What does God esteem? What is it He values? He’s given us many commandments but what’s at the core of those? It’s such an important question. As followers of Jesus it’s one of the most important questions we’ll ever ask.
The poet, Mary Oliver, wrote, “Tell me what it is you will do with your one wild, precious and beautiful life?” You’ve got one life and you get to spend it anyhow you like but you only get to spend it once. Surely it’s important to know what is worthy of your life’s pursuit?
In the book of 1st Samuel, God’s people said to the prophet, “Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.” (1 Samuel 8:5) They looked at all the nations around them to see what was important. I feel like we, as Christians, do that sometimes. We look to our friends, family, church, culture to say what is worthy of our life’s pursuit.
Yet there was a woman in the bible though who did things differently. Her life gives us a glimpse into what God esteems. Her encounters with Jesus are recorded a number of times through the gospels. Her name was Mary of Bethany.
At the end of Luke 10 she is found sitting at the feet of Jesus to “hear His words” (v.39) even while her sister (Martha) ran frantic to meet her social and cultural obligations. Of this contrast Jesus said, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” (v. 41)
In John 11 we meet Mary again. This time her brother Lazarus has just died of a mystery illness. We read that Jesus deliberately stayed away until Lazarus died (v.6). Then He comes to the sisters’ home in Bethany. Martha meets Him on the road and pours her heart out to Him. Jesus calls for Mary. When Mary meets Jesus she says exactly the same words as her sister yet this time Jesus is moved to raise Lazarus from the dead. Mary was one who moved Jesus’ heart.
Finally, in Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 9 and John 12 we see Mary take a pound of pure spikenard (a highly expensive perfume), worth an entire year’s wages, and pour it out on Jesus’ feet. It is an extravagant act of anointing for His coming death. Out of all Jesus’ followers Mary was the only one who foresaw His coming death. Her offering was one of extravagant worship. In response Jesus’ other disciples rebuke Mary but Jesus says to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” (Matthew 26:13)
What caused Mary to fix her eyes upon Jesus, forsake her cultural duty and sit at His feet to hear His words? What is it about Mary that moved Jesus’ heart? What caused her to pour away a year’s wages as an act of extravagant worship? What is it she saw? What is it she knew?
I want to see what she saw! I want my heart moved as her’s was moved! I want to be a friend of God who moves His heart the way she did! In our hour of history, God is longing for friends. He is looking for allies upon the earth. You have one life and you get to spend it anyhow you like, how will you spend yours?