The Value Of Her Story
Shes still the same Martha in the Bible; her essence didnt change, just her heart.
Shes still taking care of everything and everyone.
Shes serving the Lord, his people, her family, and anyone else.
We see a transformation in her faith, her reactions, and her choices, but not the essence of who she is.
Who Does Mary And Martha Represent
So who do these two women, Martha and Mary represent today? I believe they represent all of the professing Christians in the world. We knowthat there are two groups of people in the world in God’s eyes. The saved and the lost. Now I’m not suggesting by this that Martha is lost,because only God knows who is saved and lost. I just want to show you the important meaning behind this story in the Bible, and what we asprofessing Christians MUST learn from it.
represents those professing Christians who “believe” in Jesus, but are too caught up in worldly things to give their timein building a personal relationship with Him. Sure, they serve in their church, but don’t realize that their serving will get them nowherewithout a proper relationship with their Lord. The group of professing Christians represented by Martha are those who are busy with the world.They are too caught up in their jobs/careers. They are too concerned with their houses and cars and money. They are focused on building uptreasure on earth, rather than treasure in heaven. They spend more time watching TV than they do with Jesus. They read more novels than theydo the life giving Word of God. They spend little time in prayer, and they put their family and friends before Jesus. These professingChristians maybe think that their “belief” alone will save them. Well, the devils also believe . Are they saved?
‘And then I will profess unto them, I never knew you, depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.’
Hospitality Is A Matter Of The Heart
Does the battle between being a Mary or a Martha really exist?; I have read several books and articles addressing what seems to have become the quintessential battle of the Christian woman.; I have learned a lot about life from books that address the needs of each woman.; But what do we do with the tension between the two women who coincide in my heart? Here are three lessons I have learned from the Mary and Martha battle:
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Mourning The Death Of Lazarus
The next time we see Martha in scripture, it is just after the death of her brother, Lazarus .
The sisters had sent word for Jesus when Lazarus became sick. They said Lord, the one you love is sick. , but Jesus arrived after Lazarus had already died.
When Jesus approached the town of Bethany, Martha ran out to meet Him and said, If you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask .
Two things stand out to me here:; First, she has complete faith in Him that He will heal her brother. Second, is her statement If you had been here, my brother would not have died a bit accusatory? Martha seems to speak before she thinks, sometimes.
Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; John 11:25
Reflections On Mary & Martha From The Bible
For two women who dont have a lot read about them, so many assumptions and lessons have been taught!
While we dont really know a ton about either of them, they are both so immensely relatable. There are really only two mentions of Martha and her sister in the New Testament.
When Jesus visits Mary and Martha, the contrast between the two sisters of Lazarus of Bethany is clearly noted by the every day woman and Bible scholars alike.
seems to have been of an anxious, bustling spirit, anxious to be helpful in providing the best things for the Masters use, in contrast to the quiet earnestness of Mary, who was more concerned to avail herself of the opportunity of sitting at his feet and learning of him. Afterwards at a supper given to Christ and his disciples in her house Martha served. Nothing further is known of her.
was absorbed, preoccupied, abstracted; was concentrated and single-hearted
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Lazarus Dies Martha & Mary Turn To Jesus
Jesus with Martha and Mary, Bible women. Painting by He Qi.
John 11:1-44A second story about Martha and Mary happened in the town of Bethany, a small town near Jerusalem but separated from it by the Kidron Valley . It was about three kilometers east of the city, a comfortable walk for people at that time.
Lazarus was very ill, so Martha and Mary sent a message to Jesus, asking him to come. Jesus received the message, but put off coming for two days. In the meantime, Lazarus died of his illness.
The house went into mourning. As was the custom, a continual stream of friends and relatives came to comfort Martha and Mary, and to mourn for Lazarus.
There were strict rules about what could and could not be done after a death in the family. After the funeral,
- the family of the dead person stayed at home for seven days, sitting barefoot on the floor or on a low bench
- they did not wash themselves or their clothes, or do any work.
- they did not cook, but were given food by relatives.
