Over the last ten weeks of our summer message series, we’ve been learning about biblical heroines who literally saved the day when the men around them were about to drop the ball. But this weekend another woman, Mary of Bethany, teaches us a different kind of lesson. While others plant their feet firmly on the ground preoccupied with the important matters of this world, a hero first and foremost remains devoted to God.
Mary lived with her sister, Martha, in a small village two miles away from Jerusalem. They had become close friends of Jesus, who frequently traveled through the area. On one occasion, he stayed for dinner, and the Bible records a humorous story of Martha’s ire being raised against her sister. Instead of helping Martha with the cooking, Mary just sat at Jesus’ feet with the other disciples, listening to him speak. When Martha burst through the kitchen doors demanding that Jesus make her sister get off her lazy duff and help, he told her that Mary had chosen “the better part” (Luke 10:42).
When their brother, Lazarus, later fell ill, Martha and Mary sent word to Jesus to come and heal him. In those days, the Jews believed the soul was still present until the third day, departing the body once the facial features had become disfigured. Everyone knew, therefore, that Lazarus was truly dead when Jesus had tarried too long and arrived on the fourth day. Both Martha and Mary ran to him. While Martha articulately professed her faith in words, Mary the dreamer simply fell at his feet weeping. Her wordless posture was a poignant and profound sign of her immense faith and devotion to Christ.
Some time after Jesus had stood between life and death and uttered the name of his beloved friend to come forth from the tomb, he again arrived in Bethany for a dinner party, perhaps a dry run of the Last Supper that would take place less than a week later. Everyone gathered at the home of Martha and Mary. Even Lazarus, fresh from the grave, reclined at table. The whole town was abuzz with the news.
While Martha attended to hospitality and serving and the men enjoyed the meal, Mary, once again with her head in the clouds, stepped forward in a bold move. Of all the people gathered, it was Mary of Bethany who recognized the true significance of the event. In a few short days, “the teacher” would no longer be with them. Mary knew she had to do something, and in fact she did something extraordinary in her own way. To learn more about Mary’s fascinating story, tune in to this Sunday’s message on our website.
Mary of Bethany reminds us that God’s heroes are not always super heroes. They do not always perform great and mighty deeds but simply “do what they can” because of their deep devotion to the Lord.
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
Father Roger Gustafson