Mary’s Costly Gift of Love
I picture Mary as quiet and gentle woman with a heart of gold. The first time we meet her in the Bible she is sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to his words. When her sister complained that she didn’t get help in the kitchen, Jesus said, “Only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42).
The next time, she is confused and disappointed. She and Martha had called on Jesus when their brother Lazarus was sick, but Jesus took his time and didn’t arrive until Lazarus had been in the grave four days! Both sisters had the same thing to say, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Jesus had a greater miracle in mind than healing Lazarus. He did a resurrection miracle! What an amazing sight it must have been when Jesus called Lazarus out of the grave. “The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face” (John 11:44). Because of this, many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and saw the miracle, put their faith in Jesus.
Next time we meet her is six days before the Passover when she showed her love for Jesus with a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume, that she poured on his feet, and then she wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume!
Not everybody appreciated her act of sacrificial love. Judas Iscariot complained, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” As we have seen, Martha complained to Jesus because Mary didn’t help out in the kitchen, and now Judas complained because of her generosity. There will always be complainers when we shower our love on Jesus. But He understands and he sees our heart.
Mary must have been a hardworking woman. Either she inherited the perfume or she got it by saving up with hard work. A year’s wages in our day would at least be twenty or thirty thousand dollars.
When Mary poured the perfume at the feet of Jesus, not only Judas complained. All the disciples were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor” (Matthew 26:8,9). Nothing we give to Jesus is a waste!
“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her” (Mark 14:6-9).
The key for any act of love is just that: to do what we can. Mary chose what is better, like Jesus said in the Sermon of the Mount, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things [food and clothing] will be given to you as well” (Matt 6:33).
When Mary chose to sit at Jesus feet, Jesus had one word, “It will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42). When you chose to be in his presence, no one can take that away from you. Even as I write these words I feel the sweet presence of Jesus. It’s like what happened when Mary poured her offering on the feet of Jesus, that the whole room was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
After sitting at the feet of Jesus you and I can spread the fragrance of his love all around us. Maybe that is the best thing we can offer our precious Lord.
Judas and the Kiss of Betrayal
I’m sure that Mary, as she sat wiping Jesus’ feet with her hair, lovingly kissed those feet that for three years had trodden the dusty roads from Galilee to Judea, and from Judea back to Galilee. That was a humble kiss of devotion to the man that in a short few days would give his life for her. There was another kiss coming, a kiss of betrayal.
The first one to protest at Mary’s expressions of love and generosity was Judas, the man with the money bag, not because he cared about the poor, but because he helped himself to the content.
We think of Judas in horror. How could he betray Jesus? But how many of us can wash our hands in innocence? The temptation of money overtook Judas!
Money! Money! Money! From the youngest to the oldest we cannot live without it, but at the same time it can mess up our life big time, and we can be so bound by it that we let freedom elude us.
One of my Cuban friends tells the story about a lady that let freedom escape her, when there still was time for her to leave Cuba after the Castro take-over. She showed my friend some jewels, maybe valued at two hundred dollars, and said, “I cannot leave, because I will not leave these behind!” And she let the opportunity go, tied down by some earthly goods.
Money is NOT the root of all evil; but it is the love of money that is the root of all evil. We need to be free to be generous like Mary, to lavish on our Lord whatever earthly possessions we might have. Not that he needs them; he owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10); but it’s one way to show our love.
The story that started so well, with the privilege of being one of the chosen Twelve, ended in such disgrace. The thirty silver coins Judas Iscariot was paid for handing Jesus over to the chief priests burnt in his hands. He threw the money in the temple and went and hanged himself.
I wonder what went through Judas’ mind as he approached Jesus to kiss him. Could it be that even at that moment remorse had set in? Oh, but the prospect of owing those silver coins erased all the scenes of his walk with Jesus for three years. One kiss, just one kiss… and he would be rich. He could travel that world! He could do his own thing! That’s when the words pierced him like a sword, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” (Luke 22:48).
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).
God invites us to a generous life.
“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make ALL GRACE ABOUND to you, so that IN ALL THINGS AT ALL TIMES, having ALL THAT YOU NEED, you will abound in every good work… You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God” (2 Corinthians 9:6-11).
Judas, Judas… such a tragic end to a life full of promise!
Open your heart to the SON as a flower that seeks the sun. Jesus is the Bright Morning Star, “the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (Revelation 22:13). Nothing can compare to his love!
When many of Jesus’ disciples turned back and no longer followed him, Jesus asked the Twelve, “You do not want to leave too, do you?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.) (See John 6:66-71).
“Lord, to whom shall we go?” Do not let any “silver coins” distract you to the point of betraying your Savior. Jesus has an abundant life in store for you.
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived
what God has prepared
for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9
Judas, Judas, how could you throw all that away?
Peter—the Look of Jesus and Peter’s Bitter Tears of Regret
There are all kinds of tears, but I think the worst kind were the bitter tears of regret Peter cried after he disowned Jesus, not once, but three times! And he swore and he cursed (Mark 14:71). “I don’t know this man you’re talking about!”
Then came the “look”! A look can say more than a thousand words. When Peter had called down curses on himself and sworn that he didn’t know Jesus, the rooster crowed (just as the Lord had predicted), and Jesus turned and looked straight at Peter (Luke 22:61).
That was the look! I’m sure a million things went through Peter’s mind, not the least what had happened just hours previous.
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”
He could never take back the denials, done was done. But there was the look, and only Peter knows what was in it. We can speculate… but let me tell you, Jesus has that look for each one of us. I am sure it was filled with the most love you can see in a look, because that is how he is our Jesus.
Peter must have remembered the time when Jesus borrowed his boat to preach from, and then gave Peter the greatest catch of fish he had ever experienced. That was the time when Peter left everything and followed Jesus (Luke 5:1-11).
I’m sure he remembered the time when Jesus healed his mother-in-law. Some people joke about that and say that was the reason why Peter denied Jesus. Why is it people joke so much about mother-in-laws? Are we that bad?
He must have remembered when Jesus provided the money to pay for his temple tax, how he went down to the lake and found a coin in the first fish he caught (Matthew 17:24-27).
The transfiguration must have stood out clearly in his mind, when Moses and Elijah visited with Jesus on the mount and Peter suggested they stay there and make shelters (Matthew 17:1-8).
What about the time when his brother Andrew brought a little boy to Jesus that had a lunch worthy of a King, the one that Jesus multiplied to feed thousands (John 6:1-13)?
He surely must have remembered the time when he rebuked Jesus, when the Lord had told them about the suffering that awaited him, and Jesus said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men” (Matthew 16:23).
Before that incident, Peter had confessed Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah.
What else do you thing went through his mind. For sure the time when he walked on water! And here he was, cursing and swearing that he didn’t know the man.
After the “look,” that pierced through his soul, Peter went out and cried bitterly.
So we say, just like with Judas, How could you? But none of us are free from sin. It’s time for soul-searching, because with our actions we many times disown our Lord. Jesus prayed for Peter that his faith may not fail. Jesus is still lovingly interceding for his own. “Christ Jesus, who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Romans 8:34).
When Jesus came back to life an angel sent a special greeting to Peter, after telling the women that came to the grave that Jesus was alive, “Go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you’” (Mark 16:7).
Even when we have to cry bitter tears of regret there are loving arms ready to embrace us. Let the “look” of Jesus’ love penetrate your soul. He loves you more than words can tell.
“Greater love has no one than this,
that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
Simon from Cyrene, Chosen with a Purpose
In the Roman Empire, when a man was sentenced to be crucified, he would have to carry his cross, from the prison to the place of execution. That would be a weight of at least 100 pounds on the shoulders of someone that had been brutally beaten. They would tie the heavy beam to the arms, resting it between the neck and the spine. If the prisoner stumbled he had no way of protecting himself from a fall.
More than the weight of the heavy beam on his shoulders, Jesus carried the weight of our sins.
Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
The weight on the shoulders of our precious Savior was too much. They stopped a man coming to town from the country, Simon from Cyrene, “and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus” (Luke 23:26). That’s about all we know about this man, except that he was the father of Alexander and Rufus.
How this affected Simon we don’t know, but later on the apostle Paul writes to the Romans and about Rufus. “Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too” (Rom 16:13). At least we know it affected Rufus, and made him a follower of Christ.
Simon was probably never the same after that day. You’re never the same after an encounter with Jesus. Simon had been chosen with a purpose. In some way he alleviated the heavy road Jesus’ had to tread to the cross.