What Was Martha’s Role In The Bible
While its easy for modern Western readers to see Martha as a wet blanket, we need to recognize that Martha was doing what was expected of her. Ancient Roman or ancient Jewish societies generally didnt treat;women well. Educational opportunities were limited, with few women receiving any kind of religious training or apprenticeship in any trade. Very few women had professional jobs Lydia the purple cloth seller in Acts 16 is a notable exception, and she lived in a wealthy Greek city, the kind of place that works by being cosmopolitan.
As a rule, women in Marthas world were expected to rely on their families or husbands to get bywhich is why writers like;E. Randolph Richards and;Tim Harlow have noted the Samaritan woman at the well with five past husbands was not necessarily a harlot. In a world where disease killed many before their time, and men could easily divorce women for not producing children,;the Samaritan woman may have just gone from one relationship to another because that was how she survived. Women were valued for being good wives, keeping the house, and having children. In that light, its not surprising that Marthas first instinct at Jesus visit was to make sure the dinner was taken care of. Being the good hostess, the good cook, the person behind the scenes who keeps everything goingthese were what most people valued Martha for.
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Who Is Martha In The Bible
When we talk about Martha, we almost exclusively refer to her story in Luke chapter 10, where there are only a few verses about her:
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. ;A woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. ; And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lords feet and listened to his teaching.
But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? ;Tell her then to help me.
But the Lord answered her, ;Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken from her. ;
Luke 10:38-42 ESV
Somehow, that simple tale resonates with so many of us. ;I dont know if its an innate part of our womanhood, or if its just me, but the entire story seems so very familiar.
The Mary And Martha Bible Story: Applying It To Your Life
Lets look at all three Mary and Martha Bible stories and make a list of ways to apply their lessons to our lives. Isnt that what scripture is about? Taking the stories of faithful people and learning from them?
- God knows when we are troubled and pouring ourselves into busy is not the best option.
- Pouring ourselves into Jesus is always the best option.
- We need to lean into Jesus when we are confused and hurting, professing our faith.
- When God puts something on our hearts, we need to act on it. I doubt Mary understood why she was anointing Jesuss feet, but she was professing her love and obeying the stirring in her heart.
- We can stand confident that we are a work in progress. God will lead when it is time to give and time to grow.
What did you learn from the Mary and Martha Bible stories? Which of these stories speak to you in your season of life? Id love for you to share in the comments below!
This is one part in a series of Biblical Siblings. Visit these lovely bloggers to read more!
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Why Is This Story So Important
John inserted the story into his gospel to stifle the argument that was raging in the Christian community. Since the day of Pentecost, when the Christian church began, women had been acting as deacons, preaching about Jesus and presiding over eucharistic meals.
But opposition had arisen because this did not mirror the position that women held in society at the time. By telling the stories about Martha and Mary, John showed that Jesus treated women as the equal of men, and implied that Christian practice should do the same.
Rembrandts The Raising of Lazarus
After speaking with Jesus, Martha called Mary. Mary ran to Jesus, weeping with terrible grief, and Jesus was deeply upset by the sight of her pain.
Jesus went to the tomb, had the stone taken away from its entrance, prayed, and then called loudly to Lazarus. Lazarus appeared, alive, still wrapped in the linen strips of cloth used to cover his corpse.
Many Jews believed in Jesus after witnessing this event.
Note: The term the Jews is used in several ways in the gospels.
Worship In All Things
We are admonished in Scripture to do all things to the glory of God . Is Christ less present in my life while Im making the bed than when Im reading the Bible? No. The life of the Christian should be characterized by worship in all things, not just obviously religious activity.
In Luke 10, Jesus doesnt scold Martha for working around the house; thats not the issue. The one necessary thing was attention and devotion to him. Mary couldve been letting her mind wander while Jesus was speaking to her, just as Martha couldve continued cooking and cleaning and setting a nice table as an honorable offering to Jesus.
But Martha expresses consternation with Mary, and thats when Jesus rebukes her. Sitting at his feet isnt holier than cooking in the kitchen. Jesus tells Martha not to worry about Mary, but to follow him while she cooks and cleans.
