The renowned Scottish preacher Robert Murray McCheyne once described Mary of Bethany as an “eminent believer in Jesus Christ.”
Mary was happiest in Christ’s presence and was willing to spend time at his feet, both listening and learning. She recognised the importance of true fellowship, and while her sister Martha was cumbered about much serving, she was ever ready to seize the opportunity and commune with her Lord.
Mary was not ashamed of Christ but was willing for all to know that her heart was drawn after Him in pure and Christian love. It was in order to demonstrate that love that Mary broke open her alabaster box of ointment and anointed the Saviour’s feet. This was a voluntary act of devotion that involved a great personal cost. She was not ashamed of Him but was willing to identify with Him in His great work. This was true service. Mary’s profession of love was not in word only, but in deed.
Some who were present that day unjustly criticised her, but Christ immediately spoke in her defence saying, “Let her alone; … She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying.” There were many things she could not do in relation to Christ’s death and burial. She had no effective part in His redemptive work. But as a loving servant, she did what she could.
This is good practice for every believer. Many things are beyond us when it comes to service for Christ. Not all are called to the ministry or to the foreign mission field. Believers have different gifts, we meet with different opportunities, and we have different strengths. We cannot all do the same thing, but we must all do what we can.
“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.” Edmund Burke