If you’re of a certain age, like me, you may remember the American singer-songwriter, Prince, who once felt himself so famous that he changed his name to a symbol which stood for The Artist Formerly Known as Prince.
The New Testament includes at least one woman who was so prominent in the early church that the gospel writers didn’t feel it necessary to include her name in the stories about her: Mary, Lazarus’s sister.
We are introduced to her by name in the recollection we shared today. When Jesus visited her in her home, she sat at his feet and listened, in contrast to her sister, Martha.
As modern readers, we can easily overlook the countercultural clues this story gives us. The phrase, “sat at the feet of Jesus” shows Mary chose to listen to Jesus’ teaching with a view to one day becoming a rabbi herself and teaching others. To sit at the feet of a rabbi was the posture of a disciple training to become a rabbi themselves. Paul describes his own rabbinical training as educated “at the feet of Gamaliel” (Acts 22:3). What is remarkable for the time, is that Jesus accepts Mary as a woman student, praising her for discovering “there is only one thing worth being concerned about” and promising that “it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42). And in John 11, we find the fruit of this teaching: Mary was leading and teaching Jews in Jerusalem at the time of her brother Lazarus’s death.
Mary appears again. And she finds herself at Jesus’ feet once more. This time, she washes his feet with perfume and wipes them with her hair. Jesus says she will be remembered forever because of this act. The gospel writers sense she is so famous in the early church, that they don’t name her as the woman who anointed Jesus with oil, because everyone already knew her name!
Mary was one of Jesus’ disciples. She chose to sit at his feet to listen and learn from him. She showed Jesus she was a woman of thoughtful and worshipful action by anointing him with oil before his crucifixion. And she led Jews to Jesus to see his miracle of raising her brother from the dead. May we respond to Jesus in the same way, listening to and learning from him, spending time in his Word, finding ways to worship him, and leading others to him.
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