Gazing into the Face of Yeshua Part 9
Last week we saw Mary of Bethany, our model for the heart of contemplative prayer, committing an extravagant act of repentance and worship, just a few days before Yeshua would undergo His sufferings for the sins of the world.
In the presence of many others, probably mostly men, this woman Mary came into the place where a banquet was being held in Bethany to honor Yeshua. Without fanfare or explanation Mary broke a precious container of perfumed oil—the fragrance was spikenard—and began pouring it over Yeshua.
First she poured it on His head as He was reclining at table. Then she knelt down and poured it on His feet.
And in a final act of humility and submission, she took the covering of modesty off her head, bent fully over and wiped the excess oil off His feet with her hair.
This act was literally an anointing. The word “anoint” means “to pour oil upon or to smear with oil.” Most of us recall that the title “Messiah” (which also means “Christ”) comes from the Hebrew word mashiach, meaning “one who is anointed.”
So here we have the picture of Messiah Yeshua, the Anointed One, being quite literally anointed with oil.
Scripture contains other examples of individuals who were anointed with oil. A good example is the anointing of David by Samuel.
But in the Old Covenant scriptures anointing was to be done by a prophet or a priest. The idea was that in that act God was confirming the calling and empowerment of that individual. So the anointing with oil was to be done by someone who was an acknowledged man of God—someone with authority.
Here in the story of Mary anointing Yeshua we have anointing with oil being done by—a lay woman! I wonder if there is an element of this act that is a prophetic statement about the New Covenant which Yeshua was about to inaugurate in just a few days. In that New Covenant we would become a “priesthood of believers” in which there would be “no male or female”—no differences of service rank based on gender.
How did the men at the banquet table receive what Mary did? We do know from the text that the disciples, especially Judas, protested that her act was a “waste” of an expensive asset. It could have been sold and given to the poor.
But instead of making a contribution to the poor in Yeshua’s name, Mary chose to “waste” it on Yeshua Himself.
I don’t know if you have noticed this, but even Christians will speak of time spent in worship and in intimate prayer with the Lord as if it is just the preliminary activity for something else—like Bible study or a sermon or even ministering in prayer to the congregation.
We have to get away from this kind of thinking. What would be so bad if we met together for a “service” and all we did was waste time on Yeshua, pouring out the oil of worship from our hearts?
Well, what did Yeshua say about Mary’s act of extravagance?
He counters the criticism by saying that the concern for using this asset for the poor is misplaced. Notice that He doesn’t make any reference to the way Mary behaved at the tomb of Lazarus. That’s old news.
Instead He affirms Mary, saying that she has anointed His body for burial and saying further that what she has done will be told about her wherever the gospel is preached.
Now here’s something more to think about. If you look at the textual clues in the gospel accounts, you will see that this dinner likely occurred less than a week before Yeshua’s arrest and crucifixion.
Perfumed oil, particularly when it soaks into clothing or hair, is very long-lasting in effect. The fragrance of it can last for days, even when some of it is washed off.
I want you to think about this. Mary poured the perfume all over His hair. Undoubtedly it dripped onto His clothing. And Mary had it all over her hair and hands as she did this.
When our Lord was undergoing the brutality of His sufferings just a few days hence, is it possible that the fragrance of this perfume was still lingering on Him? Is it possible that even in the midst of all He underwent for our redemption that there were moments when a slight breeze may have stirred His hair for a moment, releasing some of that fragrance?
And if so, would it have reminded Him of the act of extravagant worship poured out on Him from a heart repenting and submitting to Him in love—a heart that did not care what anyone else thought about her or about Him?
And what about Mary? That perfume got all over her as well. How do you suppose she felt in her grief at hearing what happened to Him just a few days later? Do you think she was glad at least that she had so publicly repented before Him, so publicly honored Him?
And how much more so after His resurrection!
You know that we all have opportunities to do what Mary did. We all have opportunities to blame the Lord for not coming through for us on time, or for allowing events to take a turn that we just puzzle over because they seem so far out of God’s declared will for us in His word.
And then we have the opportunities to repent from our wanting to blame Him, to accuse Him of failing to love us enough. Yes, we have walked in Mary’s shoes.
I want you to know that if you are one who has blamed the Lord for not rescuing you or your loved one in a desperate situation, or for in some other way “failing” to perform what He promised in His word, it’s not too late even now to humble yourself at His feet.
Take this opportunity right now to sit humbly before Him. Dare to raise your eyes to His and see the loving acceptance there in His heart. Ask Him to forgive your ignorance.
Because that’s really what it is—we truly don’t know what is really happening in the spirit realm most of the time.
Ask Him for grace to love Him again, to walk with Him in the depth of love you once did. He always answers prayers for grace. That’s His specialty!
Next week, I think we are going to end this series with a look at how contemplative prayer can be experienced in a group setting.