If you could have dinner with Jesus and some other guests, wouldn’t you be curious to know who makes an impression on Him, who touches His heart? Let’s join such a dinner in John 12:1-8. Would you please take a couple of minutes to read this passage?
2,000 years ago in Palestine, a person would “sit” for everyday occasions but “recline” on couches at special meals like feasts or banquets. Jesus was invited to many banquets, but this one appears to be given in His honour. Early travelling teachers were often invited to lecture at meals in return for free meals and lodging. The twelve disciples and other supporters travelled with Jesus and were probably also at this dinner.
Martha points us to our preparations for God.
We are introduced to Martha perhaps four months earlier (according to the Reese Chronological Bible) in Luke 10:38-42 when Martha objects to her sister, Mary, sitting at Jesus’ feet listening to what He is saying rather than helping her get the meal ready.
Martha was truly a servant. She is to be commended for her hospitality and attention to feeding others. Like any gift or ability, our virtue can become a vice if we overlook opportunities to enjoy the presence of the Lord.
Oswald Chambers warns, “Beware of anything that competes with loyalty to Jesus Christ. The greatest competitor of devotion to Jesus is service for him.”
Do you spend most of your time and energy trying to do things for the Lord? He is looking for more.
Lazarus points us to the power of God.
Jesus and Lazarus caused quite a stir when Jesus raised him from the dead in John 11:38-44. Being such a practical person, Martha objects to Lazarus being raised from the dead and let out of his grave, saying, in modern terms, something like: Hey! You can’t do that. My brother and his tomb now stink to high heaven after four days have gone by!
A short time later, Lazarus, now a living, walking testimony to the power of God, reclines with Jesus at this dinner held in His honour. We read in John 12:9-11 that many of the Jews wanted to see this man whom Jesus had raised from the dead. And many followed Jesus as a result.
Is your relationship with the Lord mostly focused on asking Him to do things for you? He is looking for more.
Mary points us to the presence of God.
As important as preparations and practical matters are, Martha has only two words devoted to her in John 12:1-8: “Martha served.” As impressive as being raised from the dead is, Lazarus has just 21 words devoted to him in John 12:1-8. Who has the most words devoted to her in this scripture passage? Mary, with 74! She touches the heart of Jesus with her sacrificial act of worship and humble expression of affection.
Judas Iscariot was appointed the treasurer of the group and he used his position to hide his lack of closeness with Jesus. He scolded Mary for this lavish act of wastefulness upon the Lord. What was valued at a year’s worth of wages could have been used to feed the poor! In looking back on this event in his Gospel account, however, John exposes Judas’ treachery even before the night he betrayed Jesus.
It was customary to anoint the heads of important guests, but a host would provide only water for their feet. Further, religious Jews resented married women who uncovered their heads and exposed their hair to men’s gazes. Since Mary’s brother and sister are mentioned, but not her husband, she may have been unmarried – never married, widowed or divorced. Therefore, acting this way toward a famous (albeit single) rabbi would raise some pious eyebrows. Mary takes two of her most prized possessions, her perfume and her hair, to wipe the feet of her Lord. Abandoning and humbling herself in worship, she draws the disbelief and scorn of others while she touches the heart of Jesus. Mary cared very little for what others thought of her. What mattered to her was what the Lord thought of her.
Mary made such an impression on Jesus that He promised in Matthew 26:13 and Mark 14:9, “I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” (NIV)
Even more important than what we can do for the Lord or what He can do for us, He is looking for our affection.
I want us to be faithful in doing the work that the Lord has assigned to us. I want to hear Him say to us one day, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
I want to see the power of God manifested in our lives. I want to see people come to Jesus healed and set free. More than anything I want us to know Him. I want us to know His thoughts, His dreams, His desires and His feelings. Amazingly, the King of kings wants to have this kind of relationship with us. Out of spending time in God’s presence will come our most fruitful service and remarkable power.