How was Mary an ideal disciple? What a great question! Let’s see how Mary was the perfect disciple and how we can learn to love Jesus as much as she did.
Jesus said to His disciples,
“Listen! We are going up to Jerusalem. The Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will…mock Him, and scourge Him, and spit on Him, and kill Him. Then after three days He will rise
“But they (the disciples) did not understand the teaching and were afraid to ask Him
- The disciples didn’t understand that Jesus would die until after He rose from the dead.
2. Earlier in Jesus’ ministry, He had followers who served Him when He was in their area.
“With Him were the twelve and some women…and…many others, who supported Him with their possessions (Luke 8:1-3).”
Who Was Mary’s Family
The Gospels mention one prominent family who befriended Jesus and His disciples. They were a brother, Lazarus, and his sisters, Mary and Martha. The family prepared meals for the disciples while Jesus taught.
“Martha welcomed Him (Jesus) into her house. She had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to His teaching.(Martha busied herself serving and asked Jesus to tell Mary to help).”
Jesus answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed. And Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken from her (Luke 10:38-42).”
Mary the Disciple
Mary sat at Jesus’ feet while He taught. Her position was the customary position of a disciple. Having a female disciple went against the norm for a rabbi.
Martha made lavish preparations for the meal. But Jesus suggested she should make simple preparations so she could spend time with Him.
Jesus Loved Them
Later in Jesus’ ministry, Mary’s brother Lazarus became sick. So, they (the sisters) sent a message for Jesus to come.
“Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus (John 11:5).
But Jesus intentionally waited until after Lazarus had died to leave for Bethany, where the family lived.
Jesus the Resurrection and Life
“Martha…greet(ed) Him and “Jesus said…, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, yet shall he live (John 11:25).”
So, “she went her way and secretly called her sister Mary, saying, “The Teacher has come and is calling for you. When she heard this, she rose quickly and went to Him (John 11:28-29) …. She fell down at His feet, saying… “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died (John 11:28-32). Jesus saw her weeping, and…Jesus wept (John 11:33-35).”
Note: The Jews thought the person’s spirit stayed around the dead body for three days before permanently departing. So, Jesus intentionally waited until Lazarus had been dead for four days before calling Lazarus out of the tomb. Jesus is the resurrection. By waiting to resurrect His friend, the miracle is more spectacular!
“Therefore, many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what Jesus had done, believed in Him (John 11:45).”
Mary Anoints Jesus
Jesus came to Bethany, and Martha served “a supper for Him there. Then Mary took a pint of the very costly ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment (John 12:2-3).”
Besides wiping Jesus’ feet, Mary also “poured the ointment on His head (Mark 14:3).”
This supper was during the week of Jesus’ crucifixion. The shadow of the cross loomed larger, but His disciples couldn’t see it. They didn’t yet understand that Jesus would die. So, they hadn’t changed how they acted or thought. They saw Mary anointing Jesus as an expensive waste of ointment instead of what it was: her loving gift. To the disciples, Mary’s act admitted defeat.”
“Some (of His twelve disciples) were indignant, saying, “It might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they grumbled against her.Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me.You always have the poor with you…but you will not always have Me. She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial.Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel will be preached throughout the whole world, what she has done will also be spoken of as a memorial to her (Mark 14:4-9).”
Note: Three hundred denarii were a substantial amount of money. It was more than a year’s wage for an average worker. Imagine how much she scrimped and saved to have enough to buy that ointment.
At that time, Jesus’ disciples still thought Jesus would immediately establish a glorious Kingdom; His rule would be over the entire earth, and Israel would be the head nation. They looked for earthly deliverance from Roman rule and a glorious role in Jesus’ Kingdom. So, when Jesus said He would die, they couldn’t understand Him. They sought glory, not humility.
Mary’s actions showed she understood Jesus’ person and mission better than any of Jesus’ disciples, even though they received teaching that others did not. Mark’s story about dark and devious acts and misunderstandings contrasts with the beauty of Mary anointing Jesus for His burial. She loved and trusted Him, so He approved what she did. She was the example of one who pleased God because they had a loving relationship with Him–and the ideal disciple in the stories that mention her.
Mary’s Devotion and Reward
Mary’s anointing was magical. She devoted herself to Jesus. The disciples showed no sign of accepting Jesus’ death, but Mary did in faith. Jesus connected the anointing she gave Him with His burial.
Mary does what she can. Jesus meant this as a lesson for His followers. She couldn’t have known that her gift would be an example for Jesus’ followers–forever. Yet Jesus promised that believers would mention her name and actions wherever we preach the gospel. And she is–she’s received a hundred-fold return.
Mary the Ideal Disciple
So, Mary, not one of the twelve disciples, is the faithful disciple in each of her meetings with Jesus. Her act was a sharp contrast to the disciples’ hard hearts.
- She sat at Jesus’ feet as a disciple.
- Her testimony after her brother’s resurrection led people to faith.
- She did what she could when she anointed Jesus’ body for burial.
- She understood Jesus’ mission and had a loving relationship with Him.
- She was rewarded for her love.