Jesus during his ministry often stayed in the town called Bethany. The modern name of this town is al-Eizariya named after Lazarus. It was a small town situated closer to Jerusalem (2 miles – John 11:18). Jesus preferred to spend his night in Bethany whenever he visited Jerusalem (Marc 11:11) because of his close association with the Lazarus family.
While he was in Bethany, Jesus was dining in the house of Simon the leper, a woman poured expensive alabaster on Jesus' head (Marc 14:3). The same incident is narrated in John 12 slightly differently by mentioning the name of the woman as Mary and according to John, she poured the alabaster on Jesus' feet. The dinner was served to honor Jesus and the place was heavily crowded not only due to Jesus’s presence but also to check on Lazarus as this incident happened soon after he had raised from dead.
The introductory passage to Lazarus family appears in Luke 10. It was Martha who opened their home to Jesus. As we know, Jesus always traveled with his twelve disciples and hence inviting Jesus to a home means inviting at the minimum thirteen men to your home. Cooking for all these men is not an easy job and Martha took the entire load on herself, while her sister Mary dedicated her time listening to Jesus by sitting at his feet. Normally the phrase sitting at somebody’s feet and listening to the master’s words in the eastern world gives the discipleship context.
In both the above context, John 12 - which happened after Lazarus was raised from death and in Luke 10 where Martha invited Jesus for the first time, it was Martha who was doing the work and Mary was playing the role of obedient disciple by sitting at Jesus feet and washing his feet with precious alabaster. When Martha became tired of her role and complained, Jesus reminded Martha what is important.
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:42.
In today’s context too, many of us spend our energy and time to do God’s work. At times it leads to frustration as our energy depletes. God would like to remind us what is that one thing that is needed and important. He wants us to sit at his feet and listen to him. He created us to have fellowship with him. Any ministry we do should originate and flow from the love of Christ and the fellowship we have with him. The empty human zeal and energy without fellowship with God though can complete multiple activities will neither bring glory to God nor achieve its intended benefits.
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