Now here's the third thing. I have talked about Mary's extravagance, as well as her love. The third thing is her understanding. She was great at all three of these. Again, you have to see this by a contrast. Jesus said in verse 7, “Leave her alone; it was meant that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial.” Mary knew what she was doing. Nard was used in funeral arrangements, and when she poured this out on Jesus it was a way of saying, “I know that you're going to die. I know that's what you came for.”

Now the second thing, in addition to the extravagance, is Mary's love, and I would even combine the two by saying that what we see in the story is the extravagance of her love. Real love is always extravagant. Love isn't cautious about what it gives or what it promises. Love always promises the most. It gives everything it can, and beyond. You only have to read 1 Corinthians 13 to find out something about what love is like, and that's the kind of love that Mary was showing here. 

Now we get to the twelfth chapter, where we have Mary of Bethany, who as I said corresponds in a way to what John the Baptist does. But now she's not identifying him in terms of who he is; she's identifying him in terms of what he came to do. In her action what she's doing is anointing him for his burial, because he is soon going to die. For you see, it's a way of saying that Mary of Bethany, in her role at this point, plays a very important part in the story of Jesus of Nazareth. That's important to see, I think, as we begin, as otherwise, we just pass over it. It’s easy for us to pass quickly over this story, knowing what great events are coming next, beginning with Jesus’ triumphal entry. But this is a significant story because of when it happens and what it points to as Jesus begins his climatic week before his crucifixion.

Let me introduce this story of Jesus and Mary of Bethany by calling attention to the fact that this is the third of four important women who are introduced to us in the Gospel. There are other women of course, but there are four women whose stories are told at some length, a couple of which we have already looked at. We looked at the woman of Samaria, found in John 4. Though she was a Samaritan and therefore looked down upon by Jews, she was nevertheless favored by Jesus, and was greatly blessed spiritually and became a great witness to Jesus Christ.

There's a second lesson that is also an application, and that is the obvious one. Jesus is the source of life. You see, if you really want to live, he's the one from whom you have to find it. I find an interesting little thing in this story, in verses 14 and 16. Before Jesus actually got up to Bethany he tells them plainly that Lazarus is dead. Now, notice what Thomas, one of the disciples, said: “Let us also go that we may die with him.” They're thinking of death, and he's thinking of life. You see, what they had to learn is that as long as they were with Jesus, they would experience life. Not only would they see it in the physical resurrection, but they would begin to experience it in a personal way as well. Jesus is the source of life, and if you're with him, and you hear him, and you live in his presence, and feed upon him, and grow in that fellowship, then you will live as well.