The Model Disciple

A personal reflection, based on John 12.1-11, for Monday in Holy Week, April 15, 2019


Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair.

Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus, he, not long before, raised by Jesus from the dead, in loving, lowly devotion anoints Jesus’ feet.
Mary anoints the feet of Jesus (Marie oint les pieds de Jésus), James Tissot (1836-1902)

Jesus recognizes Mary’s deed as preparing his body for his death and burial. Yet what she does also foreshadows what Jesus will do at the soon-to-come Last Supper with his disciples when he, in loving, lowly devotion, will wash their feet, setting an example of service for them to follow.(1)
Christ washing the apostles' feet, Dirck van Baburen (1595-1624)

As Mary models for Jesus what he later will do, she, for me, is a model disciple.

Funny, not humorous, but ironic is it that still and in so many places when the Bible is read and sermons are preached and lessons taught the focus remains on the men. Funny, ironic when the Bible is replete with examples of godly women.

Yes, some of this myopic tendency is historic; traceable to the cultures from which the Bible stories come and to our human societal and institutional centuries-old rigid hold on inherited patterns of patriarchy.

As a child, I noticed the male-centric customs of the church in which I was raised. All members of the Vestry were men. All acolytes were boys.

I also noticed how the women carried the greater load of the labor of the congregation, especially the ministries of music and teaching, outreach and hospitality, verily, too, in attendance at worship.

This obvious disparity in presence and participation gave rise to the prevailing joke, truly, more an admission of honesty, describing church membership as “the Episcopalians and their husbands.”

The gospel, the good news of Jesus is of unconditional and impartial love and justice. Lent is the premier season of “self-examination and repentance.”(2)

I commit myself, in Lent and throughout all the remaining seasons of my life, to examine my heart, with a fierce intentionality, to see if there are signs and shadows of gender-inequality, a lesser regard for women that, if present, can and does and will manifest itself in my thoughts and feelings, my intentions and actions.

If – and, doubtless, as a male product of American culture – I will find such, then I commit myself to repent of it that I, like Mary, may be and become a model disciple.



(1) See John 13.3-16
(2) From the Ash Wednesday liturgy, The Book of Common Prayer, page 265

Mary anoints Jesus’ feet, James Tissot (1836-1902)
Christ washing the apostles’ feet, Dirck van Baburen (1595-1624)

2 thoughts on “The Model Disciple

  1. Thank you doesn’t seem to do this sermon justice!! Mary absolutely is the Model Disciple!! Most times when there is a specific discussion on the Women in the Bible, it’s about Mary & Martha when Jesus visits them.

    Funny you bring this up. On Sunday as I was rushing to grab some fruit at the grocery store to take to Mom, I looked around the checkout aisle as my order was being put in to my bag. And what did a see in the magazine rack?? A special magazine edition on Women of the Bible. I didn’t have time to get back in line to purchase but I had planned to go back and get it.

    Maybe that’s your next class Paul, Women in the Bible….those taking the class could at the end say which of the women they are most like and / or who they would like to be like.

    In any case, great sermon! And Congrats once again for you 41 years of Ordained Ministry. Wow!!

    Much love!


  2. Women in the Bible, yes, that would be the subject of fine, fine course of study, indeed. Though I do believe that there are numerous texts, some older, some newer that focus on this vital subject. As you allude, there are more women than Mary and Martha in the Bible!

    Love ya! And thanks for your congratulations. There are moments when I ponder 40+ years of ordained ministry when I, without quite being conscious of my reaction, hear myself say, “Wow!”


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