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The Story of Mary & Martha

This essay is a follow up to the Extraordinary Women of the Bible study. We recommend first completing your lesson and discussing it with your group before reading this post.

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Who do you run to?
By: Dorabeth Hickernell

Who is your “go-to” person when you desperately need to vent about something?
Who is your “first-call” when you find yourself in a crisis?

For the sisters, Mary and Martha, their ‘go-to’ and ‘first-call’ was Jesus. Listening in on some of their conversations recorded in the Bible, we can tell by the way they talk to Jesus that Mary and Martha had developed a close relationship with him.

In Luke 10, we hear that Martha felt so secure in her relationship with Jesus that she could comfortably express her frustration about Mary. While Jesus was visiting their home, Martha whined that Mary was not doing her fair share of the work. Jesus, always the perfect friend, reacted with just the right balance of truth and love. In his response, Jesus encouraged Martha to not get side lined by her many tasks but to stay focused on was most important, spending time with him.

In John 11, we hear Mary & Martha’s reaction to a crisis in their family. Their brother Lazarus became very ill. Mary and Martha quickly sent word to Jesus, but before he arrived, Lazarus died. Mary and Martha both expressed to Jesus that they were sure he could have prevented Lazarus’ death. Martha told Jesus, “I know you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” Martha understood that Jesus was everything he claimed to be, the Resurrection and the Life. Martha knew that everyone who believed in Jesus may experience physical death but never spiritual death. Like Lazarus, their physical bodies may die, but they themselves would never be separated from God. Martha knew that she would one day see Lazarus again.

At this point, Jesus had spent several years in public ministry teaching and giving proof that he was the Messiah that God had promised to send. Jesus wanted everyone to understand that he was the only one who could mend their broken relationship with God. Only Jesus could save them by taking God’s punishment for sin in their place. Many struggled to understand, even those who were close to Jesus, but not Mary and Martha. Mary and Martha believed Jesus was the Son of God who had full access to God and his power. They believed Jesus could do anything and they were right. By only speaking three words, Jesus resurrected their brother, Lazarus who had been dead and buried for four days.

Mary and Martha’s relationship with Jesus is enviable. The sisters went to Jesus with everything from their daily frustrations to their huge calamities. They knew Jesus was approachable and available. It was not one-sided, Jesus wanted relationship with them as well. Jesus enjoyed and sought out their company. He made himself known to them. Jesus wanted to hear about their struggles and pain. When they cried over their brother’s death, Jesus, brimming with compassion, wept with them. Jesus was a faithful friend, kind and true. Relationships like this take time and intentionality. Just like a houseplant, relationships grow with attention. The better Mary and Martha got to know Jesus, the more they loved him. What was their response to discovering that Jesus was not just the greatest friend ever, but Jesus was the Resurrection and the Life? Mary and Martha responded with profound gratefulness that resulted in action.

In John 12, another dinner gathering is recorded. Jesus’ arrest, trial and crucifixion were only days away when Mary, Martha, Lazarus and Jesus’ disciples gathered to eat. While Martha was busy, of course, serving the meal, Mary got up and did something very unexpected. Mary poured an entire bottle of costly perfume onto Jesus’ feet and then wiped his feet with her hair. Mary knew that Jesus, the Son of God, the promised Messiah was worthy, and she showed it by her actions. Mary well understood that Jesus had saved her, and it filled her with overflowing gratitude and generosity and a desire to serve. How could she repay Jesus? She could not, but she could spend her life expressing her appreciation with her thoughts, words and deeds.

Has your life been forever changed by Jesus? Does overflowing gratitude mark your days and propel you to serve? Is your relationship with Jesus a top priority? How do you intentionally make time daily to grow that relationship through reading the Bible and prayer? If your relationship with Jesus was a house plant, what would it look like? Is it green and full and thriving due to lots of care and attention? Or is it wilted and neglected from distraction, apathy or an ungrateful heart? Jesus went to a lot of trouble and sacrifice to be your ‘go-to’ and your ‘first-call.’ So, like Mary and Martha, grab hold of that relationship and give it your all!

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