Lessons from the Story of Mary and Martha

Do you have a sister?  I thank the Lord that He gave me my sister.  We love each other, but we are very different.  Not only in looks, but also in personality, interests, and abilities.

Mary and Martha are two sisters in the Bible who also were very different from one another, yet alike in that they both loved Jesus. We can learn much to help us in our walk with God from the story of Mary and Martha in the Bible.

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two women dogs story of Mary and Martha in the Bible

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How Did Jesus know Mary, Martha, and Lazarus?

Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazarus were close friends of Jesus during His time on earth. Jesus visited their home whenever He was in the town of Bethany. He spent some of His last days on earth with them in their home. In fact, just six days before His death. (John 12:1-3)

These siblings had a strong bond with Jesus as His friends. Jesus loved them greatly, even raising their brother, Lazarus, from the dead! (John 11)

(John 11:5)  Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.

What is the story of Mary and Martha in the Bible?

We are first introduced to Mary and Martha in Luke chapter 10 when Jesus visits their home in Bethany.

(Luke 10:38)  Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.

Evidently the home belonged to Martha as the scripture records this as “her house.” While unusual, women could own property in ancient times. (Acts 16:40)

We aren’t told why her siblings are living with Martha. Some have wondered that perhaps Martha was a widow who owned her home and invited her sister and brother to live with her. Nevertheless, we do know that they all loved each other very much.


Jesus at the Home of Martha and Mary

In John chapter 11 and 12 we learn more about these two sisters, Mary and Martha, who are quite different from one another.  Although they may have been different in several respects, the scriptures highlight one specific difference between these sisters—their priorities.

Jesus and Martha

Martha is portrayed in the scriptures as a doer, a hard worker.

There they made him a supper; and Martha served:  John 12:2a

She has a servant’s heart and the drive to get things done.  She sees what needs to be done and makes sure it is accomplished.

As a doer, it is hard for Martha to see someone else not working or helping. Martha even complains to Jesus about her sister not helping her and wants Him to tell Mary to help.

But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.  Luke 10:40

Martha is very goal oriented and frets when she feels that she is not going to meet her goal.  She wants things done!

Martha’s priority is serving Jesus. Which is a good thing.

So why did Jesus reprimand Martha?

(Luke 10:41)  And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
(Luke 10:42)  But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

Serving Jesus is important. Jesus didn’t reprimand Martha for serving, but for fretting and worrying. For placing higher priority on serving than it needed to have in that moment.

Jesus and Mary

Mary, on the other hand, seems to be a quieter, calmer soul.  She also is a doer, but her focus is different.  Whenever Jesus is near, Mary is with Him, close to Him.

When Jesus visits their home in Luke chapter 10, Mary sits at Jesus’ feet listening to Him, delighting in His Word.

And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.  Luke 10:39

For more help growing in your walk with God, you’ll want to be sure to check out all these Practical Ways to Get Closer to God Today!

When Jesus later visits their home, after raising their brother Lazarus from the dead, again we see Mary staying near to Jesus.  In humility, love, and thankfulness Mary worships Jesus in a unique way—

Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.  John 12:3

Mary’s priority is being with Jesus...as much as she possibly can!

And Jesus commends her for it in His response to Martha’s complaint in Luke 10:40 above…

But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.  Luke 10:42

Jesus tells us that Mary chose wisely to first make time to listen to and hear Him.

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What Can We Learn from the Story of Mary and Martha?

The Martha and Mary lesson? Priorities matter.

And just like Mary, our first priority must be Jesus—time alone sitting at His feet and just listening…hearing the voice of His Word.

Only then will we be the person Jesus wants us to be.  And be empowered to go in Jesus’ name to serve Him in the ways He has for us.  Only then may we—

…walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;  Colossians 1:10

Martha and Mary Reflection

As I read about these two sisters, this verse spoke to me.

Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.  John 11:5

It struck me that Jesus does not call Mary by name in this statement.  And that He listed Martha first as one that He loved.

Jesus had rebuked Martha when she complained to Him about Mary’s lack of help during His first visit to their home.  (Luke 10:41-42)  Yet Jesus makes sure that we know…Martha was just as loved as her sister.

And I’m so glad of that, because I can easily relate to Martha.  If I’m not careful, I can become focused on the details of my service to God instead of on God Himself…and relying on Him to work His righteousness in and through me.

When I was younger, I didn’t understand about priorities or what it meant to put God first.  I thought that faithfully serving God in my church was how I was to put God first in my life.

The Lord had to teach me, as He did Martha, that sitting at His feet—spending time alone with Him in His Word and prayer—is the way to put God first.  The Lord taught me that—

Time spent with God is to be my first priority…not time spent for God.

Which sister do you most closely relate to?

Whether you are a “Mary” or a “Martha,” or a mixture of both, remember this—Jesus loves you!  And longs to spend sweet fellowship time with you each day! 

Draw nigh to Him,


This post is part of our John Bible Study.


Which sister do you most closely relate to?  In what ways?

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