Mary of Bethany’s unconditional love for Jesus Christ is revealed by the fact that she took advantage of opportunities when he was around to express her devotion or worship of him. The two opportunities revealed in the bible are when Mary met Jesus at
1.Martha, her sister’s home (Luke 10)
While at Martha’s home, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to what he had to say while her sister was busy serving. Martha criticised Mary openly to Jesus, but he defended and commended her as follows:
“38 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”(Luke 10:38-42 KJV)
2. Simon the Leper’s home with her sister Martha and brother Lazarus present. (John 12). While Mary’s sister Martha was serving, instead of helping as when Jesus was with them in Martha’s home (see point 1) Mary gave Jesus her undivided attention and took “…a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment” (John 12:3 KJV).
Judas Iscariot criticised her, again Jesus defended and commended Mary: “4 Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him, 5 Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? 6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.7 Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this.8 For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always.” (John 12:4-8 KJV)
In Luke the Apostle’s account, the host criticised Jesus for allowing Mary to touch him:
“39 Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.40 And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.41 There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.42 And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?43 Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.44 And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.
45 Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.46 My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.48 And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.49 And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also?50 And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace. (Luke 7:39-50 KJV)
Why did Mary of Bethany relate to Jesus in this way? As a woman who had turned her back on her life of sin (Luke in chapter 7, states that she had lived a sinful life in that town, in addition to the host’s words noted above in the same chapter), believing that she had been forgiven are many sins she felt compelled to express her gratitude in a very lovable focused manner and did not let the possibility that she might be criticised openly or secretly stop her. The purchase of expensive ointment to anoint Jesus’ feet was an expression of the magnitude of her gratitude and therefore worshipful life towards him.
Mary Magdalene was also as Mary of Bethany, completely devoted to Jesus in the manner of a true worshipper. Similar to Mary of Bethany, her total devotion and expressive worship was borne out of gratitude for what Jesus had done for her. Mary Magdalene had seven demons cast out of her by Jesus. Mary Magdalene was
- at Jesus’ crucifixion (John 19:25) with other women, Jesus’ mother Mary and her sister Mary, the wife of Clopas.
- the first to go to Jesus’ tomb and found it empty (John 20:1-3, Mark 16:9-11).
Furthermore we know from scripture that Jesus went from town to village with his twelve disciples proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom and some women who had been delivered from infirmities were with him (Luke 8:1-3). Mary Magdalene was one of them, although Mary of Bethany was not mentioned in the Apostle Luke’s account, she was likely to have been one of them.
I can imagine the women being criticised by onlookers because it was not a woman’s place in that era to be taught by men or Rabbis (Teachers) such as Jesus nor was it their place to follow a man around as they did. Indeed, these were bold women who were fixed on the lover of their souls, Jesus regardless of the traditions of the day. They were not only interested in learning from him, but they also wanted Jesus to reach as many people as possible with the message of the Kingdom of God and so gave from their own means to support (Luke 8:3) him and his disciples in ministry; Oh! what a great expression of love and devotion towards Jesus Christ and his God given mission!
Friends, as we can see, Mary of Bethany and Mary Magdalene had Jesus on their minds and expressed their devotion to him during his ministry until he left the earth. How much more should we not be expected to live even more worshipful lives unto God than these women, for we have Jesus with us every day because of the Holy Spirit within us who testifies of Jesus and bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:16). Our daily actions will also reveal to the world whether we are true worshipers all the time, some of the time or not at all.
Friends, as we know we do not have to be standing in front of people singing or playing an instrument for God’s glory to be called true worshippers of God. Anyone who accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour (Romans 10:9-10/John 3) is born again and declared righteous unto God and therefore a true worshipper. It is the outworking of this declaration that takes time. The degree of victorious fulfillment of our calling as true worshipers, worshiping God in Spirit (God’s Spirit bearing witness to ours that we are children of God) and in Truth (God’s truth)(John 4) is dependent on the degree in which one abides in God or Christ through the Word, prayer and praise.
Abiding in God also includes partnering with God so that He uses us to be a blessing to the Body of Christ and to anyone or groups of people in our workplace or wherever we might be. It also includes basically thinking and focus on God from the time we wake up until we go to sleep. Yes we may have time set aside during the day to do some bible study and pray as well, but we do not have to wait for these set times, because even in our thoughts and during short pauses of a few minutes as we do our work, go shopping or whatever we are doing, we can pray and sing praises to Him. Relating to Him in this way shows that we acknowledge His omnipresence and live in the realm of His presence as true worshipers.
