Mary of Bethany was one of Jesus’ close friends when He walked on the Earth. She and her family knew Him well and had Him over for dinner when He was in town. One time, her sister, Martha, invited Jesus and the disciples over, but Mary didn’t help her serve, instead she sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to His teaching. Martha was upset because she needed help cooking and had to do it alone. Jesus’ response to Martha is, “Leave her alone, she has chosen the better part & it won’t be taken from her.”
Wow. The Uncreated God put on flesh, and Martha is more worried about making food to serve Him & those with Him. But Mary–she responded correctly and put being with Jesus before working for Him…
Then, in John 12 & the possibly parallel passages of Matt 26 & Luke 7, right before Passover, Jesus was in Bethany again; Martha is found serving, of course. But where is Mary?
“And when she found out that He was reclining at the table… she brought an alabaster vial of perfume; 38 and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began wetting His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and [respectfully] kissed His feet [as an act signifying both affection and submission] and anointed them with the perfume.”
Mary realized the worth of Jesus. She is found at His feet in the first account, “choosing the good part.” She made loving and knowing Jesus her first priority, regardless of what her sister thought. Regardless of what other important tasks there were to be done. The second time, though, it’s not just a small choice of priorities. Mary gives everything and pours it out at Jesus’ feet, literally.
From context, we’re guessing that Mary, Martha & Lazarus all lived together because their parents had passed away and none of them had been married yet. If that’s true, then each female child was given a dowry as her inheritance so they’d be taken care of & not passed over just because they were orphans. This dowry was worth a ton of money and was possibly in the form of expensive jewelry, money, or some other object very valuable– maybe something like… an alabaster vial of perfume? The oil she poured out, whatever it was, would’ve been worth a year’s wages in their time. Imagine that you made 6 figures for your annual salary, and you burned it or gave it away to show your love to Jesus. That’s pretty much what Mary did. If that was her dowry, she did more than that, though. Dowry is what the woman’s family would give to her future-husband’s family in exchange for taking care of her as their new daughter-in-law. The more expensive the dowry, the wealthier a family was and therefore more desirable for that woman to be married.
What Mary did, then, is over the top extravagant! It’s radical, crazy, and what some would say, WASTEFUL. She just threw away all of her chances of being married at Jesus’ feet. She knew it was being set aside for her future husband’s family & somewhat symbolized her worth & every hope she had in the world. Who would want a poor girl with no dowry? Why would Mary waste such an expensive gift, just to pour out on Jesus’? It doesn’t make any sense.
But Mary realized Jesus’ worth. Regardless of if others thought it was a waste, to her, Jesus was worth everything she could pour out, her whole life & future all at once. And it wasn’t a waste. Unfortunately, it wasn’t seen that way to others…
Here’s the account in Matthew 26:
“She came to Him with an alabaster vial of very expensive perfume and she poured it on Jesus’ head as He reclined at the table. 8 But when the disciples saw it they were indignant and angry, saying, “Why all this waste [of money]? 9 For this perfume might have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” 10 But Jesus, aware [of the malice] of this [remark], said to them, “Why are you bothering the woman? She has done a good thing to Me. 11 For you always have the poor with you; but you will not always have Me. 12 When she poured this perfume on My body, she did it to prepare Me for burial. 13 I assure you and most solemnly say to you, wherever this gospel [of salvation] is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told in memory of her [for her act of love and devotion].”
The disciples called it a waste. The price was too high. He wasn’t worth that much, right? It didn’t make sense to them. BJut that didn’t matter to Mary, (or to Jesus), she knew He was worth that and more. She was willing to “waste” her life to show extravagant love to Jesus, no matter how high the cost. Later, the disciples would realize this and ultimately give their lives for the sake of the Gospel, and their friend, Jesus. They, and every Christian who died for their faith after perhaps did so because they saw the worth of Jesus:that living, or dying for Him isn’t a waste, but it’s far less than He deserves even though it costs them everything.
My question is, “what are you wasting your life on?” We think we don’t have to pick, that we can just live for whatever & it doesn’t matter, but that’s not reality; everyone is living and will die for something–a job, relationship, idea, status,etc. The most important aspect, is that our choice will resonate in eternity, whether we chose wisely like Mary, or not. Have you chosen the good part? Will you throw your today, your choices, your tomorrow, at Jesus’ feet in extravagant love? The choice is yours.