JOHN 11:5 – “Now Jesus loved Martha, her sister, and Lazarus.”
The New Testament informs us that Martha lived in the little village of Bethany (on the east side of the Mount of Olives, a couple of miles from Jerusalem). Some speculate she was married to the man known in the Gospels as Simon the Leper (compare Matt 26:6-7; Mark 14:3; and John 12:1-3).
What we know for sure is that Martha had a sister, Mary (see Luke 10:39), and a brother, Lazarus (John 11:1-3).
From the limited glimpses the New Testament gives, we glean that Martha loved to entertain. She enjoyed having people in her home and doing on them. She was a worker bee, a high-energy, high-capacity force of nature who liked everything “just so.”
You know the type. Driven by a strong vision of what needs to happen and armed with a long to-do list and a passion for excellence, they can turn the most mundane situation into a special, lavish occasion. Their motto? If a little pizzazz is good, more is better. Think hospitality, creativity, and efficiency all at once. If you can get a mental picture of all this, you are thinking of Martha.
Martha only shows up once in Luke’s Gospel-in a funny little anecdote about an impromptu dinner party. It seems Jesus and his disciples were passing through Bethany (see Luke 10:38-42). Ever the “hostess with the mostest,” Martha invited the whole gang over for dinner and then, like a domestic tornado, spun into action. Maybe she had no advance warning of their visit, or perhaps she was already edgy about other matters. Whatever the case, standing over her stove stirring all those boiling pots, Martha peeked out into the living room and saw a sight that made her blood boil. With a houseful of guest and a major meal to be cooked and served, Martha spied her oblivious sister, Mary, plopped on the floor listening to Jesus.
Exasperated, Martha marched over and scolded Jesus, “Lord, don’t You care that my sister has left me to serve alone? So tell her to give me a hand” (Luke 10:40).
Jesus gently chided Martha right back. He more or less told her to relax that an elaborate meal wasn’t necessary, and that hospitality is about much more than fine china and gourmet fare.
John 11 gives us another glimpse of this endearing woman who loved by serving. We read there about Martha’s brother, Lazarus, coming down with some sort of mystery illness. When his condition worsened, Martha and Mary sent for Jesus. When Jesus seemed to dawdle and delay, Lazarus died.
It wasn’t until days later, after Lazarus had already been entombed, that the sisters got word that Jesus was on his way. Awash in grief and confusion, Mary holed up in her house. Not Martha. She made a beeline for Jesus. She intercepted him before he even made it to the city limits and blurted out:
“Lord, if You had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. Yet even now I know that whatever You ask from God, God will give You.”
“Your brother will rise again,” Jesus told her.
Martha said, “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. The one who believers in Me, even if he dies, will live. Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die-ever. Do you believe this?
“Yes, Lord,” she told Him, “I believe You are the Messiah, the Son of God, who comes into the world (John 11:21-27)
You’ve got to love Martha. She’s the tireless woman who fussed over Jesus and wanted him to feel special. She’s the trusting woman whose first impulse was to look to Jesus to fix whatever was broken.
If you had to serve on a committee with her and pull off a big project together, Martha might be tough. But if you want an example of true faith and fervent service, you can’t do better than this dear woman from the suburbs of Jerusalem.