When asked to act on faith, remember Martha

Published 11:44 pm Friday, May 3, 2019

She was frustrated.

Apparently, all she wanted was to present an elaborate, well-cooked meal. There are good reasons to believe Martha was wealthy and had plenty of kitchen help, nevertheless she was upset. Her younger sister Mary was in the other room sitting idly, listening to Jesus.

At some point, Martha approaches Him, complaining that she’s doing all the work, and asks Him to instruct Mary to help her.

“Martha, Martha,” Jesus says. “You are worried and bothered about so many things, but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42 NASB)

Many remember Martha only from this story, thinking of her as a small player in the Bible. But, no. Martha is one of the most important people in Scripture. Let me show you why.

We know Jesus loved these two women and their brother Lazarus. (John 11:5) They lived in Bethany, a half hour from Jerusalem, and Jesus ate there repeatedly. Perhaps every time He went to Jerusalem.

It’s now the final year of Jesus’ ministry, and He’s nearly been stoned in the temple. Jesus knows He’s going to die soon, but it must be at the Passover. So He takes His disciples to the safety of the wilderness across the Jordan River.

This is probably where Jesus receives word that Lazarus is very sick. Our Lord waits two days and then heads toward Bethany. Nearing the village, He learns that Lazarus has been dead for four days. Now remember that Jesus had waited only two days, so even if He’d come right away, Lazarus still would have been dead for two days.

When Martha hears that Jesus is nearby, she quietly leaves her home, which is filled with mourners, and goes to meet Him.

“If you had been here, my brother would not have died,” she says.

Jesus then tells her one of the finest passages of Scripture, “I am the resurrection and the life. He that believeth in me though he were dead, yet shall he live…” (John 11:24)

He asks Martha if she believes.

“Yes, Lord,” Martha says. (John 11:27)

She returns home to tell her sister Jesus is nearby, quietly drawing Mary aside so Mary can also slip away and talk privately with Jesus. But Mary hears the news and runs from the house. The mourners who are there, thinking Mary is going to the tomb, follow her. When she reaches Jesus, she falls at his feet weeping and says, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Those words are the exact same ones Martha spoke, but Jesus’ response to Mary is entirely different. Martha stood and talked to Him, Mary lies at His feet sobbing. The Bible then says just two words, making this one of the most tender moments in Scripture:

Jesus wept. (John 11:35)

Jesus could have easily lifted Mary and said it’s going to be fine. I’m about to bring Lazarus back to life. But Jesus weeps with her. There’s nothing he can do to change the suffering Mary has endured. His heart is with her heart.

Jesus then walks to the tomb. “Take away the stone,” He says.

But something else happens. Something just before the resurrection of Lazarus. Here it is:

Martha doesn’t want the tomb opened.  “There will be an odor…” she says.

Martha had spent a lot of time with Jesus, she’d had the chance to know Him well. In fact, she’d just told Jesus that she believed in Him.

But Martha didn’t believe.

If Jesus had done what Martha had wanted and walked away, Martha would have missed perhaps the greatest moment of her life.

Now do you see why Martha is so important?

There will be times in your life when God will walk you right up to the impossible. When you’ll be asked to move forward on faith alone. If you don’t believe—if you don’t know how great your God is—you’ll make the wrong decision. You’ll turn back and miss what God has for you, perhaps the greatest moment of your life.

Remember Martha.

Copyright ©2019 R.A. Mathews. Rev. Mathews is an attorney, faith columnist, and the author of “Reaching to God.” She can be reached at letters@RAMathews.com