Each follower of Jesus is chosen with a purpose, chosen in the Lord. First and foremost we are chose for salvation, but then also for service. I will never forget the day I was “chosen” for service. At the early age of ten, God revealed to me that I was chosen to proclaim the Gospel to children. Jesus asked me in a vision if I was willing to go tell boys and girls about Jesus, specifically “brown” boys and girls. That is what I have done all my life, and my big passion to this day is to make teaching materials available so boys and girls all around the world will hear about Jesus.
I was never the same after that day. As a teen-ager I didn’t fool around, because I always had in the back of my mind, “I have been chosen!” I knew God had a special plan for me, and even before age fifteen I started fulfilling that plan.
If you are reading this and you love Jesus, you are “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).
If you are not yet a follower of Christ Jesus, today is your day to be “chosen”! Really, God chose you to be his even before the creation of the world.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will- to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.”
Simon from Cyrene was seized and forced to carry Jesus’ cross. God does not force anybody to follow him and carry Jesus’ cross, so to speak. With love and compassion God invites you to come to him, to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, to be made his adopted son or daughter, to inherit his kingdom. Come to him today. You will never regret it
John, Entrusted with the Dearest
Do you think Peter followed Jesus to Calvary, after his defeat at the courthouse? Maybe he was too overcome with grief because of his cowardly denial of Jesus.
But John, his friend and ministry companion, was there. Others, whose names we don’t have were there. But reading the Gospel accounts we find several of the women named:
- First and foremost: Mary the mother of Jesus
- Jesus’ aunt, Mary’s sister
- Mary the wife of Clopas
- Mary Magdalene
- Mary, the mother of James and Joses
- The mother of Zebedee’s sons
Luke tells us that all who knew him were standing at a distance. John was brave; he stood at the feet of the cross.
Jesus felt his responsibility as the oldest son. The disciple that he loved [John’s way of describing himself] was there and he entrusted him with the dearest.
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother… When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
Wait a minute, I’m calling her “the dearest,” but what did Jesus say about his mother and his brothers and sisters?
Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”
“Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.
Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
We —you and I— are his dearest. That’s the reason Jesus went to the cross. Jesus entrusted John with the care of his dear mother. He has entrusted us with the dearest: THE GOSPEL, the Good News of salvation.
Someone once imagined an angel in heaven asking Jesus after His return from earth how the world would know The Story. Jesus answered that he was depending on his disciples to tell it. “But what if they don’t tell The Story?” asked the angel, to which Jesus responded, “I have no other plan.”
We are HIS PLAN to spread the Word. Mary was also entrusted to spread the Gospel. She was one of the many that awaited the promise of the Holy Spirit. She was there when God empowered his followers. John was a young man at the time, and he stayed true to his responsibility. Thanks to him we have the Gospel of Love he wrote, we have three letters full of love, and we have the Revelation given to him by Jesus about things to come.
The day that looked the darkest to the brave ones at the foot of the cross and all who watched at a distance; the day when it was dark at noontime; the day when the curtain in the temple was ripped from top to bottom; the day when my Savior gave up the breath and cried out, “It is finished!”… that is the most glorious day in human history. That is the day my sins were nailed to the cross.
John and Mary, and all the others thought it was all over, but it was just the beginning! On Sunday he would be raised from the dead to proclaim the victory.
1 Corinthians 15:54-57
Death has been swallowed up in victory.
“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ.
What are we doing with “the dearest” that Jesus has entrusted us with?
AT THE CROSS
Isaac Watts, E. Hudson, chorus
Alas, and did my Savior bleed
and did my Savior die?
Would he devote that sacred head
for such a worm as I?
At the cross, at the cross
where I first saw the light,
and the burden of my heart rolled away.
It was there by faith I received my sight.
And now I am happy all the day!
Was it for crimes that I have done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity, grace unknown,
and love beyond degree!
Well might the sun in darkness hide
and shut his glories in.
When Christ, the Mighty Maker, died
for man the creature’s sin.
But drops of grief can ne’er repay
the debt of love I owe.
Here, Lord, I give myself away.
‘Tis all that I can do.
Joseph, the Secret Disciple
Jesus was born like the lowliest but buried like a King. He even had a guard of soldiers watching his body. For Joseph from Arimathea it was time to come out of the shadows and take a stand for Jesus. He was a secret disciple, but at this dark hour he could not keep it secret anymore. He had his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock, and that is what he was going to offer Jesus.
