In the days leading up to Jesus crucifixion, Mary, the sister of Martha, anoints Jesus with a very expensive ointment. 

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 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. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for 300 denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” (John 12:1-8)

It was a lavish display and in financial terms, a significant sacrifice. The ointment was worth approximately 10 months’ salary.

Pause to do the math – that is $30,000 for the average American worker!

There was nothing casual or half-hearted in what Mary did for Jesus.

We don’t know if the decision to make this sacrifice, and to offer this public display involved inner struggle for Mary. The fact that the Bible is silent on the matter tells us it really isn’t important.

What is important is what Mary actually did:

We know she publically demonstrated that she loved Jesus.

We know Mary was thankful to Jesus who had given forgiveness to her and life to her brother.

We know she humbled herself, wiping Jesus feet with her hair.

We know she sacrificed what could have been used in countless other ways.

What Mary did not know:

She did not know that her actions held meaning far beyond what she could then understand.

She did not know that Jesus would soon be on a cross and in a tomb.

She did not know how deeply Jesus would appreciate her actions.

She did not know that her actions had just become part of the most astonishing of all God’s works – the atoning death of His Son!

She did not know that we would be impacted by her actions 2000 years later.

Every believer has as much reason to be thankful to Jesus as Mary did.

We have been raised from spiritual death and we have the promise that even our bodies will one day be raised to eternal glory.

Every believer also has choices and opportunities to show Jesus our love and gratitude.

We all cannot give something worth 10 months’ salary, but we all can be sacrificial with our possessions, and we all can demonstrate thankfulness with our actions.

Every believer who has the heart of Mary will also find that God uses our actions in ways that go far beyond what we anticipated and can currently see.

This is not because we are wise, gifted or wealthy. It is because God is loving, gracious and wonderful.

Every believer can bring the “fragrance” of devotion to Christ into the places that we live, work and worship.

This week, we remember what Jesus did for us.

It is an appropriate time to consider what we are doing for him.


 “What is Necessary?”      Luke 10:38-42

This story involves two sisters who loved Jesus

Mary had a rough past, but she deeply loved Jesus (Luke 7:36-46)

Martha had a mature understanding of Christ (John 11:20-27)

Any church would be thrilled to have these women, but even godly people sometimes lose focus

The story starts well; Martha opens her home to Jesus

Jesus had no home of his own, and was constantly traveling. How welcome this must have been

The gospels show Martha to be a woman of action, which is good and biblical

However, Martha’s hospitality turned to anger and accusation 

While doing good things Martha had lost sight of the best thing

Jesus tells Martha, that Mary was the one with her priorities in order

The “good portion” that Mary chose, was time with Jesus

If we are honest, sometimes this can feel like lost time to us:

“I have important things to get done; I can’t stop to read my Bible”

“I have serious requests to pray for; I can’t spend time just worshiping Him”

Time with Jesus is the “necessary thing”, because we desperately need Him (Jn 15:4-5)

Our focus on Jesus is the “good portion”, because he is so wonderful

We must be on guard against losing the greatest priority in life

Don’t let busyness keep us from time in prayer and God’s Word

Don’t let our children’s activities keep them from God’s Church

Martha was not wrong by serving; she was “distracted” in serving

Distraction is a bigger struggle for us than an outward rejection of God

At some point, Martha’s agenda in serving got mixed up

She was no longer hosting, she was finding her identity in it

She was no longer serving Jesus, she working in her kingdom

We see several evidences that Martha was out of focus:

She felt Jesus needed to get with her plans

She became judgmental of Mary’s choice

Getting her self-assigned job done, pushed away being with Jesus

Her heart exuded anxiety and self-pity

Luke’s placement of this story helps us get the point!

Immediately before this story is the parable of the Good Samaritan, which shows that love takes action

Immediately after this story, Jesus is praying and his disciples ask him to teach them to pray

Luke places this story about serving and devotion between Jesus instructing people about love taking action, and Jesus leading his disciples into closer devotion to God

We must not interpret this story as minimizing the value of being people of action

We cannot follow Jesus without having a servant’s heart (Luke 22:24-27)

And if we are not “doers of the Word”, we are deceiving ourselves (James 1:22)

Luke is creating a balanced and healthy picture for us

To love God we must be active as his servants

To live as servants of God must stay connected to the Vine

What can we take home from this story of Mary and Martha?

1.  If you want to stay on track for Christ, then your priority must be time with him

2.  If you are not sure what to do, pursuing God is always the best place

3.  What people need most from you, is a heart that is close to God

4.  The greatest heritage you can pass on, is who you are in Christ