3. Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus
Mary, her sister Martha and her brother Lazarus, were three of Jesus’ closest friends during his time on earth. John 11:5 tells us that Jesus “loved” these three individuals, and the word for “love” used in the text is the Greek word, “agape”, indicating the highest form of love—self-giving, sacrificial, altruistic love.
In Luke, we see Jesus at the home of Mary and Martha. As Martha is busily preparing the meal, trying to make sure everything is ready, Mary takes time to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to his teaching. Martha is upset with her sister, but Jesus commends her for having chosen the more important thing.
In John 11, when Jesus arrives to resurrect Lazarus from the dead, we see that both Martha and Mary have strong faith in Jesus as Messiah. The two sisters both affirm that had Jesus been there earlier, he could’ve prevented their brother from dying.
After Lazarus’ resurrection, we see the three hosting a celebration dinner for Jesus in Bethany. At this time, Mary comes to Jesus, anointing his feet with expensive perfume and drying them with her hair. The disciples—especially Judas—are upset over the lavish display of appreciation, but Jesus defends her. “She has done what she could,” he says, explaining that she was, in fact, anointing his body for burial ahead of time. Christ goes so far as to say that wherever the gospel is proclaimed, in the entire world, what Mary did would be told in memory of her. A tremendous compliment to receive from the Lord himself!
What can we learn from the life of Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus? First of all, we again see that God is no respecter of persons when it comes to gender. In sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to his teaching, Mary was taking the posture of a disciple—something that would’ve been considered scandalous in first century Israel. Rabbis simply didn’t have female disciples. However, Jesus broke that cultural taboo and taught Mary as his disciple, obviously considering her worth the investment.
We also see tremendous faith. The sisters believe in Jesus’ ability to raise Lazarus from the dead before they see him accomplish the feat. They believe that he is Messiah, and that whatever he asks of God, he will receive. Finally, we see love. In anointing Jesus’ feet, Mary was, in the best way she knew how, expressing to Jesus that she loved him. She loved him more than the expensive ointment that she could have sold for quite a large sum. She loved him more than she loved the approval of Jesus’ other disciples, as she doesn’t mind offending them in order to please her Master.
- Wanting to learn more about the great women of the Bible? A good place to start is John MacArthur’s Twelve Extraordinary Women: How God Shaped Women of the Bible, and What He Wants to Do with You. The book is available at the following Jackson area book stores:
- Books-A-Million: 4950 North Street (Jackson); (601) 366-3008
- Barnes and Noble: 1000 Highland Colony Parkway (Ridgeland); (601) 605-4028
- Borders: 100 Dogwood Place (Flowood); (601) 919-0462
- The book is also purchasable online by clicking here.