Martha: Woman of Action and Faith

Chances are, you are quite familiar with the story of Mary and Martha of Bethany in the Gospel of Luke (10:39-42). In this domestic scene, Mary listens and worships at Jesus’ feet. In contrast, Martha serves and worries. Martha then complains that her sister isn’t helping. And as a soft rebuke, Jesus tells her that Mary has “chosen the better part.”

Poor Martha! Generations have considered Martha’s role as less than ideal. She gets a bad rap. Or, more specifically, her serving and worrying do.

Honestly, don’t you elevate Mary a bit above Martha? Just a teeny tiny bit? It’s okay; you’re not alone.

Martha is a woman of tremendous faith after all, as described in John’s Gospel (11:17-27). She approaches Jesus four days after the death of her brother Lazarus and says sadly, “If you’d been here, he wouldn’t have died.” We might pause here and think, “Yep, a typical Martha move.”

Yet Jesus reassures her that Lazarus will rise again. She believes him. Instantly. Like Peter’s profession that Jesus is the Christ (MT 16:16), her faith is made possible because of what God the Father is stirring in her heart. God chooses Martha for this moment.

Jesus then asserts, “Whoever believes in me shall never die.” He asks her if she believes this. And without hesitation, she proclaims, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God who is to come into the world.”

Martha’s profession enables us to see her as a disciple marked by action and faith. She affirms Jesus as the Christ, and she is a woman declaring these words in a milieu dominated by men. Martha, and only Martha, speaks here in one of the most important passages in the New Testament: Jesus is identified as the Son of God.

Now I no longer see Martha as a mere kitchen maid, fretting with dirty dishes, whose faith is diminished in the light of her sister’s. Today Martha inspires me to profess once again, “Jesus, you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into this world!”

Thank you, Martha. You rock!


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