For some time now, I have been wanting to share my feelings about Martha. I have been noticing recently that, quite often, Martha is misrepresented. She is cast as the opposite of Mary. The sisters are contrasted: one good, one bad. This pains me, and every time I hear the phrase: "Let's be Marys in a Martha world.", I am saddened about how Martha has been stereotyped.
Let's begin with what we know of her:
-- She is the sister
of Mary and Lazarus.
-- She is hospitable
-- She believes
Now, I'm not denying the things we know of her that are not so complimentary:
-- She elected to keep house and serve
, rather than listen to Jesus' teaching with her sister.
Unless I am mistaken, that is all the negative we know about her. However, I'm not denying the seriousness of this mistake; this was, more than likely, one of the only chances she would ever have to have such a private conversation with Jesus, and she missed it. This occasion was the first mention we have of Martha and Mary, so this was, likely, very early on in their faith. Mary chose to grow and learn, sitting at Jesus' feet. She could not have chosen better. Martha, on the other hand, was "distracted with much serving". She made a mistake, early on in her faith, and she was counseled by Jesus to not neglect the thing of most importance.
We have no further record of any disbelief on Martha's part
. Quite to the contrary, she openly confesses her faith in Christ, even while in terrible grief over her brother's death.
"Martha said to Jesus, 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.'
Jesus said to her, 'Your brother will rise again.'
Martha said to him, 'I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.'
Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?'
She said to him, 'Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.'"
That statement of faith is more than many, many of his followers were willing to say.
Another verse, which I found interesting, was John 11:5. While we have just learned from verse 2 that Mary was the one who anointed Jesus, this verse specifically points out that "Jesus loved Martha
and her sister and Lazarus". This does not diminish his love for Mary, but neither was Martha neglected. Her mistake early on in ther acquaintance has not distanced them from eachother. She swiftly went to him when she heard that he was near, after her brother's death. This family, this entire
family, was very precious to Jesus, and, I believe, that speaks volumes about the kind of faith and love all three
of these siblings had for their Lord.
After Lazarus was raised from the dead, Jesus came back to Bethany to visit them. John 12:2 specifically mentions that "they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served". Martha served
. This second mention of Martha's hospitality is no accident. Jesus did not chastise Martha for serving, of course not. It was, and is, a wonderful trait, one that everyone should strive to improve. In this same passage, Mary anoints Jesus' feet. As in the beginning, what Mary chose to do was better
, but what Martha did was good as well
Another hint of Martha's hospitality and friendliness can be found in John 11:19: "many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother". Mary and Martha were well-known and loved.
It could be argued that Martha was not showing faith in Christ's power when she warned against moving the stone, but I think it can be safely assumed that Martha was the slightly more vocal of the sisters, and they both seemed to believe that Lazarus was gone, as Mary echoed Martha's statement: "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.", when she met the Lord that day. In advising against moving the stone, I believe Martha was merely stating the fears of both.
So, in conclusion: Are Mary and Martha opposite ends of the spectrum of faith? Absolutely not. Jesus' gentle chastisement of Martha has been magnified into something akin to "Get behind me, Satan!", which is unfortunate. We can see that Martha learned from her mistake, and became cherished by Jesus. What was her mistake again?
"Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary." He told her to learn from her sister.
Put your name there. "Lauren, Lauren, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary."
How true. How relatable. How applicable. How perfect for me!
I would be proud to be compared to Martha. Her hospitality is to be admired, not censured. It was her thoughts
, not her actions. She was distracted and anxious, but I am sure she took Jesus' warning to heart.
As to the phrase: "Let's be Marys in a Martha world.", I would be delighted to live in a world that believes in Christ as Martha did. And someday, we will.