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Basic Bible: Sorrow Before Triumph

Matthew 1:18-21; John 12:1-8

The two passages before us would seem unrelated. Time wise, they are separated by more than thirty years. The first was penned by Matthew and records a happening that preceded the birth of our Lord and Savior. The second by John, describes an incident that transpired less than a week before Jesus would die upon the cross and then to rise victorious over the grave.

Both passages are similar in that both record the actions of individuals which actions testify of their faith. In Matthew 1:18-21, we see the faith of Joseph, husband of Mary, and in John 12:1-8, we see the faith of Mary, the sister of Lazarus. Both believed the word of God as delivered to the prophets and both acted upon that belief.

Verse 19 states that Joseph “was minded to put her away privily.” Through an arranged marriage, Mary was to wed Joseph. Mary was his espoused wife — the two were legally engaged. Joseph was minded to put Mary away because she was with child and the child was not his. Joseph was considering options by which the legal arrangement could be terminated without bringing public scrutiny upon Mary’s apparent infidelity.

All thought of putting Mary away ended when the angel of the Lord spoke to Joseph in a dream and said, “Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.” Prior to the dream, Joseph believed that Mary had broken the marriage vow. Before the angel spoke to him, the fulfillment of the virgin birth prophesied by Isaiah (Isa. 7:14) was far from his mind. Joseph believed that Mary was the virgin of whom Isaiah had spoken seven hundred years earlier because he believed the scriptures to be the word of God. He believed the words of the angel to be from God because God, through the lips of Isaiah, had declared the virgin birth to come. Joseph took Mary to be his wife because he believed that God keeps His every promise.

Let us look upon John 12:1-8. “Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany . . .” (v. 1). That which is recorded in the text before us took place five days before Jesus would die upon the cross at Calvary. Jesus came to the home of Lazarus, Martha and Mary where Mary anointed Him with spikenard, a very costly ointment. The house was filled with its fragrance. Mary’s action was triggered by faith.

Mary’s faith was the same as that of Joseph, husband of the mother of Jesus. New Testament believers know Mary, the sister of Lazarus, through the gospels of Luke and John. Luke 10:39 states that Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. New Testament scripture does not reveal the words which Jesus spoke in her presence. Mary’s action, however, (pouring ointment upon Jesus and wiping His feet with her hair) testified of that which she believed. She believed that His death to come was that which was prophesied by Isaiah (Isa. 53) and that His death would be soon.

When Judas Iscariot questioned Mary’s action, Jesus responded, “Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this.” Jesus knew and fully understood the reason Mary had poured the costly ointment upon Him. The meaning of Mary’s action was hidden from those present. Only Jesus understood. Jesus knew her thoughts and that which was in her heart.

Mary knew that Jesus had an appointment with death because she believed Him to be the One of whom the scriptures speak. She believed that Jesus was the Messiah who would die for the sin of men. She reserved a pound of spikenard for the day of His death. That appointment was six days to the future. She did not wait for that day to anoint His lifeless body.

She believed in her heart that He was the Promised One of God. She believed Jesus to be the one of whom Isaiah prophesied saying: “Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isa. 53:12). She did not wait to act upon faith.

She acted, believing the scriptures to be the very word of God. She believed that Jesus, through His death, would make intercession for her. Her act was an expression of thanks for that which the scriptures declared that Jesus would do. She gave thanks to Jesus for that He would do before He did it.

New Testament believers know that we are saved by grace through faith. That grace has been revealed to us in that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that we might be in His presence forever. Let us act upon that which we have been given, knowing that the Lord would have all come to Him in repentance (II Peter 3:9).