Martha and Mary are always mentioned together. Here we take a look at them as individuals and glean what we can learn from each of them as they serve our Lord Jesus Christ. We must find that happy medium for building our relationship with Jesus. We have to be concerned with the physical need just like Martha. We must never forget to nurture our spiritual needs and sit at the feet of Jesus to learn the all the specialness He has to teach us. We must be the best we can be for the glory of our Lord and Savior.
Luke 10: 38-42; John 11: 5-45; John 12:1-3
Mary and Martha of Bethany and the sisters of Lazarus are usually mentioned together. Bethany is a small town just two miles east of Jerusalem. Martha was probably the oldest of Mary and Lazarus. They all resided at Bethany. Luke 10:38 mentioned that Martha received Jesus into her house implies that Martha was probably a widow and Mary, her sister, and Lazarus, her brother, lived with her. Their home was often used by Jesus and His disciples. Mary and Martha were women of great faith. When Lazarus fell ill they immediately called for Jesus.
There were differences between the two sisters just like all other sisters. Martha held to the traditional values. She took her duties in the kitchen very serious. Martha was the one who received Jesus into her house. (Luke 10: 38). Martha was over-occupied, too busy, about how the service or ministering, of Jesus and His disciples.
She spent her time worrying about the service of those who prepare and serve the food for Jesus. It was at one of the visits of Jesus that Martha complained about her sister Mary leaving her alone to make all the preparations. (Luke 10: 40). We know that Martha worried about many things. (Luke 10: 41).
Today women of Christ could identify with Martha in her desire to accommodate the needs of Jesus making sure He ate well and showing all possible hospitality. There is nothing that gets my “dander” up than to be working hard to prepare a meal, or prepare for company and look around and see people who should be helping just sitting around.
Martha had become overwhelmed with the amount of work that needed to be done and there sat Mary at the feet of Jesus. Martha was more focused on serving the Master than pleasing Him. Martha was serving the Lord outwardly. Martha forgot to serve Him in the inmost Spirit. Her priorities were misplaced.
The expression Martha, Martha reveals marked disapproval, to be sure, but also tender affection and grave concern, for, as the Searcher of hearts knows, Martha was inwardly worried and outwardly upset. This was very clear from the way she looked, spoke, and acted. “About many things,” as if to say, “Such an elaborate meal was not at all necessary. Besides, there are things which in excellence and importance far surpass eating.” (Hendriksen, 1953-2001).
Martha was cheating herself by her fussing around doing what was important to accommodate the physical needs of Jesus. I am sure Martha also wanted to sit at the feet of Jesus as did her sister Mary. She did not realize that Jesus would have been pleased with less extravagance and have Martha join Him in the blessing and knowledge she might have had. Martha was exhausted and worried that her efforts would not be sufficient to please the Master. When she went to Jesus to complain that she was over worked and needed Mary to help her Jesus said Martha was “cumbered.”
The Greek work means to be distracted to be drawn this way and that, instead of being intent on the one thing to be done. We can learn from Martha that it is not always important to be the best hostess, make the best apple pie, or have the best swept floors. Having a home free from chaos and a peaceful place where guests can catch their breaths from the hub bub of this world is more important.
Jesus loved Martha. (John 11: 5). Martha knew had Jesus been there her brother Lazarus would not have died. Yet even now whatever Jesus asked of His Father God would give it. Martha believed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world. Martha then went to Mary secretly saying “The Master is come, and calls for you.” (John 11:21-27). Jesus told Martha to take away the stone at the grave of Lazarus. Martha reminded Jesus that Lazarus had been dead for four days and by this time he would stink.
