One of my favorite women of the New Testament is without a doubt Mary of Bethany. When I think of Mary, I can’t help but think of her in three snapshots. In each one, she is at the feet of her beloved Jesus: first, learning, then weeping, and finally ...
One of my favorite women of the New Testament is without a doubt Mary of Bethany. When I think of Mary, I can’t help but think of her in three snapshots. In each one, she is at the feet of her beloved Jesus: first, learning, then weeping, and finally worshipping. Yes, this is the woman who to her sister Martha’s dismay, sat at the feet of Rabbi Jesus instead of manning the kitchen (Luke 10:38-42). Yes, this is the one who sobbed at the feet of a Jesus, who seemed to have come too late when her beloved Lazarus lay reeking 4-days-dead behind the stone (John 11). And yes, this is the one who unabashedly worshipped at the feet of Jesus as she anointed him with precious perfume just 6 days before Passover and the unleashing of all events that would lead him to the cross(John 12:1-10). Mary of Bethany—learning, weeping, worshipping, Mary what can you teach us about the way a heart readies itself for the climax of salvation history?
1.) Reflect on what the Lord has done for you…
We find Mary’s story of anointing Jesus in John 12:1-10. A similar story appears in Matthew 26:6-10 and Mark 14:3-9 (although there is some disagreement as to whether these last two tellings represent an anointing by a different woman—since the woman in these accounts is unnamed—or whether this too is Mary of Bethany). At any rate, we know that a dinner is being thrown in Jesus’ honor, most likely as a way to thank him for having brought Lazarus back from the dead. If the woman in Matthew and Mark represent synoptic accounts, then we also know the party was hosted in the home of Simon, the Leper, a man whom in many regards had been brought back into the land of the living. Mary, Martha, Lazarus and Simon remembered what Christ had done for them and celebrated it.
As you prepare your heart this Easter, think back on what God has done for you and thank him. Celebrate the new life you have seen Him bring forth.
2.) Remember and take to heart what God has taught you…
We know Mary had spent a considerable amount of time learning at Jesus’ feet. The fact that she brought a burial perfume is either God supernaturally moving her to bring this particular gift without her understanding or a testimony that she had been listening to Jesus, and that she understood at least in part what was about to occur. I tend to think that by God’s grace, Mary had put the pieces together and brought this costly burial perfume because she had been meditating on and taking to heart what God had taught her.
As you prepare your heart this Easter, what has God been teaching you this year? Ask Him if there is something He wants you to apply or a step of faith He wants you to take.
3.) Don’t skip to the happy ending…
If Mary did understand that Jesus was about to face his death, it might have been tempting for her to skip to the happy ending. After all, she knew Jesus personally as “The Resurrection and the Life,” (John 11:25) and would have at least considered the fact that He might be able to conquer death when He Himself was in its grip. But perhaps, Mary understood more than most the importance of being with someone in the moment. Jesus, after all, had paused to weep with her when He knew that in just a few moments He would raise Lazarus to life. Likewise, Mary honored the suffering of our Lord Jesus and the solemn pain of what was to come by anointing him with this burial perfume.
As you prepare for Easter, resist the temptation to skip blithely by Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Take these days to meditate on the depth of Christ’s sacrifice for you, on His pain and your sin. Let His agony and your desperate state without Him sink in and linger with you awhile before turning your attention to His victory on Easter morning.
4.) Forget about everyone around you…
Although the evening was most likely marked by a festive atmosphere—after all this was a time to honor Jesus and the new life he’d brought—Mary didn’t try to please others and keep the mood light. In fact, she ignored what everyone around her might think, and she broke open this costly perfume on the feet of Jesus. She even humbled herself to wipe his feet with her hair—when women of her day never even let their hair down in public. She refused to care about the opinion of others and instead cared about the one thing needful, worshipping Jesus.
As you prepare for Easter, don’t let the fact that others take this day as one simply for chocolate and Easter Egg Hunts deter you from approaching Jesus and these special days with unashamed worship. Ignore the crowd and focus on the One who deserves all our worship.
5.) Give Him that which is most precious to you…
The perfume Mary anointed Jesus with was no trivial gesture. As Judas’ incredulously points out, this precious mixture would have been worth a year’s wages. Mary poured out one of her most precious possessions in an act of lavish love because she knew the lavish love of Christ was so much greater.
As you prepare for Easter, ask God to show you if there is any area of your life that is off limits to Him. Think about what is most precious to you and ask yourself if you are willing to lay it at the feet of Jesus as a testimony to Christ’s own lavish love for you.
6.) Bless Jesus by your unashamed worship…
For me one of the most mind-numbing aspects of this story of Mary anointing Jesus is the fact that somehow, in God’s infinite wisdom and kindness, He allowed a humble woman like Mary to actually minister to Jesus in an hour of need and bless Him. That is hard for me to wrap my mind around. Jesus was blessed by Mary’s act of faith. And because of it, He promised that wherever the Gospel would be preached her story would be told.
As you prepare for Easter, humbly ask God to allow your worship to be a pure and pleasing blessing to Him. Bless the Lord who has so mightily blessed you.
Motherhood isn’t all roses. Anyone who has been a mother for more than 5 minutes can tell you that. But somehow, waking up each morning to those eyes and those smiles helps us forgive a whole lot of sleepless nights and noxious diaper changes.
Every mama has felt her heart melt at the sight of her baby. We are all biased, of course, that our own baby is the most beautiful baby in all the world. And of course, we are all exactly right. But the thing my heart keeps coming back to is this. The delight our hearts feel is whispering something. It’s so universal. It’s so natural. What is it telling us?
