Published May 11, 2006
Luke 10:38-42; John 12:1-8
Related Sunday School Lesson, Family Bible Series, May 28
The Apostle Paul told the Philippians that he could “consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil. 3:8 HCSB). Paul could boast of his nationalistic and spiritual pedigrees; yet, his focus was upon “the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14 NASB). Paul’s intentional focus serves as a motivation for single-mindedness.
Single-minded people often fascinate and intrigue us. Many examples abound: the young athlete who strives for a chance to compete in the Olympics; the aggressive entrepreneur who hits upon a brilliant idea and makes it a reality; the entertainer who endures repeated rejection, small earnings, and underwhelming opportunities for the hope of the big break; the researcher who gives tireless pursuit to discover a potential cure; the coach who gives many hours investing in the character development of young people; and the teacher who encourages a young person to pursue his or her career for the betterment of others.
It is possible that these single-minded, focused persons capture our admiration because we recognize within ourselves a tendency toward distractions in life. It is often difficult to “keep the main thing the main thing.” Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, offers us a model for spiritual single-mindedness.
Life Question: How can I keep my focus on Jesus?
Mary’s unwavering focus answers the life question. Believers can remain focused on Jesus by listening to Him, giving Him their best, and having greater concern for His approval than that of others.
Listen to Jesus (Luke 10:38-42)
Jesus entered the village of Bethany where Lazarus lived. Upon arrival Martha, one of Lazarus’ sisters, welcomed Him into her home. Martha began immediately to make preparations for Jesus’ stay. The other sister, Mary, did not engage in domestic preparation, but rather, gave herself to listening to Jesus.
Martha, disturbed by her sister’s lack of support, asked Jesus to instruct Mary to help her. Jesus responded by telling Martha that she was worried and upset about many things, but Mary was focused on the good part or the necessary. Jesus even told Martha that “Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42 HCSB).
Martha’s distraction helps focus Mary’s choice. The implication is not that doing necessary things is less spiritual, but Mary’s choice helps us to know that we always have a choice regarding the Lord. This story does not teach believers to become spiritual slackers. It teaches that we must find a balance in fulfilling our tasks and responsibilities but never allow these things to distract us from the right choice or an unwavering focus of “listening to Jesus.”
Give your best to Jesus (John 12:1-3)
All four Gospels recount an anointing of Jesus. Matthew 26:6-13 records that a woman, without naming her, anointed His head. Mark 14:3-9 records the same event. Luke 7:36-39 tells of “a woman in the city who was a sinner” who anointed His feet with her tears and perfume. John 12:1-3 identifies an anointing by Mary, the sister of Lazarus.
Verse three states that Mary “took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard.” This pure nard was an expensive aromatic fragrance extracted from the roots of an East Indian herb. The pound equivalent was closer to twelve ounces of perfumed oil. Its strong pungent aroma filled the entire house. Its value, three hundred denarii, was worth a rural worker’s yearly salary approximately.
The text states that Mary gave something special of hers for the anointing of Jesus and His burial (verse 7). Whether Mary discerned the significance or not, Jesus understood and accepted her worship as worthy and appropriate. Mary’s focus was unwavering in devotion. Mary anointed Jesus’ feet for an example for believers to keep their focus on Jesus by giving Him the best of who they are. Mary teaches us to hold nothing back in giving ourselves to the Lord.
Seek the approval of Jesus (John 12:4-8)
There certainly was a reaction to the extravagant outpouring of the costly perfume. Judas Iscariot immediately reacted. Whether he represents the other disciples is not indicated in the biblical text. These verses do not show us Mary’s reaction to Judas’ criticism. In fact, verse three indicates that Mary did not seek the approval of anyone. Certainly, Jesus approved of Mary’s actions.
Judas informs Jesus that the costly perfume could have been sold for three hundred denarii. He also told Him that the proceeds could have gone to assist the poor.
However, Judas was not concerned for the poor but rather for his own interest for verse six tells us that he used to “pilfer,” or steal, part of what was put in the collection.
Jesus told Judas to leave her alone for what she did was for His preparation and burial. Jesus went on to say to Judas and the others in verse eight, “you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me” (HCSB).
When Judas criticized Mary’s action, Jesus affirmed what she had done. When others criticize you, remember the Lord knows your heart of focus and devotion for Him. If we are faithful in all matters, He will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Believers can keep their focus on Jesus by seeking His approval over that of any other.
Jesus is worthy of our very best. We can listen to Him through His Word, the guidance and illumination of the Holy Spirit, and in accountability with other believers.
We can give Him our best because He through the Holy Spirit has gifted and endowed each believer with various spiritual gifts that complete the work of Christ. We can give Him our best as we seek His approval above all others.
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