Mary and Martha: A Time to Grow and a Time to Give

Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were friends of Jesus. The Bible includes three important stories about them. We can tell from these stories that the siblings had the wonderful opportunity to know Jesus personally.

We first meet these friends in Luke chapter 10 when Martha invites Jesus and his disciples into the home she shared with Mary and Lazarus.

38 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.

39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.

40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.

41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:

42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

This is your classic Mary and Martha story from which numerous lessons have been taught and learned. Before I explain my take on it, I’d like to include the other stories.

mary and martha

Luke chapter 11.

Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.

Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.

When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.

Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.

Jesus deliberately delays going to help Lazarus because God has a much bigger plan (yes, a lesson to be learned here as well but I will try to stay focused!). Lazarus dies and it’s then that Jesus goes to Bethany.

20 Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house.

21 Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.

22 But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.

23 Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again.

24 Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.

25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:

26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?

27 She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.

28 And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee.

29 As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto him.

32 Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.


Do you hear each girl’s faith? The first words out of their lips was that their beloved brother would not have died had Jesus been there. Martha goes a little further and professes an even greater faith when she proclaims who Jesus is-the Christ, the son of God.

Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead and God is glorified in a triumphant power over death miracle.

The last story from John chapter 12 takes place in the days leading up to the crucifixtion.

Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead.

There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him.

Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.

Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him,

Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?

This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.

Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this.

These three siblings shared their strong faith in Christ. They loved Jesus just as much as he loved them and I think they would have done anything for him. A friend of Jesus, isn’t that a beautiful thought?

This is where their similarities end. Not much is said about Lazarus, but the personalities of Mary and Martha are clearly portrayed.

Martha is seen serving twice. As was customary in those days (and let’s be honest, our day as well) Martha was busy showing hospitality toward her guests. She was cooking, serving dishes of food, pouring and refilling drinks, as well as clearing plates and washing dishes.

Mary is sitting with the men (not acceptable behavior at the time) and listening to Jesus rather than helping Martha. Martha becomes frustrated with her sister. I love that she marches right up to Jesus and tells him to make her sister help her. Rather than stewing about it she goes straight to the most important person in her house and demands he do something about it.

She was probably a bit disappointed (and convicted) with his response.

And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:

 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

It is noteworthy that Jesus first points out that Martha is troubled about many things. I believe he is talking about more than simply serving a houseful of guests. He was looking into her heart.

He then says that one thing is needful and Mary has chosen it. What is the one thing that is needful? Both girls believed in who Jesus was. Faith is not the issue here. What was Mary doing that Martha wasn’t?

She was listening to Jesus.

Right there at that moment God was working in Mary’s heart and she was responding. She was willing to put all of her doubts and fears and worries aside and simply listen to Jesus. It was time for Mary to grow. She could not be serving because something more important was going on inside of her.

We see this later when she goes out and buys the expensive ointment and anoints the feet of Jesus. This is not something that she planned with reason. She felt the urging of God and obeyed it. She could not have possibly known the reason for this urging, but Jesus did.

Mary was able to feel and obey that urging because she had been listening to Jesus. Her heart was not trouble and worried about much. She had set all that aside. It was her time to grow.

Now, back to Martha. The Bible doesn’t say what she did after Jesus told her to leave Mary alone. She may have set her trays down and joined the group, but I doubt it because we again see her serving in the story with Mary and the oil.

Does this mean she should have stopped serving and follow Mary? I don’t think so. They are two different people and God was working in them differently. Martha was expressing her love in her own way. She was serving. She was most likely cooking the best dishes that she could and presenting them with grace and humility. Her love for Jesus was as great as Mary’s, but she just wasn’t there yet. She wasn’t ready to put aside her worries and anxieties just yet.

It wasn’t her time to grow.

This is the last we read about Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. I wish we knew more, but I can guess that they mourned Jesus’s death and then rejoiced at his resurrection. I imagine they were among those who watched him ascend into heaven and then waited for the promised Comforter.

Where are you, dear friend, giving or growing??

This is one part in a series of Biblical Siblings. Visit these lovely bloggers to read more!

http://inspiredbyfamilymag.com/2019/02/01/cultivating-sibling-kindness/ Cultivating Sibling Kindness by Inspired By Family

Pages and Puddles on http://pagesnpuddles.com/cultivating-sibling-forgiveness/Cultivating Sibling Forgiveness

One Determined Life on https://onedeterminedlife.com/5-ways-to-build-trust-with-our-siblings/ 5 Ways to Build Trust with Our Sibling

Joy in the Journey on https://joyinthejourney.blog/?p=75Rachel and Leah

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12 thoughts on “Mary and Martha: A Time to Grow and a Time to Give”

  1. So often I find myself being Martha and I know I want to be more Mary! Thank you for showing the growth and change the sisters go through. This helped me see these two in a whole new way.

    1. I feel as if people are often harsh with Martha. The Bible says Jesus loved Martha just as he loves us modern day Marthas (like me!). I remind myself of that from time to time.

  2. I loved the idea of studying siblings in the Bible. Wonderful take on Mary and Martha. Sometimes Martha has received some pretty harsh judgment instead of just a realistic look at the situation. Great post.

    1. I tend to be a Martha and my impulse is to defend her LOL I agree that she has received some harsh judgement. John 11:5 says “Now Jesus loved Martha, her sister, and Lazarus”. Jesus loved Martha as much as he did Mary. On days that I just can’t be Mary and I’m criticizing myself, I remember this verse.

  3. I’ve never thought about studying siblings from the Bible. I wish I had a servants heart like Martha, and to have Lazarus’ faith!

  4. Interesting study on these 3 friends of Jesus. Kind of shows how our personalities can be so different but we can each show God our love in our own way.

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Hello! I'm Heather and this is Baby Joel, the youngest of five. At Lessons from Home you will find encouragement for your parenting and homeschooling journey. Healing from loss is also a major part of this blog as my family struggles through grief and brokenness at the loss of my beautiful 8 year old daughter.
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