Can I be honest with you for a minute? When I first read of Jesus’ visit to the home of Martha and Mary, I agreed with Martha. I identify with her! After all, what more important guests could you have in your home than Jesus and His disciples. Breakout the fine china and linens; there are guests to impress!
But wait, to agree with Martha means I must disagree with Jesus! Well, I’m not going there, so, let’s dig deeper into Mary’s story. Perhaps she will teach you and me something about being a Mary in a Martha world.
In Luke 10:38-42, Mary of Bethany enters the story:
As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”
But the Lord said to her. “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” NLT
In John 11, though a message sent to Jesus by Martha and Mary, we learn that Lazarus, a dear friend of Jesus and brother to the sisters, is sick and dying. This gives us the knowledge that Jesus had an ongoing relationship with Martha and Mary. They were also His dear friends. They knew Him, not just of Him, but directly knew Him!
However, Jesus doesn’t arrive in Bethany until after His friend’s death. As He neared the town, Martha rushed out to meet Him, but Mary stayed home. Why did she stay home? Wouldn’t the proper thing be to meet Him just as Martha had done? Isn’t that what everyone would expect? Mary does go to meet Jesus, but only after she’s told that Jesus wants to see her.
Most often when we hear the word furious we think of its meaning as being enraged, angry, or irate. But furious also means passionate, which lends itself to descriptions such as intense, fervent, and heartfelt.
Now during Mother’s Day, I took a little time just to breathe. (I hope you did too!) And while reflecting on Mother’s Day, I was reminded of the mother of all mothers. Not Eve, but Mary, the mother of Jesus. And that led me to thoughts on a mother’s love. So what does a mother’s love and the term furious have to do with each other? Not necessarily what you think!
Yep, our children can make us angry sometimes, but they also bring out some of our best emotions too! So let’s look at Mary, and learn how deep a mother’s love can go.
Although Mary was a human, and infallible as the rest of us, she was also a faith-filled woman who carried out God’s will no matter the cost to herself. Today, let’s give a little thought to what she did and reflect on her motherhood.
When most of us think of Mary, we think of a woman. But when God came to Mary, she was merely a child, most likely in her early teens. Can you see her, a young teenage Jewish girl in a long flowing dress that reached her ankles with even her hair covered by cloth? She had never held a man’s hand, let alone kissed one. And then, one day out of the blue, an angel came to tell her she was going to have a baby. And not just a baby, but the Son of the most high God!
In that moment, at that age, how would you have handled it? I know my immaturity would have come flying out, and like most teenage girls, the drama would have started! But not Mary! In the scriptures, she demonstrates maturity beyond her years. After asking what and how this is going to happen, she simply states:
“Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38 ESV)
Mary could not have known all that would unfold, yet she trusted in the Lord. Wow!
Months later, in the middle of the night, in the town of Bethlehem, this child bears a child in a stable filled with animals and smells we don’t even want to imagine –no nurses or doctors attending to her needs, no epidural to ease the pain of childbirth, no comforts of home. And once the process is completed, she lays her child wrapped in some strips of cloth in a manager (a feeding trough) full of straw.
Years would go by, and she would raise Him in the traditions of the Jewish people. Even though Mary had other children later in life, she knew this child was no ordinary child. Where could it all be leading?
Mary’s support of Him was unwavering. She was there when Jesus performed His first miracle at the wedding in Cana (John 2:1-11). And she would be there through it all. Watching His ministry grow, seeing the crowds that flocked to Him, hearing the things He did as He traveled the countryside.
I imagine Mary had mixed emotions most of the time. Pride for a son that was able to do such great things in the name of God, and fear that all this attention Jesus was drawing might make some people angry. Yet, most likely, down deep in her heart, she knew this was God’s will. But that would never replace the protectiveness she felt as a mother.
Then, on what must have been the most gut-wrenching day of her life, she hears that Jesus has been arrested. How could this be? What could He have possibly done? I can see her frantic to get more information and desperate to know what is happening.
