There are three points to which our attention has been often drawn in reading the Epistle to the Hebrews. First, the revelation which God has made to His people in the person of the Son; to this we are called to give more earnest heed. Connected with this, the system of glory purposed of God in Christ is brought to light, in that the Son, who is the effulgence of His glory and the expression of His substance, has made purification for sins and seated Himself at the right hand of the Majesty on high. To the heavenly part of this glorious system inaugurated by the Son we are called; and, to use a well-known example, it is the revelation to us of all that centres in the person of Jesus which makes us, as Peter of old, leave the ship to go to Him.
Secondly, He is not only the revelation to us of God, and of His purposes in the Son become man - a revelation brought so close to us in Him that the exercised heart responds to the revelation in the spirit of her who said, "My Beloved is mine" - but He has in the days of His flesh so entered into the sorrows of humanity that He is able to sympathise with weak and suffering men, and yet the support thus given is according to the greatness of One who has traversed the heavens. In other words, He is so for us according to the power of divine love, that we are made conscious of what His interest in us is, and in this consciousness the heart learns further to say, "I am my Beloved's."
Thirdly, the believer, who has learnt the divine fulness and glory of the Person who has become to us the expression of God in all the outflow of His love, together with the revelation of His purpose in that Jesus as Son of man is crowned with glory and honour, and who is also able, according to the same divine fulness, to sympathise with us in our weakness here, is now led into the place of association with Him who has entered into the sanctuary as the Minister of the holy place and the great Priest over the house of God. To be in His company involves that we accept His death as that which has ended the whole order of the first man in judgment; then our highest privilege is that we are of His order, and are associated with Him in the holiest, having entrance by the new and living way which He has inaugurated for us, in that He has entered through death and resurrection into the holy place where He now ministers.
It has often been said that in the gospels we have patterns given us of those truths which are doctrinally set before us in the epistles; and in regard to the three points: above mentioned as characterising the Epistle to the Hebrews, the three occasions on which Mary of Bethany is brought before our notice in the gospels illustrate the way in which the believer apprehends' those points, which we may call revelation, sympathy, and association.
In Luke 10 Mary is brought before us as one who gives more earnest heed to the things spoken by the Lord. Her attitude betokened her appreciation of the Person to whose words she listened. His words revealed Himself, and He was the full vessel of the grace of God here below. At His feet, and listening to Him, she possessed the good part which should not be taken from her. He was known to her in His words, and it is evident that her soul was held in their power. They were to her communications which detached her spirit from the sphere of Martha's anxiety, while they engaged her heart with the place to which He belonged - the sphere where His spirit lived - Himself the revelation to her of that blessed sphere. The next occasion on which Mary comes before us is in the moment of her own and Martha's sorrow. On the first occasion her heart had been drawn to the Lord by the communication of His voice; on this one she experienced that His heart bore its company in her sorrow, and felt for her in the fulness of divine love that flowed through a human heart. To Martha the Lord had spoken of relief, "Thy brother shall rise again," while Mary experienced the outgoing of His heart in sympathy. Yes, He companied with her in her sorrow, while His heart felt for her as she wept at His feet. She must have had a deep sense that He carried her sorrow in His heart as He wept with her. Nothing could have so assured her of His sympathy, and also of His personal interest and love. Here, then, we have the pattern of His priesthood in its exercise for her - her heart not only assured of His love, but sustained. Thus is the believer sustained in the sense that no circumstance can separate him from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Mary had still the good part that nothing could take from her - Himself known more intimately in the presence of that which has come upon man through sin, and presses heavily upon him; Himself known in the movements of divine love which flowed in Him according to the divine glory.
In John 12 Mary is the pattern of the priestly place of the Church. A woman indeed may not speak in the assembly, nor does Mary here, but she is none the less a priest as she pours the ointment on the Lord's feet. Her heart is in association with the One who is rejected here, and the Lord interprets her act as expressive of devotedness to Himself, as to One who had no place in this world. She has still the good part which cannot be taken from her. He has carried her heart with Him out of this world. In spirit she quits the scene where He is rejected, and touches the sphere where His worth is owned; it is figured by the house being filled with the odour of the ointment. She is in association with Him, and occupies in spirit the priestly place. In the accounts of this circumstance given in the Gospels by Matthew and Mark, we are shown how the testimony of the gospel was to carry with it the memorial of this priestly place of devoted nearness of heart. Here the Levite, so to speak, is under the hand of the priest, and along with the testimony of the grace of God is borne the memorial of how His love revealed in Jesus can affect a heart and produce the response of love - a love which nothing will satisfy but worship given to Himself, and the fragrance of which fills the house where it is poured forth.
T. H. Reynolds.