Jesus reminded Martha if she would believe she should see the glory of God. Then they took away the stone and Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.” (John 11: 41-42). Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany on His way to Jerusalem and His own death. Jesus stayed at the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus who was once dead and raised by Jesus from the dead. Martha made and served Jesus and Lazarus. (John 12:1-2)
Mary was considered more liberated and was intense to learn from the disciples. Mary sat at the feet of Jesus and heard His every word. (Luke 10:39). Mary found great joy and peace sitting at the Master’s feet. She frank in every word that fell from the lips of Jesus and she gleaned every treasure He shared. Mary was truly concerned with the spiritual aspect of what Jesus had to offer. Mary teaches us by sitting at the feet of Jesus is taking the learning position. Those that are proud and self-confident with their own identity or those who are morally proud will stand equal with Jesus and walk away empty. Jesus is the very Word of God and Mary had a pure heart to learn the truth like only Jesus could give.
Mary found comfort and peace at the feet of Jesus. When she was mourning the death of her brother Lazarus she heard Jesus was coming and she rose “quickly” to go to Him. She had such love and faith in Jesus that many of the Jews followed her. The followers believed that Mary was going to weep at the tomb of her brother. It was the practice of those days to visit the grave, especially during the first three days. (Hastings, 1915).
Jesus acknowledged that Mary choosing to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn from Him is necessary. It is the good part which shall not be taken away from her. (Luke 10: 42). It was six days before Passover when Jesus went to Bethany it was Martha who served Jesus but this time she did not complain. Mary is still worshipping at the feet of Jesus and brings out the precious box of ointment and proceeds to pour it upon the head and feet of Jesus. This was an expensive perfume perhaps Mary knew Jesus did not have must more time with them, or perhaps it was out of extreme gratitude. Mary is the one which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair. (John 11: 2).
Jesus loved Mary. (John 11: 5). Mary sat still in the house while her sister went to greet Jesus after the death of their brother Lazarus. (John 11:20). Mary was told by Martha that Jesus was there and called for her. She went with haste and when she saw Jesus she fell down at His feet and told Jesus that had He been there her brother Lazarus would not have died. (John 11:28-32). It was because of the faith of Mary and Martha that many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him. (John 11:45).
Jesus must have been comfortable in the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus because He took refuge there on three different occasions from His labors and even persecution. Jesus went to their home just before entering Jerusalem where He stood trial, persecution, crucifixion and even death. What an honor for Mary and Martha to have their home chosen by Jesus go find peace before He saved the lives of us all.
There is much to be learned from the two sisters who loved their Lord and Master Jesus in two different ways. Martha allowed her heart to be closed by earthly cares. Jesus reprimanded her not for her service but for her worrying. (Torrey, 1907). Mary hung on His every word and anointed Him with ointment, then wiped His feet with her hair. They both loved Jesus and served Him in their own way.
We must find that happy medium for building our relationship with Jesus. We have to be concerned with the physical need just like Martha. We must never forget to nurture our spiritual needs and sit at the feet of Jesus to learn the all the specialness He has to teach us. We must be the best we can be for the glory of our Lord and Savior.
Hastings, James. (1915). The Greater Men and Women of the Bible: Mary–Simon, ed. Edinburg: T&T Clark. pp 319-69.
Hendriksen, W. & Kistemaker,S.J. (1953-2001). New Testament Commentary : Exposition of the Gospel According to Luke, New Testament Commentary vol. 11.Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
Lockyer, Herbert. (1967). All the Women of the Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan
Torrey, R.A. (1907). Studies in the Life and Teachings of Our Lord. Los Angeles: Bible Institute of Los Angeles.
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MLA Style Citation:
Holstein, Joanne “Martha And Mary:.” Becker Bible Studies Library Dec 2014.< https://guidedbiblestudies.com/?p=1820,>.
APA Style Citation:
Holstein, Joanne (2014, December) “Martha And Mary:.” Becker Bible Studies Library. Retrieved from https://guidedbiblestudies.com/?p=1820,.
Chicago Style Citation:
Holstein, Joanne (2014) “Martha And Mary:.” Becker Bible Studies Library (December), https://guidedbiblestudies.com/?p=1820, (accessed).