Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given Jesus’ honor; Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair…
Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews, found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. John 12:1-3, 9 (NIV)
Many wonderful Christian writers have written about the “Mary-Martha metaphor”. There is no doubt that we need both personae in the Church. But let’s look at all three of these siblings. We need all three!
Remember the ‘early’ Martha in Luke 10 who was the worker bee in the house and verbalized her frustration to Jesus about her ‘sitting sister’? Now we see a new creation Martha who is serving again and must have found her joy. Every church needs an army of Marthas! Statistically it is 10% of the church who does 90% of the work! We need the servants who will mop floors and make dinners and teach study groups! Marthas are the Energizer bunnies! They have a strength that will keep going and going. They do not live for the applause. They live for the accomplishment of the task.
Mary is doing here in John’s gospel as she did in Luke’s. She is worshiping. In Luke, she was quietly sitting and absorbing Jesus’ words. Her worship was in her attention and just – joy – at being at the feet of the Lord! What could be better?! Here Mary is stepping closer in her worship. She isn’t just a spectator – she gives her love to the Lord. She leaves her ego in the box that carried the perfume. She doesn’t care if she looks foolish! She doesn’t care about the cost! She has gotten a glimpse of the love the Lord has for her and she wants to return as much as she can give! We need the Marys in the church. We need their songs. We need their prayers. We need their passion for Jesus!
Lazarus is not active in either John or Luke’s gospels. Other than being raised from the dead!!! We never read that he did anything for Jesus! He wasn’t one of the twelve. He’s a cousin who opens his home to Jesus. Maybe that is the key. Lazarus invites Jesus in and Jesus takes it from there. Lazarus dies. Jesus gives a miracle not because Lazarus deserved it or earned it. It was a divine gift. And now Lazarus becomes a witness. He tells what God has done. If you read the whole story in John 12 you will find that the church leadership put Lazarus and Jesus in the same class – they both deserved to die!
If you are a Martha – serve! Teach the rest of us that there is evangelism in serving the needy and worship in caring for the sick.
If you are a Mary – worship! Teach the rest of us that we can never be too busy to worship our Lord and nothing is too important that it cannot be laid down for quiet worship!
If you are a Lazarus, then tell! Remind us that we all have a story to tell and neighbors who are searching for answers that only God can give. We also died and have been brought back to life!