Mark 15:42-46; John 19:39-42
It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. 45 When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph.
He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
The custom was to wash the body and then wrap it in strips of linen mixed with sweet smelling spices, starting from the feet and then up through the neck. The head was wrapped separately. Seventy-five pounds of a mixture of myrrh and aloes seem quite a lot. But some historians tell us that when King Herod died some five hundred servants carried the spices used in preparing his body. There were not so many preparing the body of the King of kings.
Joseph was a secret disciple for fear of the Jews; but on that day he made a very bold and public confession. He dared to ask the Roman governor for the body. And his request was granted.
A secret disciple? You cannot be a secret follower of Jesus; not in the long run! Jesus said, “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33).
Due to persecution many followers of Jesus keep it a secret. In the first century the Christians in Rome lived in catacombs. Today in many places Christians have to go “underground” and meet secretly. Many are imprisoned or killed because of their faith in Jesus. In my eyes these brave brothers and sisters are heroes.
God chose this “secret disciple” to give his Son Jesus a burial place. The closets disciples hid and locked the door, probably fearing that the Jews would come after them, and maybe do the same they had done to Jesus. But Joseph was bold, and thus Jesus was buried in a beautiful garden.
I pray that we be bold in acknowledging our Savior!
Mary, Bearer of Good News
We started the week with the story of the kind and generous Mary from Bethany. Let’s climax with recount about Mary Magdalene and the good news of the empty tomb.
Since Mary had been set free of the seven demons that tormented her, she had traveled with Jesus helping to take care of his needs. When Jesus was sent to the cross, she was there watching everything that happened to her dear Savior. She saw Joseph take his body down from the cross and she saw the grave where he put him. Together with some of her friends she went home to prepare spices and perfumes to anoint the body. As soon as the Sabbath was over, very early in the morning, while it still was dark, they headed to the garden where Jesus had been buried.
“Who is going to roll the stone away?” wondered the women as they approached the tomb.
It had been a miserable weekend. Their Master, the hope of the world, was dead, buried by a stranger, guarded by soldiers from the Roman army. I’m sure the women wondered why they had to guard the tomb of a dead man. The religious leaders wanted to make sure nobody stole the body and spread the word that Jesus had resurrected. That had heard Jesus say he was going to come back to life.
The disciples kept themselves under locked doors, maybe fearful that the religious leaders would do to them what had happened to Jesus. Judas the betrayer had hanged himself. Peter was devastated because he had disowned the Savior.
Who were the strangers that had buried Jesus? Mary had watched every move. She had put so much hope in Jesus—now all her dreams were shattered. But one thing was for sure. She was not going back to her old life. What Jesus had done for her was beyond description. To be free from the tormenting spirits was out of this world. The least she could do was anoint his body. That would be her last farewell.
What a surprise when Mary and the other women arrive at the tomb. It was open! The stone had been rolled away.
While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them,
“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’”
Then they remembered his words.
Risen! Alive! Mary ran as fast as her legs would carry her. She knew where to find the disciples, all huddled up grieving their Lord.
“Peter! John! He’s gone! Someone has taken him. An angel said he’s alive!”
Peter and John also ran as fast as their legs would carry them. John, the youngest, arrived first at the grave, but Peter was the one to enter, not to a sepulcher like we are used to, but a cave.
What a sight! The grave clothed lay there neatly folded, as if someone had stepped out of them. They hurried back to the others. What could this mean?
Mary Magdalene stayed behind.
A man she thought was the gardener approached her.
“Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him,” she said.
That was all it took. The voice of her Teacher—unmistakable.
Her Teacher! Her Rabboni!
Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (John 20:17).
Once again she was off running. “I have seen the Lord!” was her message. No one could take that away from her. And no one can take that away from you and me. To meet the risen Savior, to have him call your name—nothing compares to that!
Mary was in the forefront of millions that throughout the centuries have proclaimed, “I HAVE SEEN THE LORD!”
I hope these Portraits have brought new meaning to your heart. I hope you have a new appreciation of the Savior. I hope you see him in a new light.
I hope you can proclaim as Mary Magdalene,
“I have seen the Lord!”