Mary of Bethany: The Dreamer

My name is Mary. I live in Bethany with my older sister and brother, Martha and Lazarus. I remember when we moved to Bethany from Jerusalem. My father's business as a trader had prospered, so he was able to build us a larger home in the country. I was only four when all of our belongings were loaded on carts behind donkeys for the two mile journey. Ever since, I have loved being in the countryside of this small village because I can gather wildflowers in the fields nearby.

Martha has loved to cook since early childhood. She was always beside my mother anytime she was in the kitchen. I, on the other hand, was on my father's lap as a child and sitting at his feet when older, listening to him tell stories about the prophets and kings and queens. My favorite was the story about Queen Esther. As a child I often would tie a rolled scarf around my head pretending it was a crown and that I was a queen, just like Esther.

Four years ago, on my twelfth birthday, my father gave me an alabaster jar filled with spikenard, one of the most expensive cream perfumes you can buy. He said the spikenard was a gift to be used on my wedding night in a few more years.

Lazarus' work with my father often took him to the cities of Galilee where he sometimes stayed in Capernaum. It was in the synagogue in Capernaum that Lazarus first met Jesus, and they are now best of friends.

Once I overheard my father telling a business friend how proud he was of his children, "Lazarus has always been such good help in the business, and Martha in the home. Mary is the artistic one who fills the house with flowers and laughter." I shall never forget that my father loved me just the way I was.

Life has never been quite the same since the night that our neighbor came to our door carrying an olive oil lamp and told us our parents had been killed by robbers for the goods they were carrying. Oh, how I wish my father and mother had not taken that trip to Jericho two years ago.

Martha, though only eighteen at the time, was so strong. It hasn't been easy, but she and Lazarus have managed to keep us together as a family in the house that my father built. Sometimes before I go to bed, I retrieve my precious gift of spikenard from the bottom of the chest at the foot of my bed and hug it close to me remembering the love of my father and mother.

Jesus came to our house as Lazarus' friend for the funeral of my father and mother. He left as a good friend of Martha and me as well. Lazarus had told me how busy Jesus was as He walked the countryside telling the people about God, still He continued to find time to visit Martha and me.

Not long ago, Lazarus became suddenly ill. Martha and I sent a message to Jesus because He had always been here when we needed Him. But Lazarus died before Jesus could come. I questioned, "Jehovah, why? First my father and mother and now Lazarus. It just doesn't seem fair."

Jesus eventually did arrive, but it was four days too late. When Martha went out to meet Him, she returned only to say, "He is here and wants to see you."

So I went at once. When I saw Him, I immediately fell down at His feet weeping and saying, "If You had been here, my brother would still be alive."

Tears came to Jesus' eyes as He asked, "Where is he buried?"

When I told Him, He said, "Come, let's get Martha and go to the tomb."

As we approached the tomb, mourners lined the walkway. Upon reaching the sepulcher Jesus shouted, "Lazarus, come forth!" Before our very eyes, the stone rolled away, and Lazarus was returned alive and well to Martha and me. I was happy and sad all at the same time, and I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. If I hadn't seen it myself, I don't know if I would have believed it.

Several weeks later, six days before Passover, Jesus came to our house for a banquet. This was a celebration of Jesus' healing ministry. Andrew told Lazarus that Jesus had said that He would die then rise again from the dead.

Even though I knew that it was possible for someone to be raised from the dead, I felt a deep sadness settle over me. During the banquet I went to my room and dug down to the bottom of my wooden chest and pulled out my jar of spikenard. I thought about my wedding night. It would be a special moment between the two of us when we would open the jar together. Then I thought about my friend Jesus and I removed the snug fitting lid to smell the sweet perfume.

As I entered the living room, Jesus looked away from the conversations, and His kind eyes locked on mine. I moved to where He lounged, knelt beside Him, and began to rub the spikenard on His feet. I slowly rubbed all my perfume into the tough skin of the feet of this One who had walked so far for others. Thinking of His dying, I began to cry. Salty tears fell on Jesus' feet, so I grasped a handful of my hair and blotted up the tear stains. No one said a word as I put the lid back on the jar then held it close to me as I slowly walked out of the room.

Judas broke the silence, "Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?"

As I reached the hall I could hear the quiet but persistent words of Jesus, "Let her alone. She did it in preparation for my burial. She has used her spikenard, intended by her father for her most joyous occasion, as a gift to me for my grievous one. The poor you have with you always, but you do not always have me."

Based on John 11 and 12.

Copyright 1997 by John C. Westervelt

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