These days, I have a new frame of reference for what I imagine the scene to have been at Lazarus’ tomb as he came out of it. I think some people laughed. I think some people wept. I think some were dumbfounded, speechless. And I think some people screamed as if terrified, because it is a terrifying thing to have the power and reality of the one true and living God demonstrated right before your eyes. In that place, Mary learned one of life’s important lessons: we can’t un-see what we have seen. As I have heard said before, you can’t un-ring a bell. Mary has now witnessed the incredible, world-changing force of the rule and reign of God, and her life cannot stay the same. Which brings us to John 12:1-3. In this scene, Jesus, some time later, passes back through Bethany on a return trip:
“Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany where Lazarus was, the one Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for Him there; Martha was serving them, and Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him. Then Mary took a pound of fragrant oil-pure and expensive nard-anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped His feet with her hair. So the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.” (John 12:1-3)
First of all, notice that Martha is still serving, and no one rebukes her. Just goes to show that it wasn’t “too much serving” that earned her a reprimand last time, it was the being distracted from who was actually in her house that was the problem. Let no one use Martha as an excuse to escape serving in the Body of Christ! Serving is good, it is valued, it is even necessary to be great in the Kingdom of God, if you ask Jesus. This time, though, as Martha serves, she is not distracted from the importance of who she is hosting. She has seen this man raise the dead, and now she understands that her job is to simply facilitate the presence of God.
The danger in “doing church” week in and week out is not in serving God too much, it is in serving Him and missing the importance of the one in whose presence we are serving. May God do so much stuff in our lives and ring so many bells of the bigness of His Kingdom among us, that we never forget that our role is not to impress people with how well we serve. Our role is simple- facilitate the person and presence of God Himself in our house.
So where is Mary this time? Oh, she is there. Look again at John 12:2. Mary comes in with a full pound of a fragrant oil, pure and expensive, and pours it on Jesus. Wait a minute: Martha is doing what she did last time, but with a new attitude. But Mary- oh, Mary is doing something altogether new, because she herself has been made altogether new. Mary is no longer in the mode of acquiring interesting spiritual insight. She is no longer living at Church Level. She has been blown into Kingdom Level. Mary is now a worshipper.
So what is it that changes us from listener to worshipper? The same thing that changed Mary. Once we open our eyes to see the wonder of God at work here and now, the majesty of the King ruling in His Kingdom now, it changes us. We have to go to incredible lengths to act like we haven’t seen what we have seen. It is the deep, life-changing experience with God that changes us. Information doesn’t change us. Oh, information is useful, and it affects the way we see the world, but knowledge about God doesn’t make us a worshipper; beholding His glory does. “For we did not follow cleverly contrived myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; instead, we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” (2 Peter 1:16)
(Excerpted from the forthcoming book, “A New Normal: Experiencing the Unstoppable Move of God,” from Destiny Image Publishing.)