Jesus often went to the home of Martha, who was apparently single, whether by choice or circumstances, and living in Bethany with her sister Mary and their brother Lazarus. John’s comment shows that Jesus and the family from Bethany were close friends – John 11:5 “Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.” Martha seemed to enjoy her gift of hospitality and her probable position as the older of the two sisters.
Three scenes appear to reveal Martha’s intense personality, which the Lord faced with loving firmness, as recorded by Luke – Luke 10:40 – 42 “But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Martha’s irritation with her sister led to a confrontation with Jesus, because she blamed Him for Mary’s lack of assistance. As one with a servant’s heart, I can totally understand how Martha must have felt stressed under her heavy workload and also very unappreciated and taken for granted as she did all the work alone. Those who choose to sit and listen do not always consider where their meal will come from nor who it is that is laboring for them. However, Jesus’ response was a loving response, and was not a condemnation of Martha’s servant’s heart nor was it a rejection of her zealous and gracious hospitality. He simply asked her to reconsider her priorities, to make her choices on the basis of eternal values instead of immediate pressures, and He suggested that she allow Mary to make her own choices. I think it would have been better for Martha if she had solicited all the help she could beforehand so that she, too, could enjoy sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to His teachings.
Several months later, Lazarus became ill while Jesus was traveling many miles away. Although the sisters sent for Him, by the time the Lord arrived in Bethany, Lazarus was dead, and had been buried for four days. Ignoring the custom of mourners to remain in their homes, Martha took the initiative to meet Jesus as He approached the town and to confront Him about her brother’s untimely death to Jesus’ delay in reaching Bethany – John 11:20, 21 “Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house. Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.” Here we see Mary’s submissive personality by following the custom of the day and staying home to mourn for the traditional time required. Not so with Martha! I like how she threw custom to the wind and followed her heart to seek answers to questions she could not understand in her human mind. And with trusting faith, Martha acknowledged Jesus’ power over death in verse 22 “But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.” While she could not understand why Jesus did not come right away and heal her brother, she believed there must be some reason for it and that of course Jesus could ask His Heavenly Father, and He would not deny Jesus the power to bring Lazarus back to life. Jesus explained that He Himself was the Resurrection. She agreed and saw an immediate manifestation of her faith in her brother’s resurrection in verse 44 “And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.”
The third glimpse of Martha was reported by John – John 12:2 “There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him.” The simple fact that Martha assumed hostessing duties once more confirms the fact that her uncommon talents were being used. Undoubtedly, she had become a disciple who experienced God’s power in practical service. Jesus, as well as countless others, needed the physical refreshment of Martha’s warm hospitality. She did not consider her homemaking responsibilities as worthless drudgery. She obviously loved her home and she counted it joy to pour her energies into the efficient management of her household. Martha is a touching reminder to every woman of the balance between fellowship with the family and the work necessary to meet their mundane/everyday needs.
I Peter 4:8-10 “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. Use hospitality one to another without grudging. As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”