Six days before the Passover Jesus went to Bethany, where Lazarus lived with his sisters, Martha and Mary. They made him a supper, and at the supper Lazarus sat at meat with Jesus, while Martha served. Mary had stored up a box of precious ointment, and during the supper she anointed Jesus' feet with the ointment and wiped them with her hair. The whole house, we are told, was filled with the sweet scent of her offering. Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus' disciples, resented Mary's adoration and protested to Jesus. "Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?" he asked (John 12:5). With characteristic gentleness Jesus replied (John 12:7), "Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this."

The supper at Bethany is described by the Apostle John in a few brief words, but brevity does not conceal its deep spiritual meaning. The characters portrayed in this beautiful story stand out like cameos in bold relief: Lazarus, who sat at meat with Jesus; Martha, who served at table; Mary, who worshiped; and Judas, who, moved by greed and envy, came forward to condemn and criticize.

Mary's act of adoration was impelled by spirituality. She had brought her most cherished possession and poured it out without desire for personal gain or aggrandizement. In this priceless gift was to be found the symbol of a consecrated life, a life filled with gentleness, prayer, and gracious adoration. Mary had begun to submerge her life in Spirit and center her innermost desires on the precious truths learned at the feet of Jesus. Martha had once complained that her sister neglected to help her in the more menial tasks, but Jesus commended Mary, saying (Luke 10:42), "Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her."

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November 26, 1949

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