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Most of the articles on these WebPages have been written by godly men with a central belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. However as with most of us, they may have different beliefs concerning some particular doctrines. These articles have been made available for the purpose of “gleaning the good” where good can be found. I do not necessarily endorse all that is written by others, anymore than I expect others to endorse all that I write.

   Morning Thoughts by Elder Philip Conley

John 12:1-3, "Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment."

This morning, we sometimes become so focused on one particular thing that others are neglected. Studying the Bible can quickly fall into this category. We may become so meticulous in our search of a particular word or subject that we begin to miss the overall or big picture. Yet, at other times, we can be so involved in trying to see the whole thing at once that we miss some real jewel of information or fine detail of study. In other avenues of our life, we may see neglect in one area, seek to rectify it, and in turn, neglect something else. I must confess that much of my life is like a pendulum in different areas. I swing back and forth and seem to only sometimes find a happy medium to things. Yet, our course, while difficult, must be balanced to ensure not only healthy growth in different areas but leading also to a more well-rounded and mature disciple of Jesus Christ. To do so, we must investigate several different areas of our life to
effectively serve Him better going forward than we have in the past.

In our verses, we read of a family that was very special to our Lord. He had pleasant encounters with them, and we are told unequivocally that He loved them. (John 11:5) Their preciousness in His sight is beyond contestation. Yet, each sibling in this family: Martha, Mary, and Lazarus showed something particular to them that we should all use somewhat as an example for our conduct. Some will say, "Oh she is a Martha, and he is a Mary" when talking about others. Generally, they mean that the one is very conscious about serving natural tables while the other is more driven to the worship than in serving tables. Yet, we will find that, in some ways, we need to be all three of these siblings. Indeed, they were not perfect, but between the three of them, they show forth several different avenues of our life that we wish to investigate briefly now.

Martha served at this supper much like she served in the past. What Martha did was very necessary, but what she did was not all that was necessary. There was another time when this family ate with Jesus that Martha chided her sister in front of the Lord. He rebukes her for trying to pull Mary from that good part that she had chosen. (Luke 10:38-42) Natural necessities are important, and it is honourable that we take care of them. Yet, they should never steal away all of our energy and time, when there is something very needful that is found sitting at the feet of Jesus. Have you ever seen people that seemed to have no concept of how paper towels ended up in the bathroom, the grass of the churchyard got cut, and the heat or air turned on every week? In years past, I was in that category, and have been profoundly ashamed to find out that sometimes those that do such commendable service are those that I considered cold, distant, and unconnected to the service of the kingdom. To some extent, we all need to have some mind of natural necessities getting taken care of, for if we do not even take the time to care and provide for our families, then we are worse than an infidel. (I Timothy 5:8) Our Lord demands that the kingdom and His righteousness be sought first (not only), and natural necessities cannot be neglected in our lives. (Matthew 6:33-34)

Moving on to Lazarus, we find that he is sitting at the table with Christ. Even though verse 1 shows that "they" (meaning more than Martha) made Him the supper, Lazarus sat with Christ while the meal was served. Sometimes, we can be so involved in activities that we forget that one of our main aims while here is to be a living testimony of His power. Lazarus' presence at the table with Christ was living proof that our Saviour had power over death as manifested in the previous chapter. When we sit down with Him, feast together with Him, and eat a meal with Him, it is a time to show forth a living testimony to His power in our lives that has taken us from death to life. (I John 3:14) Indeed, Lazarus was raised from natural death to natural life again while we are raised from a death in trespasses and in sins to life in Christ through the new birth, but the correlation holds true. As we assemble, it is a time to eat with Him and feast on His bountiful goodness. Can we always sit with Him at the table and eat together? No, for natural necessities need to be given due place, but yet, there is another good part - very needful - that we also need to be found doing.

There are times when we need to be like Mary in that it is not a time for natural necessity or feasting with our Lord but serving Him at His feet. This dear saint did something to our Lord that He would later declare as being something that would be spoken of as a memorial as long as the gospel is heralded. (Matthew 26:13) What she did was anoint His body with precious ointment against the day of His burying. Basically, her service was looking towards His sacrifice and the fact that He would be put to death and laid in the tomb. Therefore, this service that she performed was quite fitting to do, despite the condemnation and indignation that it stirred in some of the other apostles. His explanation about the poor was very fitting for that time. (John 12:8) They said that the money spent on His ointment and anointing could have been given to the poor, but the poor are always here. He was not to always be here in physical form. Today, He is not here (physically), so how could we be like Mary today? Christ's answer to the sheep in Matthew 25 was that doing acts of charity and kindness (being at one another's feet basically) was the same as doing it to Him. Now is the time to help our poor brethren, for His body is not with us today. We can physically help and comfort those that are in need, and it is akin to performing what Mary did here.

Bringing these thoughts together, it is obvious that our lives cannot be spent continuously in God's house sitting at the table with Him. There are natural necessities that claim portions of our time. However, all of our efforts and energies cannot be geared to natural necessities, or we will miss that good part at Jesus' feet when we feel the blessedness that comes in giving more than receiving. Let us strive to be, at the right and prudent time, a Martha, Lazarus, or Mary. Being just one to the neglect of the other two will lead to unbalanced service in the things that we should be doing. Doing all three at their fitting and proper time leads to a mature and well-balanced disciple that understands that each is important and each must be attended to.

Finally, looking at this scene from a natural perspective, it does not look like much. Here is the Lord of heaven and earth just days away from performing that ultimate sacrifice in the room and stead of His people. He has done all that the law required naturally, and was about to fulfill all that God's law required eternally. He had established His church in this earth, and showed us the perfect example and way of life. Here is a little family in the small town of Bethany that prepared Him a supper. Does not seem like much for this One that had done and would do so much. Just sitting in His company over a meal does not compare to His work. Serving Him natural sustenance does not compare with standing our justice. Anointing Him with ointment the worth of some three hundred pence is not comparable to the owner of all the gold of Ophir and the cattle of a thousand hills. And yet, our service today is much like their little supper in the quiet of a loving home. We provide for our families - giving them sustenance, attend God's house - supping with our Master, and lend an aid to brethren in need - showing forth our love for Him against the day of His burying (because of His noble sacrifice). To natural logic, there is really no comparison, but I believe that Christ was well pleased with all of their efforts. Today, when we fulfill the three courses as we should in their proper place, I believe that He is well pleased with our efforts as well. (Hebrews 13:13-16)

In Hope,

Bro Philip