When Jesus arrived at Bethany, he was told that Lazarus had already been in his grave for four days. Bethany was only a few miles down the road from Jerusalem, and many of the people had come to console Martha and Mary in their loss. When Martha got word that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him. But Mary stayed in the house. (John 11:17-20)
Relate: The sisters, Mary and Martha, are not new to the gospel story. This chapter is the first time John talks about them but they appear earlier in the timeline in Luke’s gospel. One of the other times Jesus came to Jerusalem He was staying at their house. It specifically says that Martha opened her home to Him. Having taken on the responsibility of host, she was busy with all its accompanying work while her sister sat at Jesus feet listening to His teaching. This vexed Martha and she asked Jesus to tell the girl to get to work. Jesus responded, “Martha, you are worried about many things but few are needed, indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her.
Skip ahead to the current moment in the story. Lazarus is dead and both the sisters are devastated. He was a popular, well liked man and many have come to pay their respects. Finally word comes that Jesus has also arrived. Tradition demands that when a dignitary is coming to visit you would go out to meet him and escort him in. We will see this again in the next chapter when the crowds go out to Jesus when he is entering Jerusalem. It also throws a different light on end times events. When Jesus returns we will meet Him in the air and return with Him to this earth. Anyways, Martha recognizes that even in this moment of grief Jesus is a person worthy of her honor and respect and she goes out to Him.
But Mary stayed…
React: When everything was going well, Mary was glad to go and sit at Jesus’ feet. Then life threw her a curve. Things all of a sudden weren’t going all that great. Tragedy strikes. And Mary stayed away. She didn’t come to Him until He summoned her. Martha recognized through her grief and sorrow that Jesus was still her authority. But Mary stayed.
It is said that tragedy can either make a person better or it can make them bitter. The determining factor all lies with one response. When tragedy strikes, when sorrow overwhelms us, does it cause us to run to or away from God. Am I like Martha, coming to God through my tears? Or am I Mary, who stayed away.
God, let me always run to You. I know that things will not always go my way. I know that there will be heartaches, sorrow and tragedy. You have said that in this world we will have trouble. It is a natural byproduct of life. Even more, it is a natural consequence of following You. When those sorrows come, let me run to You. When things are good, help me to sit at Your feet. Help me to never stay away. In all things, at all times, let me always be found close to You.