Of all the words I’ve read this morning the one that’s particularly caught my attention is the word “therefore.” You know . . . as in, when you come across a “therefore” find out what it’s there for. It’s a fundamental rule in seeking to understand the text. Determine the context . . . seek to connect the cause-and-effect dots. And so that’s what I’m noodling on . . . one of the “therefores” in my reading in John this morning.
Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at the table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. (John 12:1-3 ESV)
It’s not the first “therefore” I’m thinking about. I think Jesus came to Bethany because He had set His face to be at Jerusalem but also knew that the chief priests had given orders that anyone seeing Jesus should report it so that He might be arrested. So Jesus lays low before the Passover with some friends.
But it’s the second “therefore” . . . the “therefore” of Mary anointing the feet of Jesus that has me pausing.
At first, I think Mary’s extravagant worship is just in response to seeing her brother, Lazaraus, reclining at the table with Jesus. She stands to the side as she watches Jesus interact with those invited to the dinner given in His honor. And she can’t help but keep staring at her brother . . . the dead man made alive. The one who had seemingly breathed his last, whose body had been wrapped in burial spices and linen, whose lifeless corpse had been laid in the tomb and had remained there for four days. The one who rose from the dead in response to Jesus’ command, “Lazarus, come out!” The one who testified as a living object lesson of the truth that Jesus was indeed “the Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:17-44).
You gotta know that, as she gazed upon her brother, the gratitude and awe so welled up within her that her only response could be extravagant worship.
But I also wonder if the “therefore” isn’t there because she took notice of her sister Martha. Faithful Martha . . . devoted Martha . . . Martha driven by the gift of hospitality. Martha served. She served Jesus . . . she served those who were with Jesus. She was the first to go to Jesus when He came after Lazarus had died. Even then, in her grief and confusion, she confessed her faith, “Yes Lord; I believe You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world” (11:27). And so she served.
Therefore, because Martha was serving the Son of God, and because Lazraus was reclining with the Giver of Life, Mary responded by anointing the only one worthy of worship. She took very expensive perfume and, without measure, poured it on the head (Mark 14:3) and feet of Jesus. As the fragrance filled the house, she humbled herself at the feet of Jesus, her favorite place before the Master, and wiped His feet with her hair. With that which was her glory (1Cor 11:15) she glorified her Lord. Thus she subjected herself fully in exaltation and adoration to the One her brother reclined with, and to the One her sister served.
And long after the dinner was done . . . the aroma of the worship would remain . . . in the house . . . and in her hair. Even as Jesus would be betrayed, condemned, and die, the fragrance would never be far from Mary. I’m thinking even after His resurrection, a wisp of that expensive sacrifice would have remained in Mary’s hair and she would have been moved again to worship.
Martha served . . . Lazarus reclined . . . therefore Mary anointed. He is worthy of extravagant worship. And that’s what it’s there for.
To Him be all glory!