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The Christian Marys

The Greek-origin names Mary and Maria are abbreviated derivations of the Hebrew name pronounced meer-yawm - a popular name among the Israelites for many centuries. One of the best-known was Miriam the sister of Moses and Aaron, however the name remained a favorite right into the New Testament era - although English-language translations of the New Testament almost always translate the actual name Miriam as Mary.

There were a number of women named "Mary" (i.e. Miriam) at the time of Christ's first coming. Two of the most famous are Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Mary of Magdala, the first Christian witness of Christ's resurrection. Others were Mary the wife of Cleophas ("19:25 Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene" John 19:25 KJV - i.e. there were at least three women named "Mary" who stood their ground with Christ at His crucifixion, a testimony to how common the name was, but moreover to their courage and loyalty, something that all of His apostles, except John, lost for that day when they ran and hid), Mary the mother of Mark, the author of the gospel book of Mark ("Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark" Acts 12:12 KJV) and the subject of this study, Mary (like all the others, her actual name was Miriam) of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus.

"Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her"

Jesus frequently visited the town of Bethany, not only because it was on the way to Jerusalem around the The Mount Of Olives, but also because He liked to visit His friends Lazarus, Martha and Mary. This particular visit shows the (at the time) difference in priorities between Martha and Mary.


"10:38 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. 10:39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. 10:40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.

10:41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: 10:42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:38-42 KJV)

It was Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha, that anointed the Christ a few days before his crucifixion. When His disciples complained (they didn't yet realize what was coming at Passover that week - see When Their Eyes Were Opened) of the "waste" of expensive ointment, He rebuked them for it and told them not to criticize Mary for what she had done.

"12:1 Then Jesus six days before the passover [see Christ's Passover] came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead [listen to the Sermon Christ's Passover: The Death And Birth Of The Saviour from our Sermons page]. 12:2 There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. 12:3 Then took Mary a pound of ointment of Spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.

12:4 Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray him [see also Was Judas Necessary?], 12:5 Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? 12:6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.

12:7 Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. 12:8 For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always." (John 12:1-8 KJV)

Matthew records additional information about the incident that John didn't - a prophecy that is fulfilled every time that it is preached.

26:13 Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her." (Matthew 26:13 KJV)

Fact Finder: What was the original use of "ointment"?
See Ointment

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