Mary and Martha

Mary and Martha were sisters of Lazarus. Jesus stayed at their house. The family, as far as we know, consisted of Mary, Martha and their brother Lazarus. That Martha was a widow - that her husband was, or had been Simon the Leper - that Lazarus is identical with the gentle and holy Rabbi of that name mentioned in the Talmud - are conjectures. They were a family in easy circumstances, and of sufficient dignity and position to excite considerable attention, not only in their own little village of Bethany, but even Jerusalem.

Bethany must have held a special charm for Jesus because of the friends whose love and reverence always placed at his disposal their holy and happy home. It is there that we find him on the eve of the Feast of Dedication, which marked the close of that public journey designed for the full and final proclamation of His coming kingdom.

It was Martha that received Jesus into their house. The name Martha is Aramaic for Lady. She seems to be the manager of the hospitable home and sees to it that everything that can be is done to make a worthy welcome for their revered guest and friend. Mary sat at Jesus' feet and heard His word. "But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to Him, and said: 'Lord do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me.' And Jesus answered and said unto her 'Martha, Martha, you are careful and troubled about many things. But one thing is needful and Mary has chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.'" Mary had chosen the best part - not that Martha had chosen evil, what she was doing was necessary, her error lay in thinking that the contemplation of Christ was mere idling, whereas it is the highest activity of all. Their brother Lazarus does not figure in this episode at all, perhaps ill of the malady which a few months later led to his four-day sojourn in the tomb.

Immediately after the episode of Bethany, Luke records the teaching of the Lord's prayer. Martha represented the type of temperament constantly in turmoil because of the self-imposed exactions of domestic routine. Not an inspiration, urging to higher spiritual attitudes, but another chain to hold her down to more exacting domestic duties.
[309, 318, 324, 363, Luke 10]

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