The best wines take time to mature. In Bible days the best wines were served at the start of a celebration. Only later were everyday wines served. John chapter 2 records the proceedings of a wedding in Cana of Galilee (John 2:1-11). Jesus and His disciples were among the guests at the wedding. Things were going fine but then the unexpected happened: they ran out of wine—both expensive mature wine, and normal everyday wine. It was an extremely embarrassing situation for the hosts.
Behind the scene Jesus supernaturally turned a large quantity of water into wine. The crisis was over, but the biggest surprise was yet to come: the water-turned-into-wine was better than all the previously served wines. The guests were astonished. In God’s economy things are often reversed—the best wines are served not first, but last.
Scripture compares exquisite wine with the joy of love: You have put gladness in my heart, more than when their grain and new wine abound (Psalm 4:7 NASB); Your love is better than wine (Song of Songs 1:2). Like wine, love is pleasant and delightful and matures over time. A good example of the growth and maturity of love is Martha and her sister Mary. Luke records an incident that reveals the infancy of the sisters love for Jesus. John records a later incident that reveals its maturity.
The Infancy of Love
Now it happened as they [Jesus and His disciples] went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus' feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me." And Jesus answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her" (Luke 10:38-42).
Martha and Mary both loved Jesus. In a touching display of love Martha not only opened her heart and her home, but also hosted with diligence. Her love was genuine, but it was also mixed with a good dose of anxiety and a tinge of jealousy. Mary’s love was also evident: she sat at Jesus’ feet and drunk every word from His lips, savoring them like a refined wine. In the ancient world disciples sat at the feet of their instructors to learn their ways (see Acts 22:3). Mary was a disciple who chose to drink deeply of Jesus’ love and character.
Luke’s record of this incident isn’t against serving, rather, it’s about Mary’s choice. Servanthood is a major theme of Luke’s gospel and this story comes directly after the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37, 12:35-48, 17:7-10, 22:24-27). Mary had a servant heart, but more importantly, she chose the position at Jesus’ feet. A lot of what we call ‘ministry’ is actually the same as Martha’s serving. When ministry or serving distracts us we fail to see that the position at Jesus’ feet is available should we choose to take it.
Martha and Mary continued to grow in their love for Jesus. The following incident took place only days before Jesus was crucified.
The Maturity of Love
Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil (John 12:1-3).
The contrast between these two incidents is striking. In the first incident Martha protested because Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet. In the second incident Judas protested because of the colossal waste of expensive oil. When Jesus corrected Martha in the first incident, she received the correction. She continued to serve but she learned to sit and serve simultaneously. In the second incident there is no hint of jealousy or protest from Martha when Mary anointed the feet of Jesus.
Those who sit, serve differently. This was true of both Mary and Martha. Mary chose to sit at Jesus’ feet and drink deeply of His love. This enlarged her capacity to give and receive love. When Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive oil it was a natural expression of her heart. Love had enlarged her to extravagance. But Martha also learned from Mary. She also grew in her capacity to love. Mary was the one who anointed Jesus’ feet, but Martha, in her heart, was right there with her.
When Judas reacted badly to Mary’s extravagant waste of expensive oil, Jesus responded by saying that she had kept the oil for the day of His burial (John 12:4-8). Mary’s extravagant act of anointing Jesus’ feet was one of the most prophetic acts of history. It prophesied the extravagance of His love poured out through the cross and through the Spirit. Mary was, and is, the forerunner of a new breed of prophets.
We are entering a new era of extravagance. Ministry will be redefined. The greatest demonstrations of faith and acts of service will happen through those who sit at the feet of Jesus. The enlargement of love will lead to effortless extravagance. Displays of God’s love will stretch minds and challenge hearts. Truly, He has saved the best wine for last.
Nathan Shaw : email@example.com
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