Perfect Love Casts Out Fear: A Different Mary and Joseph
I recently reviewed a book here about siblings Martha, Mary, and Lazarus of Bethany. Amy Boucher Pye writes that Martha wrote Jesus about Lazarus’ grave illness; however, she didn’t demand anything of Him. Jesus had just escaped the region where His enemies wanted to stone Him. Lazarus dies before Jesus and disciples return. God’s timing is perfect, Amy explained, because the Jews then believed when someone died, the soul hovered for three days. Lazarus had been dead and buried four. (I appreciated Amy’s note here that Lazarus wasn’t “mostly dead,” like Westley from “Princess Bride.”)
Both sisters would tell Jesus upon His arrival that Lazarus wouldn’t have died had He been there. Martha meets Jesus first. She trusts God will give Jesus what He asks, but again she doesn’t make demands, Amy says.
“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
They talk about who Jesus really is — the Messiah. She knows about the resurrection of the dead in the future. Now, Jesus expands her faith:
He said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” John 11:25-26
Mary runs to meet Jesus when Martha tells her that He has asked for her. The Jews who have gathered in mourning for Lazarus follow her. She falls at His feet in tears. Jesus is moved by the grieving of his friend and the Jewish mourners. All gathered soon become witnesses to the last miracle before Jesus’ own death on the cross. He calls for the stone to be rolled away from Lazarus’ tomb.
First, Jesus prays aloud for everyone to hear Him speaking to His Father and thanking Him in advance for bringing this dead man back to life. He cried out, “Come out, Lazarus.” And Lazarus, still wrapped in grave clothes, arose from the grave, and walked out of the tomb. You can read the account of Christ calling him back to life in John 11: 21-44.
A week before Passover, Jesus, Martha, Mary, and Lazarus are gathered in celebration of this event in Simon the leper’s home in John 12. (Simon would not have been leprous though. Read this explanation.) While Jesus reclines at the table, Mary opens a 12-ounce jar of essence of spikenard oil and pours it on Jesus’ feet. She used her hair to wash them.
Mary recognized Jesus as the Son of God. This same Mary sat at Jesus’ feet as He taught. She knew and understood His mission. Her quiet act of love meant so much more to Jesus. Judas Iscariot complained that Mary wasted a perfume that could have been sold for a year’s wages. Jesus told him Mary prepared His body for burial. Mary saw Jesus as priceless. In John’s retelling, one person worshipped Jesus the Messiah, while another would betray Him.
Mary’s actions foreshadowed two events. Jesus said in this account that she prepared Him for burial, signaling His imminent death. He also would wash the feet of the disciples at the Passover meal. He would show His disciples He came to serve, seek, and save His people.
Just as Mary anointed Jesus for burial, two men would prepare His body for burial in a manner fit for a king of Judah. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus in scripture were members of the high council of Jews known as the Sanhedrin. They were wealthy men of privilege who secretly met with Jesus. They feared for their lives and their position in society. See commentary here. They disagreed with the Sanhedrin’s condemnation of Jesus. But after Jesus died, they came out of hiding.
Joseph boldly asked Pilate if he could have Jesus’ body for burial. Usually, the Romans left the bodies of those crucified on the cross for days so all would see what happened to rebels. Pilate gave his permission, even though he had sentenced Jesus to death. One commentary thought it might have been that Pilate did so to anger the Sanhedrin. He knew their jealous motives and had proclaimed Jesus’ innocence. He succumbed to their pressure because of the crowd.
Joseph and Nicodemus didn’t have much time to prepare Jesus’ body for burial. Normally, they would wash, anoint with oil, and wrap linen around Jesus’ body. Scripture tells us Nicodemus used myrrh and aloe. He used a large amount of spices. Jesus had no ancestral burial plot, so Matthew 27:57-61 says Joseph “placed [Jesus’ body] in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.”
Joseph and Nicodemus were secret disciples no more.
Do Take in the scent of spices all around you. Hold the grave clothes.
Reflect & Engage Jesus measured men and women differently than His contemporaries. He taught women alongside men, and women had roles in His ministry and later in the early church. Along with Mary of Bethany, the scriptures honor three other women who also anointed Jesus Christ with oil on different dates, named and unnamed, in the four Gospels. They risked their reputations with this outpouring of love and worship to the only one worthy, Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
When Jesus died, His secret followers, Joseph and Nicodemus, members of the Sanhedrin, became bold in their expression of faith. Joseph and Nicodemus would take the body of Jesus and bury him in a new grave, just as prophecy foretold. They lived out Psalm 118:6-9: “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? The Lord is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.” These early followers of Jesus Christ knew the risk before and after His death, but they chose to follow Him anyway.
Prayer Starter Father God, For we know, You, O God “chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; [You] chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.” (1 Corinthians 1:27) Let us boldly proclaim who You are and why You sent Your Son Jesus to save us from sin and shame and give us new life eternal starting from Day 1. We pray today that You will draw people out of that dark cave and breathe new life into dead bones through the testimony of Your Word. We know we follow a risen Savior this Easter. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
I hope you have found these devotionals for Good Friday helpful as you remember Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection this weekend. As Easter Sunday approaches, I thought about two songs I heard in the last few weeks that I’d like to leave you with below. Enjoy and have a wonderful Easter as we celebrate a risen Savior, Jesus Christ, this weekend.
Roses by Andrew Ripp here as see here on YouTube:
And Phil Wickham’s Sunday is Coming here on YouTube: