Mary's Memorial - John 12:1-19

Expositions by H. A. Wilson

Taken from Grace and Truth Magazine 1923


Memory Verse — Acts 10:43

"Coming events cast their shadows before," and the nearer one draws to the event, the more clearly marked do the shadows become. This is especially true in the study of God's Word. The Cross of Christ is the most colossal event in- Jesus' life, and its shadow falls even upon the record of His earlier life. The shadows in the twelfth chapter of John are especially clear. Mary's sacrifice eloquently speaks of Jesus' death, and in this connection Judas' hypocrisy is first manifested. The Jews' animosity against Lazarus foreshadows their later treatment of Jesus. And the offense which they found in His triumphal entry into Jerusalem shows the growing hatred which was to culminate in the Cross.


John 12:1-9

Mary's sacrifice holds a twofold significance. It speaks of the coming sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross, and it speaks of the believer's fellowship in His sufferings. Three facts make the messages of that typical act especially rich and helpful.

1. Mary's gift was a loving sacrifice. She could not be contented with a servant's attention, but must minister personally to the Lord Jesus. Common towels were too poor to be used in such a ministry of love, and she must needs use her very hair to wipe Jesus' feet. Nothing but the most costly ointment would do, and it must be used lavishly, so great was her love for Him. So we find reflected here the infinite love which led God to send His Son to die for the sins of the world, and we find here anticipated the motive which has actuated God's ministers in every sacrifice which they have made in His service. His Love sent Jesus to Calvary, and love of Christ constrains His servants. Jno. 3:16; II Cor. 5:14; Rom. 12:1-2.

2. Another striking tiling about Mary's sacrifice was its costliness. So costly was it that those who saw marvelled. Likewise, in giving Jesus for us, God rifled heaven of its most precious treasure. He gave Himself. Jesus, in leaving heaven's glory to assume the form of one of the least of His creatures, made a tremendous sacrifice. The depths of His poverty in His earthly life would seem to be the extreme opposite to His pre-incarnation wealth. But the climacteric cost of His sacrifice was the Cross, where He poured out His soul unto death.

Jesus' death was no light thing. It involved the sufferings of the damned. He Who knew so well the comparative value of material and spiritual things that He estimated the human soul of infinitely greater worth than all earthly treasures, was willing to give His own soul to redeem mankind. While we rejoice that salvation is a gift, let us not forget that Jesus purchased it for us at infinite cost. And as we consider what it cost Him to save us, we shall not murmur if we find that His service is costly, too. II Cor. 8:9; Phil. 2:5-8; Mark 8:36; Rom. 6:23: I Pet. 1:18-19.

3. But though some looked and cried, "Extravagance!" Mary's sacrifice was acceptable. Jesus saw the faith which prompted the gift, and interpreted it aright. He testified that it spoke of His death. And as the fragrant sacrifice of Mary was acceptable to Jesus, so His sacrifice was acceptable and of a sweet savor to the Father. God accepted the sacrifice of Jesus in the stead of the sinner. And by virtue of that sacrifice He can now approve the service of believers in Him. Jesus' sacrifice on the Cross makes the "living sacrifice" of the believer acceptable to the Father.


John 12:10-11

A striking contrast to the pleasing scene within the happy home of Lazarus is presented in the council of the chief priests, but this contrasting scene also foreshadows the Cross.

Lazarus was a living rebuke to the unbelief of the Jews. His resurrection from the dead was a demonstration that Jesus had a power which belonged to God alone, — the power of life and death. Many Jews were believing in Him, because of this wonderful miracle, and the chief priests were offended. They were determined not to believe in Jesus, so they were enraged when others did. Instead of rejoicing in the joy of the reunited family they conspired to kill Lazarus, and again to plunge the home into the depths of mourning. So when unbelievers face evidence which convicts them of their wrong, they are unwilling to change their opinions, and to escape doing this they seek to destroy the evidence. How many times have we seen just such hellish unreasonableness. When a man is born again, and his life is transformed by the power of God, his former companions, instead of rejoicing in his blessing and sharing his faith are offended and seek to drag him back to their own dirty level. Jno. 1:4; Jno. 3:19-21; II Cor. 3:2-3.

In this unreasoning and prejudiced plot to kill Lazarus the chief priests lucre anticipating their awful sin in crucifying Jesus. Only a few days later they would seize upon Him and hale Him into a mock trial. There they would bring perjured testimony against Him, and condemn Him to die. They would drag Him before Pilate, accused of treason, and when Pilate was about to acquit Him they would mingle with the multitude, and would stir the people to shout, "Crucify Him ! Crucify Him!" They began in unbelief, progressed to hatred for Jesus and His followers, and ended in slaying the Son of God Himself. Matt. 26:57 to 27:50.


John 12:12-19

The next day Jesus entered into Jerusalem, riding upon an ass's colt. In this He fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah. "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold thy King cometh unto thee: He is just and having salvation; lowly and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt, the foal of an ass." (Zech. 9:9.) Many of the people recognized the significance of Jesus' coming in this manner, and hailed Him with shouts of joy and praise. The prophecies of the coming Messiah all met in Jesus, and found their fulfillment in Him. Surely the clear testimony of the fulfillment of prophecy should have convinced the leaders of Israel, but alas it did not. Acts 10:43; Acts 16:29-31.

The Pharisees were blinded by unbelief, and the triumph of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem only stirred up their hatred the more. Jesus had already aroused the anger of the Pharisees because He had convinced them of the iniquity of their lives, and the emptiness of their ceremonies and forms. The Pharisees valued their traditions more than the Word of God, and when Jesus offended their traditions they deliberately closed their eyes to the fact that He fulfilled God's Word. While the people were shouting praises to Jesus the Pharisees stood by and hated Him in their hearts.

The prejudice of the chief priests and the blind hatred of the Pharisees are not things of the past. They still exist today, though in a slightly modified form. The destructive critic, in his prejudiced handling of God's Word, and the evolutionist, in his insistence upon his theory, are pitiful examples of the same kind of bigotry. And some of God's children, who rebel against His teaching on the yielded life and separation from the world exhibit the same spirit. Let us not be Pharisees. Let us give Jesus the rightful place in our hearts and lives, and help others to do the same. I Cor. 6:19-20; Rom. 3:9-23.