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MARY OF BETHANY (Bible Character Series)

Posted on Oct 31 , 2013 in Bible Characters

MARY OF BETHANY (Bible Character Series)

 

Mary of Bethany is a biblical figure described in the Gospels of John and Luke in the Christian New Testament. Together with her siblings Lazarus and Martha, she is described by John as living in the village of Bethany near Jerusalem.

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus visits the home of two sisters named Mary and Martha. Mary is contrasted with her sister Martha, who was "cumbered about many things” while Jesus was their guest, while Mary had chosen "the better part," that of listening to the master's discourse. In the Gospel of John, a Mary appears in connection two incidents: the raising from the dead of her brother Lazarus and the anointing of Jesus. The identification of this being the same Mary in both incidents is given explicitly by the author: "Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair."  In the account of the raising of Lazarus, Jesus meets with the sisters in turn: Martha followed by Mary. Martha goes immediately to meet Jesus as he arrives, while Mary waits until she is called. When Mary meets Jesus, she falls at his feet. In speaking with Jesus, both sisters lament that he did not arrive in time to prevent their brother's death: "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." But where Jesus' response to Martha is one of teaching calling her to hope and faith, his response to Mary is more emotional: "When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.  

A narrative in which Mary of Bethany plays a central role (in at least one of the accounts) is the anointing of Jesus, an event reported by the Gospel of John in which a woman pours the entire contents of an alabastron of very expensive perfume on the feet of Jesus. Only in the John account is the woman identified as Mary, with the earlier reference in John 11:1-2 establishing her as the sister of Martha and Lazarus. Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus' honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, "Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year's wages." He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

"Leave her alone," Jesus replied. "It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
 

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