The New Covenant of Jesus Christ fulfills the covenant promise of God to the nation of Israel (Jeremiah 31:31-34), extended to all mankind regardless of their nationality or race as long as they are believers in Jesus:
“31Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day [that] I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD:
33But this [shall be] the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jer. 31:31-34 KJV)
“26For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. 27For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. 29And if ye [be] Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Gal. 3:28-29 KJV)
While we have Pastors and teachers given to us by God, there are also deceptive ones or those who are selective in what they teach so as not to become unpopular while preventing disciples from attaining the fullness of the “meat” of the Word of God. Those who depend first and foremost on what their pastors or other teachers teach them, must take note that these verses of Jeremiah 31:31-34 are in actual fact stating that through Jesus Christ in the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit who is a testimony of Jesus, you are able to receive the Word of God planted in your heart without anyone teaching you. It suffices that you partner with God for the planting of His Word in your heart by reading and studying the Bible to show yourself approved unto God (2 Tim 2:15), while staying in fellowship with the Holy Spirit.
To reiterate this point in 1 John 2:26-27, John the Apostle explains that the Holy Spirit or anointing of God indwelling believers in Christ will teach them, so that they do not need anyone to teach them.
This means that you are able to live a life consistently as a true worshipper of God! If you cultivate a lifestyle of abiding in God and depend on Him for revelation and insight from His Word, it is unlikely that anyone can deceive you in relation to Christian doctrine or in other ways. This is because you are living as a true worshiper through fellowship with the Holy Spirit. Remember God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in Truth (John 4).
Brethren, we ought to praise God every day for His Holy Spirit, a great teacher (John 14:26) and helper who reminds us of Jesus’ teachings and reveals the will of God to us directly from Him or through His Word. As you can see our victorious life as true worshipers depends on how we relate to God and nothing else not even our church traditions or how our family related to God as we grew up from childhood to adulthood. This point is best illustrated by Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman he deliberately met at the well on the appointed day of her salvation, or her call to be a true worshiper.
The Samaritan woman said to Jesus “20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.25 The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things.26 Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he” (John 4:20-26 KJV).
Jesus was in effect saying to the Samaritan woman that while salvation came to the world through the Jews, being a true worshiper of God was not determined or gauged by whether one worshiped upon a mountain or in Jerusalem. In other words a traditional or ancestral place of worship is not of significance, what is of significance is the state of one’s heart condition before God. In other words you are not confirmed a true worshiper in God’s eyes, solely because of either of the following:
-you have been a Christian all your life and have therefore been known to worship God and
-you come from a long line of Christian ancestors and your parents were also Christians.
As a result of either one of the above two points, you have worshiped God in a certain way or through a particular denomination.
True worshipers are those who have a relationship with the Holy Spirit, because God is Spirit and it is only when we are in fellowship with His Holy Spirit that we can know His will and ways (i.e. His truth) and live by them. Living according to the truth of His spoken or written word equates being a true worshiper.
You may have the tendency to be in likeness to either Mary Magdalene or Mary of Bethany in terms of your completely surrendered and devoted life to God, but in a way that other Christians would appear not to understand, and so criticise you, saying ‘there he/she goes again, so over the top!’
Do they know what God has delivered you from so that you live with such intense love for Him through the LORD Jesus Christ? If they did, they may refrain from their criticism, but then again they may not. Martha knew of the kind of life her sister, Mary of Bethany had been delivered from, and Judas Iscariot also knew of Mary’s past life, but it did not stop them criticising her actions.
Brethren, you do not have to justify yourself or explain at length as to why you live your life the way you do unless you are giving a testimony expressing how God transformed your life.
God will defend and commend you as He did Mary of Bethany, should people criticise you openly or in their hearts as you ascribe worship to God by expressing devotion to Him wholeheartedly because you love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind as we are commanded to do (Matthew 22:37). Indeed if your heart is pure and your worship is genuine the fruit of your “love in action” or labour for His sake will be made manifest for all to see. Also remember that your lifestyle serves as a witness to the unbeliever of who Christ is and what living for him entails. You may be the only evidence of a true Christian that someone knows and based on your genuine Christlike walk, they may decide to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour.
Therefore Soldier on in faith ! refusing to be destructed from living a sacrificially worshipful life unto God.
A WORSHIPFUL LIFE
I will lift my hands in praise
I will bow my knees in worship
I will lay me down in surrender to
I will proclaim the Word
I will speak the truth
I will tell my story of
I will give to the poor
I will help the weak
I will pray for the sick
In obedience to
“God has made us what we are. He has created us in Christ Jesus to live lives filled with good works
that He has prepared for us to do”
(Eph.2:10) ©Deborah Nyamekye Oct.2015 (poems blog: http://www.poetrieprose.wordpress.com)
To read: Worship Part 1-Cain, Abel & You… C lick here
You are blessed, determine to stay blessed!
©Deborah E. Nyamekye 17/01/2016