Scriptural Giants: The Faith of Mary and Martha


During the Savior’s ministry on earth, many people listened to Him and learned about His gospel of love. Two sisters, Martha and Mary, were among those who believed the words of eternal life that Jesus taught.

Mary and Martha lived in Bethany with their brother, Lazarus. All three of them loved Jesus, and He loved them. Jesus often visited their home when He was in the area, knowing that He would always be welcome there. Martha and Mary would sometimes sit at His feet while He taught them. Once when He was there and Mary was sitting at His feet, Martha was busily preparing a meal for Him. Finally, feeling that Mary should be helping her, Martha asked Jesus to get Mary to help her. Jesus gently refused, explaining that Mary was doing something important by listening. He said, “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.”

Sometimes Jesus brought His disciples with Him while He visited Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. It was a practice in the hot, dusty land of Judea to wash the feet of travelers, and one time after Martha had served a meal to Jesus and his disciples, Mary anointed His feet with spikenard, an expensive ointment. Then, showing her great love for Him, she used her long hair to wipe His feet clean.

Judas Iscariot, seeing this, complained that such costly ointment should have been sold and the money given to the poor. Judas, who later betrayed Jesus, was not really concerned about the poor; instead, as keeper of the disciples’ purse, he probably wanted the money for himself.

Jesus told Judas, “Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this.

“For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always.”

On another occasion, while Jesus was teaching on the other side of the River Jordan, Martha and Mary sent word to Him that Lazarus was very sick. Jesus waited two days, however, before going to Bethany. By the time He arrived, Lazarus had been dead for four days.

When Martha learned that the Lord was coming, she went out to meet Him, saying, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.” So strong was her faith in Jesus that she knew that He could have performed a mighty miracle and saved her brother’s life. “But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.”

Jesus told Martha, “Thy brother shall rise again.”

Martha believed in eternal life and, thinking that Jesus was referring to it, said, “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

Teaching her further, Jesus replied, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:

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

Martha replied, “Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.”

Jesus asked Martha to send Mary to him. And when Mary came, weeping, she fell down at His feet and said, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died,” showing her faith in the Savior too.

Jesus asked simply, “Where have ye laid him?”

He was led to the small cave where Lazarus was buried. A stone covered its entrance. When Jesus directed that the stone be removed, Martha was concerned. “Lord,” she said, “by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.”

Jesus comforted her, saying, “Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?” Then, as the stone was removed, Jesus raised His eyes to heaven and said, “Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.

“And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the many people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.” Then, in a loud voice, He commanded, “Lazarus, come forth.”

When Lazarus came out of the tomb, he was still wearing his burial clothes, but he was very much alive. Martha and Mary and their friends rejoiced greatly.

[illustration] Illustrated by William Henry Margetson