In all actuality, I believe that Martha has been given somewhat of a “bum rap” over the ages. Yes, in the Gospel account of Martha and Mary, Jesus does seem to chastise her some for being anxious about serving, but if you really look at what happened, and the other Gospel accounts of Martha, you see a picture of a very faith filled servant who really loved Jesus. You can also see how much Jesus really loved her. Martha and Mary and Lazarus, all siblings, were all loved by Jesus and it is apparent that he spent a great deal of time in their home. John 11:5 says, “Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister Mary, and Lazarus.” They were special to Him. It is also interesting when the three names are listed in scripture, Martha always comes first.
Beginning in Luke 10:39, we hear how Jesus goes to the home of Martha and Mary and Lazarus and how Martha immediately begins preparations to serve him. She was definitely being a good hostess. In Middle Eastern culture, this is a VERY important thing. Meanwhile, Mary just sat at the feet of Jesus and listened to him. Now Martha became quite anxious about all that had to be done, and how Mary was not helping, and she asked Jesus to tell Mary to help in being a good hostess. Jesus then tells Martha that she is too anxious and worried and that Mary was doing the better thing. If you look at the wording, Jesus is saying this in a loving, albeit difficult, way. He said this out of love for Martha. He didn’t want her to be so caught up in worry that she forgot about Him. We can really learn a lesson from this. Worry and anxiety usually do little to help us in our walk with Jesus. They usually cause us physical and emotional damages. We need to learn how to serve Jesus, but without anxiety.
The next time we hear about Martha in the Gospels, it is apparent that she learned the lesson that Jesus was teaching. Martha is grieving the death of her brother, Lazarus, and even though she is sitting in the house with family and guests, when she hears that Jesus is nearby, she leaves the home to meet Jesus. Mary stays home with the guests. When Martha meets Jesus, she shows great faith and courage. She tells Jesus that she fully understands the great power that He has and knows that even now, He can show that power. It is an interesting conversation that Jesus and Martha have. Check it out in John 11: 18 plus. In the conversation, Martha shows her strong faith and Jesus leads her along to show even stronger faith. The faith that Martha shows leads Jesus to declare that He is The Resurrection and the Life. He then does one of His most powerful miracles and raises Lazarus from the dead. We too need to have the faith that Martha shows. We too need to let Jesus help us grow in our faith so we can see the powerful miracles He does around us.
The next time we hear about Martha, Jesus has come to visit her, and Mary, and the newly risen Lazarus. The Gospel concentrates on how Mary anoints Jesus with costly perfume, while it simply says, “Martha served”. This implies a great peace about her service. There is no more anxiety, but simply service. That is our call today, to simply serve Jesus and not be anxious or worried. Martha, very much filled with faith, is now a true servant of God. We should ask her intercession to help us in doing that.
The name Martha is not very common today, and I think that part of the reason is that Martha has, as I said earlier, been given a “bum rap”. I was fortunate enough to have the Lord lead me to a Martha, my wife of 47 plus years. She is somewhat like the Martha of the Gospel in that she loves to take care of the home, cleaning often. I never had to worry about dropping in with a friend, the house was always tidy and clean. And, like St. Martha, my wife worries and has some anxiety. But also, like St. Martha, she is a person of great faith and I know that I would not be where I am today, spiritually, and physically, without her. Service and faith are a great combination. May St. Martha always teach us that.