She did what she could.
I want to share an abridged message that I gave at a Women’s Fellowship meeting in this church a number of years ago, perhaps too many ago to mention! I was prompted to share this because of a recent message shared by a sister, to the women within our fellowship concerning perfume; the perfume that we permeate to others by how we live of our lives!
What can we do for the Lord when life throws many demands, commitments and responsibilities your way? What do you do to show you care when someone is hurting? What do I do to help spread the gospel? What can we do? Labour as we might to raise our children, we cannot make them Christians. Try as we might to win friends and loved ones to Christ, we cannot do the regenerating work within. With so much need in our church and in our world what can we do? During the Passion Week Jesus was visiting in the house of Simon the leper, when a lady who is elsewhere identified as Mary of Bethany, broke a jar containing an expensive perfume, worth a year’s wages, and anointed Jesus with it in preparation for his immanent death and burial. This was a gift, a service for the Lord, from a woman who obviously had intense faith in what Jesus had come into this world to do. Her motive in service was pure, there was no self-promotion or seeking after prestige or power here, it was a simple, humble and heartfelt act. Some of those present thought it a waste, it would have been better to sell the perfume and give the money to the poor. Sounds like a good idea, sounded logical, but as we shall see this was a wrongful criticism of this faithful woman’s efforts. To add insult to injury those who criticized her were not pagan Gentiles or even apostate Jews, but a religious group including Jesus disciples. This was destructive not constructive criticism. How hurtful for this woman to suffer such opposition for her act of devotion, but yet she displays great character, she does not retaliate in kind, she does not devalue her action by showing a poor attitude, her great character matches her generous gift. However, Jesus settles the matter, and using quite strong language he says in Mark 14:6-9 – ‘And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me. For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always. She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her’. Jesus judgment silences the critics among the gathering and vindicates the woman’s actions. This story reminds us that we must be careful not to be harshly critical of others efforts, no matter how logical our opinion may sound, we should not be hasty to speak out against another brother or sister, lest we come under condemnation. At the start, I posed some questions, can we have any impact in this world? Can we do anything to please the Lord? Take comfort in this story that Mary ‘did what she could,’ and that Jesus calls it good. Note she did not tell another to do it, SHE did what SHE could. She was a faithful disciple and desired to show her love for her master by her own actions. Now there is a caution here, because out of context some could use ‘she did what she could’ as a mantra, as an excuse to fit in good works of service for the Lord after we have met all our other priorities, or to remain within our comfort zone when it comes to serving God. Yet can we not see from the character of Mary that the Lord, came first, not last in her priorities. There was much that Mary couldn’t do. She couldn’t stop the coming chain of events; she could not stop the Jewish leaders from turning over her Master. She couldn’t stop the beatings and mockings. She couldn’t stop the Roman soldiers from nailing Christ to a cross. She knew this well, but as Jesus said, ‘she did what she could’; she anointed His body for burial. None of us can do it all, but we should all do what we can! There is much we cannot do because these things remain in God’s hands, but I hope this is both an encouragement and challenge to contribute to God’s work. Let us not grow weary in well doing, Gal 6:9, but let’s emulate Mary and do what we can from a pure heart.