Many Biblical characters are remembered negatively: Lot, Aaron, Judas, and Jezebel just to name a few. There is one particular character in the New Testament who gets a lot of undue heat, however, and her name was Martha.
Jesus had many good friends while He lived on the earth, many of whom He called His disciples. Jesus also had followers who didn’t physically follow Him-Mary, Martha, and Lazarus are great examples of this fact. We first read about Jesus visiting the siblings in the tenth chapter of Luke. Jesus enters a village called Bethany and the first impression we have of Martha is the act of inviting Jesus into her home. Understandably, Martha is so flattered by having Jesus in her house that she becomes distracted. While Mary sat at the very feet of Jesus, soaking in His teaching, Martha was busy serving Jesus. When Martha complained about Mary’s apparent laziness (directly to the Savior, I might add), Jesus utters the famous words:
“…Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42, NKJV)
Wow. What a response. And straight from the Lord and Savior of the universe?! How important did Martha feel now?
Now, this account of Martha is normally used in one way: to provide a guide as to what should come first in our lives and Martha is the example of what NOT to be, the example of what to avoid. Thankfully, this is not the last we read of Martha nor is it the last lesson we can learn from her example. A later account of her life sheds more light on her full character.
First, Martha was a woman of faith. When John 11 opens, Lazarus (brother of Mary and Martha) has fallen ill and the sisters send word to Jesus. Jesus doesn’t immediately head to Bethany; instead, He stays where He is for two days before heading to Judea. By this time, Lazarus has already died and Jesus knew this before He even gets to Bethany. Lazarus has been dead for four days. Enter Martha: as soon as she hears that Jesus is coming, she leaves Mary and runs out to meet Him. When she gets to Him, she wastes no time:
“Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” But notice she doesn’t stop there: “But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” (John 11:20-22)
The passage goes on to read:
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever 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 to come into the world.” (John 11:23-27)
I fear that many times we make the mistake of NOT wanting to be like Martha. Instead of JUST focusing on her flaw of distraction, let’s ALSO focus on her incredible proclamation of her faith!
Secondly, Martha learned from her mistakes. The last time we read of Martha is in the very next chapter of John 12. Just a few days before His death, Jesus visited Bethany and was again welcomed into Martha’s house. And guess what she did? She served Him. While her sister Mary was anointing the feet of Jesus and wiping His feet with her hair, Martha stayed silent. She didn’t rebuke her sister like she had done before; she had learned her lesson. She did her part quietly and kept doing what she could do best.
This much I know about Martha: she was focused and driven. She loved to perform acts of service toward others and was a hospitable hostess. She believed with all her heart that Jesus is the Son of God. She believed in the Resurrection before she had even seen a resurrection herself. She learned from her mistakes the first time. Most importantly, she loved Jesus with all of her heart.
by Marissa Teske