? Life’s struggles can leave any person feeling thread-bare! Since we began The Sublime Soiree, we have shared that our hearts are to encourage you and each other to live free above the fray, and we don’t believe there is a surer way to do that than by knowing our Sublime Savior. That’s why on this Holy Week we want to talk about three women from that first Easter who knew their Sublime Savior. They stood firm in the midst of the fray. Because they had found freedom in The Way. And their examples give us many lessons to ponder and put into practice. Today, let’s take a closer look at Mary of Bethany.
When you read the Bible, at first blush, Mary of Bethany doesn’t really look all that extraordinary. Mary is one-half of the sister duo known as Martha and Mary. She is the half that seems lazy, if you listen to her sister. But that is not how her Savior sees her. While her sister was doing a good thing – preparing a meal for Jesus – Mary chose the better thing. She chose to sit at Jesus’s feet, peacefully and quietly.
- Sitting at someone’s feet was associated with humility, reverence and hunger for knowledge. However, it was highly unusual and even controversial for a woman to sit at a teacher’s feet in those days. In effect, she was taking the place of a disciple, which was almost unheard of.
- When Martha complained about Mary’s lack of help with dinner, Jesus said, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)
Later we see Mary lament at the feet of Jesus upon the death of her brother Lazarus. She knew Christ could have healed her brother while he was still alive, and when he finally came to the tomb of Lazarus, Scripture says Mary fell at his feet in tearful lament that Jesus hadn’t saved her brother. She didn’t understand why Jesus tarried, but she persisted in worshiping Him anyway.
But Jesus did save Lazarus! He raised him from the dead! And at another dinner party to celebrate that act, Martha again served while Lazarus reclined at the table with Jesus. Mary, on the other hand, knelt at Jesus’s feet again. This time, though, she knelt to wash his feet with a pound of expensive perfumed ointment, and she wiped them dry with her hair. The men in the room chastised her for wasting the ointment. (Christ’s future betrayer, Judas Iscariot, was among the loudest protesters.) But Jesus commended her gesture and understanding. Mary of Bethany gave freely and fully of her love, and for that the Savior of the Universe said:
“Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” (Matthew 26:13 ESV)
Friend, these are the ways that Mary of Bethany learned to live free above the fray:
- When her sister demanded her action, Mary sat still at the feet of Jesus, because she discovered that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
- When her brother was dead and buried, Mary worshiped at the feet of her Savior anyway, because she discovered that with Him what looks like death leads to life.
- When she was ridiculed for lavishly anointing her Savior’s feet, she knew that we all truly serve an audience of One, and she chose to serve Him, not matter what her scoffers said.
What about us? When the world is calling us to action, will we discipline ourselves to sit at the Teacher’s feet? When circumstances look like an end, will we trust Him for new beginnings? And when the world wants us to compromise our convictions, will we be loyal to our Savior?
Dear Lord, we too want to live free above the fray of life’s circumstances. We want to
have full confidence in You, our guarding God and Savior. May we follow the example that Mary of Bethany set at the feet of Her Savior Jesus. As Charles Wesley once wrote:
“Oh, that I could forever sit,
Like Mary, at the Master’s feet:
Be this my happy choice:
My only care, delight and bliss,
My joy, my Heaven on earth be this,
To hear the Bridegroom’s voice.”
In the Name of our Savior Jesus, Amen.
The Sublime Soiree © March 2021