“Jesus is coming to Bethany tonight,” Lazarus said in the doorway.
My hands stopped at the dishes. After I passed a quick grin to my sister, Martha, I rushed to embrace my tall brother. “Thank God!” I declared.
I was still overcome with joy every time I saw Lazarus, forever awed by Jesus’ authority to bring men back to life, which he had accomplished in my brother a month before. How could the Pharisees and the teachers of the law not see it? How could they not understand? Jesus came to be a servant to all, just as we should serve Him—not only out of productive housework, but first and foremost out of a love for Him.
Lazarus quietly slipped out of the room to attend to his costumers at the smithy.
Martha lurched into action, dashing about the house, trying to cook dinner, sweep, and wash dishes all at once.
“Martha, Martha!” I cried, “Remember what our Lord said?”
She snatched the broom and tried to put a dish away, but she ended up knocking over a clay jar on the table. “Yes, I know,” she gasped, “But I can’t sit at His feet if He’s not here yet—and He can’t come here till this house is put into proper order.”
“But won’t you calm yourself?” I said, more gently now, trying to reason with her. “Prepare for Him all you like, so you may soon sit at His feet. But don’t fret, Martha. Be at peace, and be joyful in serving Him. I believe that is what He wants from us, sister.”
Martha’s scowl began to fade. Hunkering over with the broom, she swept up the shattered pieces of clay without another word.
A few hours later Lazarus informed us that Jesus would be feasting at Simon the Leper’s house, not ours. Martha tried to adjust to this news calmly, and we both rushed over to help tidy up Simon’s house and prepare a meal, with his wife’s help. Our anticipation quickened our work.
Soon, as we swept and cleaned, we sang joyfully to our Father in heaven. I was glad, so glad to see a smile on Martha’s face as she recounted Jesus’ last visit.
“I still can hardly believe he rose our dear brother from the dead,” she told me, sighing at the memory. “But of course, I have to believe whenever Lazarus walks into the room. He’s living proof.” Chuckling, she tilted her head at me. “You’re living proof, too—always so joyful, always kind. Jesus has got to be the Messiah, don’t you think?”
I paused at my broom, my lips curling into a smile. “I never once doubted He was.”
Simon’s wife set a plate firmly down on the table. “You’re fierce supporters of that fellow, aren’t ya? Well, I don’t believe it, though I support my husband’s beliefs and all.” She laughed shakily. “Lazarus could have been fake dying, you know… I-I just don’t believe it.”
Martha and I glanced at each other, not knowing how anyone could doubt in the miracles of the Lord, which so many had witnessed. But the demons had their ways, as they had on me before Jesus transformed me. I prayed that one day this woman would open her heart to the truth.
After much work, Simon’s guests entered the house. All the men settled down at the table to chat until the honored guest, Jesus of Nazareth, arrived. Martha and Simon’s wife worked hard in the kitchen.
I stood by the wall, waiting for my Lord to come. He would save His people from their sins. He would be a light shining in the darkness. He would be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. I quivered inside at the thought. I knew that He was the Son of God, and that was enough cause for me to tremble. That He would one day open the floodgates of heaven to my wretched self, who had lived much of my life estranged by seven demons—that was enough.
But He had done more. He had cared unceasingly for my family, even as far as lifting my brother up from the pit of death. I could hardly wait to sit at His feet and listen to His words.
Jesus and His disciples entered the room. The men fell silent. Even Martha let the flat bread alone in the pan, and instead folded her hands quietly in front of her.
Presently, our Lord began to greet each one of us, bringing the house back to a charming lull of talk and laughter. His eyes spoke kindness as He smiled at me.
The Most Holy One was speaking to me. Yet I could not move; I could not bring myself to acknowledge Him or even fall on my knees. The dire thought that He was mighty enough to see my inner secrets, powerful enough to strike me down with a lightning bolt this instance—it overwhelmed me.
“Don’t be afraid, Mary,” he said gently, placing a firm hand on my quaking shoulder. Then He turned away to greet the others, leaving me alone by the wall, ashamed of my fear.
I watched Him speak to us in a deep, calming voice filled with both passion and sympathy. He spoke of the good news of the kingdom of God as He had many times before, revealing mystery upon mystery, layer upon layer of truth, yet doing so with a genuine love that I could not fathom.
Martha served the men while Simon’s wife lingered in the kitchen, but I was caught in my Lord’s words, which pierced my heart with truth. I longed to show Him my esteem for Him, my gratefulness for what He had done for Lazarus, my deep love for all that He was.
I knew, somehow, that He’d seen right through me when He’d greeted me, and He’d understood my fear. But as He even told me—He didn’t want me to be afraid. He wanted my love and devotion, the key to my heart, He wished to be the whole Reason of my self.
I drew the alabaster jar of pure nard from my satchel that I’d brought along, because I knew. I knew He would die, yet rise again as Lazarus had, only this time to bring the assurance of everlasting life we all were searching for. The knowledge of it penetrated my soul. He would be led as a lamb to be slaughtered. He’d be the ultimate sacrifice for all who believed in Him, for eternity.
Lazarus eyed me, noticing the jar in my hands, and he offered a smile of encouragement. Though my family had been saving this perfume for Jesus for two years, I knew that the time was now. Martha and Lazarus had given it to me as my responsibility, so I had every right to use it if I believed it was time. The Messiah deserved so much more than mere fragrance for his feet, but it was all I had to offer Him.
Father, I prayed, may Your Son’s name be glorified because of me.
I stepped forward, gripping the jar. My awe of Him, my delight in the Christ’s humility to grace this earth, my thankfulness for the miracle He’d done in Lazarus’ life—it all poured through me at once as I fell on my knees before Him, weeping.
“Lord, Lord,” I whispered, opening the jar and letting the strong perfume flow out over His feet. As I emptied out every drop of the nard, the aroma permeated the whole room. Trembling with emotion, I wiped His dripping feet with my hair.
“Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor?” a disciple of Jesus protested, his voice edged with frustration. “It was worth a year’s wages.”
Heat flooded through my cheeks. Would my Lord resent me for what I had done? Did He believe I despised the poor?
But I felt His hand on my shoulder. “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to Me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have Me.”
The tension released inside me, as I slowly raised my eyes to His warm brown ones. I was beyond grateful that my offering should please Him. Yet the thought that one day He would have to leave filled me with sorrow.
My Lord turned His focus back towards Judas Iscariot, the disciple who’d objected my actions, and then He continued. “When she poured this perfume on me, she did it to prepare me for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
His words sent a roil of shock through me. That people would long remember me was an honor I knew I didn’t deserve. Yet if it should glorify Jesus’ name, praise God!
“Mary, are you all right?”
Suddenly I was aware of Martha’s arms around me, first embracing me, and then pulling me to my feet. “Will you help me serve them?”
I looked around in a daze. Jesus was now preaching to the men with the same audacity as before. The disciple who had spoken against me, Judas, was sulking in the corner. Noticing his empty goblet, I snatched a pitcher and came to him to refill it. After all, he had just as much as a right in the Kingdom of God as I did, if he only humbled himself. And through my kindness, perhaps he’d understand that I wasn’t a hater of the poor.
As I poured Judas’ wine, I smiled at him. For a moment he studied me carefully, and then his dark eyes narrowed, sending a sinking feeling within me.
Dear Father, I prayed fervently, help Judas and Simon’s wife and the rest of the doubters to all know that Lazarus was truly dead and made alive again. Help them to know that the same can be true for them in their hearts, and that my offering was nothing compared to His overflowing anointment on my soul.
(Historical Fiction based as much as possible on John 12:1-10 and Matthew 26:6-13.)