Hosting as an Act of Worship

Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at table with him.

Mary took a pound of costly ointment of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair, and the house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment. (John 12:1-3 RSV)

Here we meet our old friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Here in Bethany they are preparing a special supper for Jesus, not in their own home, but, as we learn from the other gospels, in the home of Simon the leper.

We don’t know anything about this man, other than the fact that he had been a leper. Very likely he had been healed by Jesus, otherwise, he could not have hosted this supper.

There is an implication here that Simon had been touched by Jesus, delivered and freed from his disease.

Filled with gratitude for what our Lord had done for him, Simon took this opportunity, despite the fact that there was a warrant out for the arrest of the guest of honour, to serve a private supper for Jesus and his intimate friends.

John chose to include this account in order that we might understand something of what real worship is. The commentators have pointed out that in Verses 2-3, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus are each doing something characteristic. Martha is serving; and Lazarus is “with” Jesus at the table (i.e., he is fellowshipping with him); while Mary anoints his feet with a pound of very expensive ointment and wipes them with her hair.

Some of the commentators point out that these are to be viewed in ascending order of importance, as levels of relationship to Jesus. Martha served, Lazarus fellowshipped, but Mary worshipped. That is not quite correct.

Each of these three actions is a form of worship. It’s not true to say that Mary alone worshipped. Martha worshipped by service, and Lazarus by being “with him.”