Martha of Bethany
Minister of Hospitality, Missionary and Dragon Tamer
While Jesus and his disciples were traveling, Jesus entered a village where a woman named Martha welcomed him as a guest. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his message. By contrast, Martha was preoccupied with getting everything ready for their meal. So Martha came to him and said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to prepare the table all by myself? Tell her to help me.”
The Lord answered, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things. One thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the better part. It won’t be taken away from her.”
-Luke 10: 38:42 (CEB)
Download the iPhone Daily Bible Study App to read the week-long bible study with a focus on Martha of Bethany. We discuss her amazing story and incredible personality. Martha is a fiesty and assertive woman, confident of her relationship with Jesus and his acceptance of her for who she is. We learn more about her role as a disciple and as one who took on disciples of her own as an evangelist in the early church.
Martha's record in the bible and in the pages of history shows her as a woman of action, hospitality, and great faith. Her story shows up in Luke 10:38-42, John 11:1-44 and John 12:2. Her and her sister Mary are among the Myrrh-bearing women, (women that went to Jesus’ tomb to anoint his body with oil). Orthodox tradition recognizes that Martha fled Judea with Lazarus to evangelize as far north as France. Legend has it she even tamed a dragon using holy water. There is beauty in this image of strength and perseverance for God. The same woman who shows us the importance of hospitality as a gift shows us that taming dragons is also a part of being a faithful Christian.
The invitation Jesus gives Martha to sit at his feet (quite radical since women weren’t even allowed to sit at the feet of Rabbi’s in their day), has often been misinterpreted as a reprimand of Martha’s busy and distracted state. She has been traditionally misunderstood as someone who was either less spiritually mature or a person who was demanding and distracted.
This characterization of Martha isn’t accurate. She was a woman of strength who carried the responsibilities of her family’s needs on her shoulders. Likely the eldest, she was the one in charge of running the household and creating a welcome environment for guests. It was her home that had become the place of respite and renewal for Jesus and his disciples and she passionately hoped to fulfill her ministry of loving them well.
In contrast, Mary sat contently at Jesus’ feet in Martha’s home, confident that her big sister had everything taken care of. Meanwhile, Martha grew agitated, and although her heart was to serve her Lord, she was putting her work for him ahead of her time with him fussing over the details of his comfort and her ability to provide.
The Lord gives us all gifts, and Martha is the queen of hospitality, a deeply needed gift in the church. Martha shows us that hospitality is a ministry and a vocation, and it restores and refreshes the hearts and souls of those most in need. However, sometimes the do-ers like Martha need to be cared for too. Jesus offers us this comfort, even in the face of schedules and work pressure or dirty dishes and piles of laundry. Jesus provides a welcome respite and place of rest even when pressures mount and deadlines loom.