Among the women portrayed in the New Testament who speak (they are few but strong individuals), Martha stands out as a forthright friend of Jesus. Clearly, Martha and Jesus understood each other, since Martha’s words draw from Jesus the response of one who knows and loves the speaker and who also knows that she knows that.
The first words we hear from her are totally familiar two thousand years later. “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me” (Luke 10: 40). A common human situation. Martha speaks her mind–and she does so as one can only do to a trusted friend. She doesn’t get what she wants, but she learns more about Jesus’ ways. This was early in Jesus’ ministry.
Later in his public life, her words to him are no less straight and reproachful: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you” (John 11: 21-22). The back-and-forth exchange of words about resurrection reaches its point when she asserts, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world” (verse 27). It’s a quietly firm statement, profound and uncomplicated. Martha’s profession of faith as given here is the prelude to Jesus’ calling Lazarus from death. Her faith in Jesus, as he says so often throughout other accounts of miracles, has brought about this act.
One can’t help feeling kinship with her, across the centuries, so like us in her domestic ways, her willingness to speak up, and her abiding trust in Jesus.
These encounters are a glimpse into friendship in the life of Jesus. Martha with her humanly endearing qualities recognized who he was. And it is said of her: “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus”Ã‚Â (John 11:5).
The objects of Jesus’ love are rarely stated in the Gospels. It is said of the rich young man who turned away from his invitation to follow him. And John’s Gospel refers to John the apostle as the one whom Jesus loved.
Martha’s personality emerges from the short glimpses of her interactions with Jesus. It’s understandable why she was his good friend.
Bridget Puzon, O.S.U.
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