Luke’s gospel tells us that Jesus first meets Mary over lunch in Bethany. You might know the story – she should be in the kitchen slinging hash, but instead she’s seated at his feet. Martha, her busy and bothered sister, tells Jesus to send her back to the kitchen. Mary’s place as a woman, according to custom, was in the background, along the margins, hidden in plain sight. Jesus, instead of complying with Martha’s demand or following social protocol, encourages Mary. Commends her in fact. (Luke 10:38-41)
Not many days before this meal, 70 of Jesus’ disciples, sent to surrounding villages heralded the news, “The blind see! The lame walk! The guilty are forgiven! The abused and mistreated are loved! The kingdom of God is at hand!”
A sense of expectation hung in the air.
Guess who’s coming for dinner? The one called King. The long-awaited Messiah. God in human flesh. Mary, enamored of God the Savior, went against the grain. Risked her reputation. Threw caution to the wind.
“There is really only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken from her” (Luke 10:42 NLT).
Sometime later, gospel writer John, records that Mary’s brother Lazarus dies…suddenly.
Jesus is nowhere to be found. Mary feels forgotten, forsaken, so alone.
When Jesus finally returns – altogether too late from her vantage point – Mary throws herself at his feet, flings penetrating questions, weeps with defeat. Yet, Jesus has something unbelievably greater planned…he raises Lazarus from the dead. A foreshadowing of what will eventually happen to him.
“I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live even if he dies (John 11:25).”
We see Mary one last time, numbered among the followers of Jesus, finishing up dinner (John 12). While the group reclines and Martha slams cupboards in the kitchen, Mary breaks a vial of costly perfume and pours it over Jesus’s feet (her favorite place to sit), then wipes his feet with her hair. I doubt we can comprehend the radical nature of this intimate gesture.
The guys in the room scoff, call it a waste.
Jesus welcomes her lavish gesture as a gift, an anointing before his death. Mary chooses the best seat in the house…every time. She listened with intent. She heard what others did not and can’t help but respond with reckless abandon. “The house was filled with the fragrance of her perfume” (John 12:3).
Jesus, all of who he is, compels Mary to radically push beyond societal and cultural norms and to sit, to cradle his feet in her hands and anoint him with oil. The utter insanity of her actions make its mark on John as he recalls this incident, “Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair… (John 11:1-2). Mark’s gospel sneaks it into the narrative as Jesus draws attention to Mary’s lavish love, “And truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her” (Mark 14:9).
Mary understood the gospel, and the God of the gospel – He’s the Savior, the King who freely loves and forgives, who pours out undeserved grace, soothes, heals, and promises new life, bright hope for you, for me…and for you over there on the edge. Come and sit – you’ll be amazed at what you see.