As those last days of Jesus’ life play out, I cannot imagine the pain and anguish she suffered. Here was her child, and she was helpless to help Him! She had held Him close in the stable the night of His birth, and watched Him sleep for hours. She had washed and bandaged the cuts and bruises he received as a boy of eight years old playing outside. She would have rejoiced at His thirteen birthday as per the Jewish custom. And during His early years of life, she would have watched Him turn into a mature young man who any mother would love to have – humble, gracious, generous, and kind.
But now, her child was being paraded in the streets, beaten and bleeding, carrying a cross on which He would be hung. But Mary would not turn away! In scripture, we find her close by as the nails are driven into His hands and feet. The tears would have been impossible to hold back as the cross is resurrected.
She would have been inconsolable after He took His last breath. As His body laid in a tomb, she would have mourned deep and hard, at times pushing away those who wanted to ease her pain.
Then after the third day, the impossible would happen. She would be told He is alive. Her mind would have raced at the thought of seeing Him again. Her arms longing to hug His neck. Could it be true?
And then suddenly, He was there! Standing in front of her –her child lives! What joy must have washed over her, and then amazement at the thought of what was happening. Peace would once again come to Mary’s heart.
Mary is a mother who loved furiously. Her faith in her God is the only explanation of how one woman could bear so much joy and pain in one lifetime. God has indeed created mothers with a capacity to love their children to depths beyond reason. But in order to do so, we must also love our God with all of our heart.
Not only as a mother, but as a woman, can you say to God – I am Your servant, let Your will be done?
And by the way, the inability to bear children does not discount your ability to be both a mother and a servant of God. We ourselves are adopted children of God, and therefore, those who adopt children into their life and love them as if they are their own are equally special to Him.
I know how I feel about my one and only son. I don’t know if I could have done what Mary did, but I am grateful that she allowed the Lord to use her. I do know, however, what it is to love a child furiously, and more importantly, I know that I have a Savior who loves me the same way!
What does Mary’s love of Jesus teach you? And what stories can you share about your own love for your children or that of your mother’s love for you?
Happy Mother’s Day!
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
This is part 3 of a 3-part series. Consider reading John 11:17-44 prior to reading this post.
So as we move on with our story – Jesus has arrived in Bethany, not far from Jerusalem. It has been 4 days since Lazarus’ death. Take note of the number of days. 4 days leaves nothing to chance, 4 days means finality, 4 days means only He could be the Messiah, because only the Messiah could cause death to retreat in its tracks.
As Jesus nears the city, word gets back to Martha He is coming. Being the assertive sister, she goes to meet Jesus just outside the city.
When Martha got word that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him. But Mary stayed in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.” John 11:20-22*
Martha has faith, but has limited the options it can produce. Even after Jesus tells her Lazarus will live again, she continues to misunderstand the gravity of Jesus’ remarks.
This is part 2 of a 3-part series. Today, consider reading John 11:1-16 prior to reading this post.
As chapter 11 begins, we see that Lazarus is sick and his sisters, Martha and Mary, have sent word to Jesus (verse 3). Surely, their friend, but more importantly their Messiah, would come quickly. However, instead of leaving immediately, Jesus stays where He is, not just for the moment, but for two whole days. His only remark:
But when Jesus heard about it he said, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.” John 11:4*
Imagine the disciples listening to Jesus calmly state Lazarus’ illness would not end in death. Several things could have been assumed:
1. Jesus did not feel compelled to leave the city He was in due to bigger, more pressing priorities. Sure, Jesus loved Lazarus, but did Lazarus’ family really expect Jesus to just drop everything and come to them? Thousands of people wanted the Messiah’s attention. How could Jesus show such favoritism to one when He was needed by so many?
I remember as a little girl in Sunday School some really terrific Bible stories. I had some great teachers who knew how to make Bible stories just jump off the page. One of the stories told over and over was the raising of Lazarus from the dead. As a kid, it was the coolest magic trick Jesus did. Now that I am older and wiser, I know the story of Lazarus coming back to life was much more than a trick, it was proof of the power of Jesus.
But, who the heck is Lazarus anyway? And doesn’t the names Martha and Mary sound familiar?
Before we get to the ‘good’ part of the story, let’s step back a little and gain some perspective on the characters in this story: Jesus, the disciples, Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. Most especially, we need to understand the relationship between Jesus and Martha, Mary, and Lazarus.