And here’s what I believe. Mamas, have you seen in those eyes an invitation to wonder? If “every good and perfect gift is from above” as James 1:17 tells us, then the gift of your child is an invitation to marvel in the goodness, the wisdom, and the creativity of the God who would grace the world with such a delight. Lean in and look with attention and let that look lead you to praise the Giver. Hold & behold the wonder before you, that you might hold & behold the wonder of God. Let it transform how you look at all the world around you; as a place “charged with the grandeur of God,” as the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins writes. All creation whispers, the name of God, if we will but listen. All around us there are windows to wonder, if we will but look. Every day, we can hold and behold wonder, if we will but grasp it.
If boredom is the mother of invention, then time and emptiness might just be the parents of wonder. Yesterday, I had the most amazing conversation with my 10 year-old. We talked about life after death. We talked about a new heavens and a new earth and what growth might look like when time is a memory. We talked about joy that isn’t tempered by tears or sin or sickness. It was one of those conversations that leaves you electrified. But here’s the thing: it bloomed in the emptiness. It bloomed where there wasn’t the distraction of entertainment. It bloomed with the gift of unfilled time. If we want more moments punctuated with wonder in our lives, we need to leave room for it. We need time that isn’t crowded with activity. We need minds that aren’t too busy being entertained. We need to be bereft to blossom.
The other morning on a birding field trip and a quick stop at the nature center with my littles, I looked up and saw these wings. They were stunning–the colors, the texture, and the way the light hit them. I snapped a quick photo amidst one kid pulling me toward the beehives, another telling me he needed to go potty, and my six-month old patiently nuzzled on my chest.
When life had settled later at home, I came back to that image I’d snapped in a hurry and just lingered over something that in the rush and press of motherhood I hadn’t been allowed to enjoy: the beauty, the texture, the colors. Sometimes I feel starved for that beauty in a chaotic house of 6 little boys. And this particular beauty reminded me of one of my favorite images in the Bible. It’s the idea of the wings of refuge.
We’ve been studying birds and feathers lately with my boys. And I’ve learned that if you take a feather and zoom in really close, you’ll discover that each of those tiny branches that make up a feather has tiny little hooks, almost like velcro they attach to one another making this interlocking system of protection. Its this interlocking power that shields the bird from wind and rain and that also makes the wonders of flight possible. Its a marvelous design and when you zoom out that useful thing is also a beautiful thing.
I don’t know about you but this is a symbolic reminder, I need. God’s protection of me, His care of me, is like this beautiful wing. It shields me, warms me, and lifts me. Its a beauty to behold. And as mothers, especially, we need care too. In the midst of so much caring for others, we need to be reminded, we are held under his wing.
But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19 (NIV)
Every mother has been given a precious and astonishing gift: the gift of a child. Truly, I believe every human life is a miracle. And what does the Gift-giver hope that we will do with a gift given? Perhaps, the simplest answer to such a complex question is just this: treasure the gift. Deeply value, deeply enjoy, and deeply cherish that gift.
Jesus’ mother Mary gives us a beautiful example of this. After the details of the angelic announcements of his coming birth and the history of the details surrounding his birth, we are given these words: “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19, NIV). Certainly, Mary is treasuring the events surrounding his birth: the words spoken over him, the deep significance of events, the unfolding of God’s providence in every detail of his arrival. But to say that she treasured these things and pondered them is also to say that she treasured him and pondered him. She valued him. She ooohed and aaaahed over him, delighted in him, was his first and most devoted admirer. The perfect gift ever given was first treasured by a mother. What an honor! What an example she is to us all.
And twice in Jesus’ childhood, we read something like the verse above. The second time is a book-end to the first. It comes at the end of the tidbits of description we have of Jesus’ childhood: his presentation at the temple at 8 days old and the response of Simeon and Anna, and later, of his return to the temple at age 12. And Luke records, “Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:51). Jesus’ birth and growth as a child has two book-ends around it, and they are his mother’s treasuring.
You and I have not been given perfect children, nor will we be perfect mothers, but Mary sets a beautiful example for how to respond to the gift of a child: we treasure, we ponder, and we cherish. And guess what grows in the context of that love? Jesus flourishes. He grows in a completely holistic way—mentally, spiritually, physically, socially, and emotionally. We have this one verse of summary: “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). Treasuring a child prepares this kind of rich soil. It tills the ground for the flowering of holistic growth. How amazing that we as mothers have been given the opportunity to be the first to delight and treasure the gift of a human soul. What a privilege it is to honor God, our gift-giver, by delighting in the gift of a child.
Ironically, as I wrote this today, my three-year old came up and wanted to sit in my lap. I put my computer down and invited him up. I stroked his head. I whispered, “Do you know you are so deeply loved?” I cuddled with him and admired his recently built creation. I said a silent prayer of thanksgiving for the gift of this child and for the privilege to be his first audience of delight.
Don’t ever let anyone let you feel ashamed for delighting in and treasuring your child. You take a lot of pictures of him or her? You bet: God made you that child’s treasurer. You love that dimpled chin and the curl of that cowlick? Yeah, you do: God made you to delight in this little one. We are not to idolize our children or gloss over their faults. But we were made to treasure them and in so doing create the environment for them to flourish. So yes, snap another picture, fill another baby-book page, publicly share your joy in who God made them to be. It’s your privilege: you are a treasurer.
Like what you are reading? Share it with someone who could use the encouragement. Perhaps you know someone who would be blessed by a book I wrote to help mothers grow in their faith as they await the birth of a baby. It is called Waiting in Wonder: Growing in Faith While You are Expecting and it is a place for mothers to treasure God and the gift of the little one God has given them. It makes a great gift for an expectant mom!