The Grateful Three
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
John 12:1-2 (Holman) Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany where Lazarus was, the one Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for Him there; Martha was serving them, and Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him.
After Lazarus= resurrection, he and his sisters prepared a banquet for Jesus. Lazarus was conspicuous, but Jesus was the main focus of attention. The grateful three loved Jesus. Let=s look at them individually to glean from their lives.
There sat Lazarus B a living, breathing, talking, loving monument to Jesus= power. It must have felt odd to talk with an ex-dead man. It would have been difficult to conduct a normal conversation with Lazarus. AI=m sorry I missed your funeral. Last time I saw you, you were dead. Anything exciting happen to you lately? You look pale. Have you lost weight? Been anywhere new lately? Isn=t it great to be alive?@
It would have been wonderful to see the way Lazarus looked at Jesus. His gaze surely bespoke awe and thankfulness. None of Lazarus= words were recorded. They would have been superfluous. His being there alive was enough.
AMartha was serving them@ (v. 2). She showed her love by the work of her hands. We do Martha less than justice if we do not honor her service.
Many believers show their devotion through practical service in the kitchen, the workshop, or in a Sunday School class. In serving the Lord, no task is demeaning.
Never think it a dishonor to stoop to any act whereby Jesus may be honored. It is a privilege to be deemed worthy of any service for the Master. Considering what Jesus did for us, we are extremely ungrateful if we think any service for Him too degrading.
John 12:3a Then Mary took a pound of fragrant oil B pure and expensive nard B anointed Jesus= feet, and wiped His feet with her hair.
Mary=s deed of devotion was a beautiful act of genuine selfless love. Her deed was spontaneous, unsought, unsolicited. No one had to drag it out of her.
Seeing Lazarus alive and well, seated near Jesus, and Martha serving, Mary felt compelled to express her love. Something welled up inside her.
Sensitive Mary may have also sensed in Jesus a heavy, broken heart. Jesus was in danger. Everyone knew it, especially Jesus. Mary sensed His sadness.
Mary needed to find a way to express her loyalty and devotion. Mary had learned at Jesus= feet (Luke 10:34) and cried at His feet (John 11:32). Now, as her tribute, she anointed the feet at which she had learned and wept.
Mary=s gift was generous, 12 ounces (a Roman pound) of scented oil. Though worth a fortune (v. 5), Mary poured the oil out like water to gratify her impulsive love.
Far from trying to avoid expense for Jesus, she created a way to offer Him her most valuable possession. Many try to be ingenious in finding ways to avoid giving to Jesus, but Mary sought a way to offer her very best.
O=Henry, in AThe Gift of the Magi,@ tells of a poor couple madly in love. Each had one treasured possession. Jim had a gold watch he had to keep on an old leather strap that was an embarrassment on such a fine watch.
Della=s treasure was her hair. It could reach to below her knees and it made itself almost a garment for her. On Christmas Eve, she had only $1.87 to buy Jim a present. She knew what she had to do.
She sold her hair for $20 and bought Jim a platinum fob chain for $21. When Jim arrived home he was stunned and handed her his gift. It was the combs she had worshiped in a Broadway window; pure tortoise shell with jeweled rims.
She hugged them to her bosom, and at length was able to say, AMy hair grows so fast, Jim!@ She then demanded the watch to put it on the fob. Jim smiled and said, AI sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs.@
A reader=s first reaction to this story is, AWhat a shame.@ But further reflection proves this to be an inaccurate expression. Della never looked lovelier to Jim, and Jim never seemed more like a prince in Della=s eyes.
Love gives its all and then regrets it has no more to give. Love is puny if it calculates cost. A poet said, AHigh heaven rejects the lore of nicely calculated less or more.@ Mary knew the words Aextravagance@ and Awaste@ don=t apply to Christian devotion.
Mary did not calculate usefulness in the way colder eyes would. Mary=s was a totally unselfish gift. The fact her deed had no practical result made its expression even purer.
Mary=s act was humble. Anointing feet was the task of slaves. To anoint Jesus= head with oil would have pictured her conferring an honor on Him. Mary knew she had no honor to convey upon Jesus. She never dreamed of being good enough for that. She didn=t lift her eyes as high as His head; she concentrated her gaze on His feet.
She not only gave the ointment, but also rubbed it in with her hands, and wiped away the residue with her hair. She could have had a servant do the deed, but did it herself.
Mary was oblivious to what others thought. A respectable Jewess always left her hair covered. Unbinding it in public was a mark of loose morals. A prominent Jewess, asked how she raised such a Godly family, answered, AThe rafters of my house never saw the hairs of my head.@
Mary did not weigh public opinion. Her heart was wrapped up in devotion to Jesus. True love spares no cost and no pains in honoring Christ.
John 12:3b So the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.
Here=s an eyewitness= touch. Mary=s moving, extravagant act affected everyone present, plus all who have heard of her deed ever since.
History has been blessed with the fragrant memory of Mary=s lovely deed. Her story is etched indelibly on the memory of the Church. We all want to say, AThank you, Mary, for anointing the Master. I wish I could have done it.@
Genuine love has innate beauty. It appeals to the deepest depths within us. It is no accident love stories are the world=s immortal stories: Romeo and Juliet, Pocahontas and John Smith, Robert and Elizabeth Browning.
The fragrance of Mary=s love still pleases. On a visit to Paris, H. W. Beecher loved to rise early and sit at an open window. He could tell the instant the flower shop below him opened, for the fragrances began to rise.
Christians should live lives like this. Pleasantness should fill whatever room we are in. Even our corporate gatherings should give off a desirable fragrance.
Lazarus, Martha, and Mary displayed beautiful love, but the greatest Lover in this scene was Jesus. His love for Lazarus, Martha, and Mary evoked their love for Him.
The grateful three offered tokens of love to One who had previously demonstrated immense love to them. Their love for Jesus was but a faint echo of His love for them.
The most beautiful love story of all times is the one centered around a cross. The Father loved us enough to give His only Son. The Son loved us enough to leave His Father. Best of all, He loves you and me.