Doing Our Best
By John Lincoln Brandt
Download Audio (9.9MB)
“She hath done what she could.”1
Jesus spoke these words in defense of Mary, who had anointed him with the oil of nard. He had spent the day in Jerusalem in the heat of political discussion but would not entrust his safety to the great metropolis at night. He withdrew from the city to Bethany, where he could spend the evening in peaceful conversation.
The incident to which the text refers took place in the house of Simon, probably the man whom Jesus had healed of the leprosy. There were also present Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead; Martha, the busy, bustling housekeeper; and Mary, who loved to sit at the feet of Jesus and hear his words; and those whom Jesus had called to be apostles.
Jesus was reclining at the table and Mary came in quietly, opened the flask, and poured the ointment on his head, and the odor filled all the house in which the little company had gathered. Judas criticized her, saying, “Why was this waste of ointment? It might have been sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why trouble ye her? She has wrought a good work upon me. The poor ye have with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good. She hath done what she could. She has come aforehand to anoint my body unto the burial.”2 …
This was a timely act of Mary’s: She came aforehand to anoint his body. She did not wait until after his death. It is customary to strew flowers upon the coffin of the dead. How much better to give expression to our love and to manifest it by words and deeds of kindness before the cold hand of death removes the objects of affection to where it is impossible for them to appreciate gratitude and love!
It was a generous act: The oil was of great value. … It was a public act: She was not ashamed to confess Christ publicly. The act was not done in a corner, but before her friends and the apostles of Jesus. She cared not who saw her. She loved the Lord and was outspoken in her expression of that love. Happy the Christian who is not ashamed to confess Jesus before men! Such he will confess before his Father in heaven.
It was an act of love: There must have been many mingled feelings that prompted this beautiful offering. Gratitude for the raising of Lazarus; adoration of the character of Jesus; recognition of him as the Way, the Truth, and the Life; the worship of him as the Lord of Life and Death. But the foremost motive must have been an expression of her love and desire to honor One about to die. …
Every Christian who thus loves Jesus and has a passion to serve him can find no gift that will fully express his deep sense of worship and love. The official, carping Judas viewed everything in a financial light. Many people of today are like him—always ready to criticize and say, “Why this waste; a useless expenditure of money—no good will come of it.” … To withhold the best in the service of our Master is waste. Whoever serves should serve to the highest capacity; whoever gives should give to the largest liberality.
When the call of duty comes, there should be a ready and willing response regardless of what people may say. The world’s greatest heroes have been sharply criticized. Engage with all your heart in the work of saving souls; break your alabaster box of ointment in honor of Jesus, and if people criticize you, remember the example of Mary; remember the commendation of Jesus; remember that the Lord said, “Blessed are ye when men shall say all manner of evil against you.”
Some disciples ask to be excused from active service in the Master’s vineyard because they can do so little. Their plea is, “My station restricts me. My weakness disables me. My obscurity embarrasses me. My timidity unnerves me, and my talents are so limited. If I could convert the Scribes and Pharisees; if I could turn a city to the Lord; if I could plant a church, endow a college, support an orphanage, then it would be worthwhile and I would engage in the service with a commendable zeal and enthusiasm.”
But we learn from this scripture that there is no station in life, however obscure, no condition, however humble, but something may be done for the Lord.
Mary was not to be judged by any showy enterprise, by public charities or literary fame, or by any performance that might be marked out for its pre-eminence; but on the ground that she had done what she could. … One penny’s worth, if it is the limit of self-denial, is as good as ten thousand pounds. Jesus recognized it as such in what he said of the two mites the widow cast into the treasury, which was more than they which gave of all their abundance, because she gave all that she had; and yet of another woman, poorer and frailer still, who gave only tears and caresses for his feet.
Jesus recognized the disposition and ability of the giver. He made no distinction as to weights and measures, tables of value, public achievement and standards of honor as acknowledged by men. Christ is the judge. His declaration is, “Not everyone that saith unto me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ but he that doeth the will of my Father in heaven.”
Mary could not write like the beloved Apostle John. She could not tear down the strongholds of Satan, like the Apostle Peter; she could not plant churches, like Paul; but in her humble station, she did her best, and that is what shut-in invalids, poverty-stricken and humble men and women may do the world over.
Mary did her best. Everyone can do this. God is present in small opportunities and activities, as well as where power is great, talents many, and opportunities unlimited.
Mary gave no consideration to how her act would affect her social position, but followed the example of Christ, whose glory blazed through every social barrier and who made in him one new man, insomuch that he recognized neither rich nor poor, high nor low. He is no respecter of persons.
“He that doeth the will of my Father is my brother”; the sinner is my friend; the publican is my patient; the lost one found is of my sheepfold; and he that was dead is my son.” We should imitate the example of Mary as she imitated the example of Jesus. We must manifest a deeper interest in the less favored in the Kingdom of heaven.
We must seek the honor and happiness of all. We must plan and invent methods to make the discouraged man and woman and child recognize that Christ is working amongst them. We must make all artificial and man-made classifications disappear. We must make the Lord the center of a heavenly circle, whose circumference surrounds all those who do his will ...
To all who have been sitting at the feet of Jesus and drinking in his spirit, have you broken the alabaster box of the best of your life on his head, for the salvation of souls and the glory of your God? Have you been taxing your resources and ransacking your coffers, as did Mary, that you might bring the highest and best offering to the Master?
If you have not been able to do great things, have you been doing the little acts of kindness, and performing the little deeds of devotion for your Master? God promises to help us to do more as soon as we are willing to do something.
John Lincoln Brandt (1860–1946) was the father of Virginia Brandt Berg. Excerpted from Soul Saving Revival Sermons. Read by John Laurence.