Last couple of readings in John 11 I’ve been identifying with Martha. This morning, as I hover over my reading in John 12, longing to be more like Mary. Have seen the Savior’s patience in taking Martha’s deep faith even deeper. But a bit in wonder as I meditate on the Savior’s acceptance of Mary’s extravagant worship as a precursor to His burial.
In wonder, in part, because of a single word that I don’t think I’ve every stopped to really noodle on before. A word that every bible teacher who has ever taught me about how to read the bible says I need to take note of. So that, when I see the “therefore”, I ask what it’s there for?
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)
Only the ESV and Young’s Literal Translation translate the word as “therefore.” All my other translations use the English word “then.” As in, “Then Mary took . . . and anointed the feet of Jesus.” Giving it more a sense of chronology than causality. Martha served, Lazarus reclined, then Mary anointed.
But what if the better translation really is “therefore”? Then, I should spend a bit of time chewing on what it’s there for?
What if accordingly Mary anointed the feet of Jesus? What if consequently she seized the opportunity to worship extravagantly? What if, because these things were so–her sister serving as she had always done, her brother breathing as he had mostly done, except for those horrific 4 days–what if, because of looking about and recognizing these somewhat mundane realities, she broke the bank and filled the house with an undeniable fragrance of her love for the Master?
If it’s really a “therefore” and not a “then”, and if that’s what it’s there for, then what am I to take from it?
Perhaps something about worshiping in the moment. Something about responding to the mundane and normal, even when recent events have been anything but normal, and what will be is just as unpredictable.
Mary’s recently been through a lot. Not just a near death experience, but a death experience. One that played out unimaginably well, but who could have imagined her brother’s death in the first place? And then, a dead guy walking has incited the high priest of the Jews to put out a hit on the One who brought her brother back from life, her much loved Lord (11:49-54). What’s more, in just a few more verses, they’re going to put out a contract on her brother as well “because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus” (12:11).
But for right now, for this moment, Martha is serving, Lazarus is reclining, and THEREFORE Mary worships. Places herself in that sweet spot she’s known before, at the feet of Jesus. Breaks open the bottle of precious perfume she had saved a year for (12:5). Pours it on Jesus’ feet. Then wipes His feet with her hair in an act of unreserved humility and adoration.
Worshiping in a way that would be spoken of for centuries, if only because all was so very right in that moment. Her sister serving, her brother reclining, and she worshiping at Jesus’ feet.
I’m thinking that’s what the “therefore” might be there for.
Extravagant worship in response to the reminder of “mundane” grace. All for God’s eternal glory.