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Serving Jesus And Another Faux Pas
The last time we come across Martha in the Bible, she is back in the role of hostess at a dinner in Jesus honor. .;
This was the dinner where Mary, Marthas sister, anoints Jesus feet with the expensive perfume. One of the disciples questioned this act and insinuated that this was wasteful and that the poor might have benefited from the money if the perfume were sold. This disciple, Judas, wasnt concerned about the poor. Oh, no, he was greedy and saw dollar signs in his eyes when he saw the perfume.
But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected,;Why wasnt this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a years wages.:
Anyway. I digress.
When we read about three three stories about Mary and Martha in the Bible, we learn so many lessons. Lessons about trusting God, using our resources wisely and keeping our eyes focused on what is important Jesus.
Read below for nine important lessons we can learn from Martha in the Bible.
We Need Martha And Mary
We need both Marys and Marthas. Say theres a death in your family. Mary will sit with you and put her arms around you while you weep. But you still have to eat. Marthas the one who brings you food, and makes sure someone waters the plants and walks the dog. Both of them are loving you. You need them both.
I can easily spend an hour or more in devotions every morning. Sometimes I have to force myself to stop studying Scripture so I can get other things done. That sounds very holy and spiritual, doesnt it? But what if it makes me late for work? What if guests are coming and my wife is left to do all the cleaning herself? What if I really needed to take the car to the shopand now theres no time?
The issue isnt only whether Jesus is a higher priority. Of course he is. But Jesus would never want me to sit there reading all day while my house falls apart and my wife feels abandoned. Devotion can be an excuse for laziness, and allowing my life to become that imbalanced would not please the Lord.
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Meaning Of The Name Martha
The name Martha is translated, in Hebrew, as mistress or myrrh. It comes from the verb , to be bitter or strong. The name Martha means Lady Boss, Mistress, or Land Lady
While we dont know the exact dates that Martha lived, scripture referencing Martha is found in both Luke and John. Luke was written between the years 80-90 and John between 90-100.
She is the sister of Mary and Lazarus.
Some early writers and biblical scholars, have connected Martha as the daughter, wife, or widow of Simon the Leper. Upon his death, she inherited the house. This would make sense based on the reference to the house, in Matthew 26:6 and , when the resurrection of Lazarus was celebrated.
Others think that Martha may have been a near relative of Simon for whom she acted as hostess. But the narrative seems to suggest the home belonged to Martha and being older than Mary and Lazarus, she carried the responsibility of all connected with household affairs in the home.
We do know that she was a personal friend of Jesus.
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The Gospel For Mary And Martha
In Mark 10:38-42, Jesus visits the home of Martha, Mary, and their brother Lazarus. While Martha bustles around preparing food for their guest, Mary sits at Jesus feet, listening to him. When Martha complains that shes doing all the work, Jesus says, Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her .
Most analyses of this passage end with the admonition to be a Mary, not a Martha. Women are especially plagued by this notion, often caveman-like in its simplicity: Martha bad. Mary good.
Now, Im not contradicting Jesus here. Martha got it wrongthat time. But it doesnt follow that Mary was a better person, or a more devoted follower of Jesus. Another Bible story offers a side-by-side view of Mary and Martha: the events leading to the raising of Lazarus in John 11.
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Life Lessons From Mary And Martha
For centuries people in the church have puzzled over the Mary and Martha story, knowing that someone has to do the work. The point of this passage, however, is about making Jesus and his word our first priority. Today we come to know Jesus better through prayer, church attendance, and Bible study.
If all 12 apostles and some of the women who supported Jesus’ ministry were traveling with him, fixing the meal would have been a major job. Martha, like many hostesses, became anxious over impressing her guests.
Even still, Martha was a remarkable woman and deserves considerable credit. It was quite rare in Jesus’ day for a woman to manage her own affairs as the head of the household, and especially to invite a man into her home. Welcoming Jesus and his entourage into her house implied the fullest form of hospitality and involved substantial generosity.
Good works should flow from a Christ-centered life; they do not produce a Christ-centered life. When we give Jesus the attention he deserves, he empowers us to serve others.