Women of the Bible - Martha and Mary

    Women Who Loved Jesus
    by Kathryn Capoccia

     Young Adults Sunday School Class
     All Scripture references are taken from the HOLY BIBLE: NEW
     INTERNATIONAL VERSION (C) 1978 by the New York Bible Society, used by
     permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

 Copyright Kathy Capoccia 2000.  This file may be freely copied, printed out,
and distributed as long as copyright and source statements remain intact,
and that it is not sold.

I. Introduction

     A. Prayer Requests

     B. Review of Last Week's Lesson/Verse

II. Character Profile: Martha and Mary, Women Who Loved Jesus

     A. WHO WERE THEY? (read LUK 10:38-41; MAT 26:6-13; MAR 14:3-9; JOH 11;

        1. What were their names?

           a) Martha: more- it means "lord" or "master".

           b) Mary: myrrh- it means a bitter, pungent herb.

        2. Where did they live? In Bethany, about 2 mi. from Jerusalem.

        3. When did they live? In the 1st century A.D.; these incidents
           occurred during the earthly ministry of Jesus @30A.D.

        4. Who were their people? They were Jewish- they had a brother named
           Lazarus (who would be raised from the dead by Jesus in JOH

        5. Were they followers of Jesus? Yes (LUK 10; JOH 11:5).

        6. Who were their friends?

           a) Jesus and his disciples (JOH 11:5,20,30)

           b) those of Bethany who chose to mourn with Martha and Mary upon
              their brother's death (JOH 11:19, 31).

        7. What was their economic state? No definitive answer to this is
           found in scripture, but it would seem that the were women of some
           substance because:

           a) they could afford to offer hospitality to Jesus whenever He
              was in town (LUK 10:38; JOH 12:1).

           b) the elaborate meal that Martha prepared in LUK 10 spoke of

           c) the many Jews that came from Jerusalem to comfort them at the
              death of Lazarus bespeaks their prominence.

           d) the value of the jar of ointment that Mary poured on the Lord
              testified to wealth (JOH 12:3,4).


        1. They Loved Jesus And Served Him

           a) They had an open house for Jesus

              *It was the custom in the Middle East to offer hospitality to
              visitors, who could remain there for at least a three day stay
              (MAT 10:11). It was believed that guests were sent from God
              and that to entertain and protect them was one's sacred duty.
              Wealthy people sometimes kept a special upper room in
              readiness for visitors (II KI 4:10).

              1) Whose home was it? It was Martha's home- though Mary and
                 perhaps Lazarus lived there it is referred to as Martha's
                 home, which indicates that she was the eldest in her

              2) What were houses like in Israel?

                 a] Village houses were usually built as 1 room dwellings;
                    in the cities homes of more than one room were usually
                    made. A prosperous home would have at least 2 rooms and
                    an open court between them; a home of 3 rooms would be
                    constructed around the courtyard in a "c" shape; if
                    there were more rooms these would be attached to the
                    side rooms, thus making the courtyard longer. Around the
                    courtyard a rectangular wall provided privacy; this
                    would have had a large door or gate in the center of the
                    street side to permit entrance to the house (sometimes
                    the large door would have a small door in it to be used
                    for ordinary passage, the gate being reserved for
                    important visitors or the like). The courtyard was often
                    used as a place as a place for entertaining guests-
                    serving them meals.

                 b] Because stone was not plentiful in Israel houses were
                    constructed of a combination of mud brick, wood,
                    and rubble stone (for the foundation). Walls made of mud
                    brick on a stone base were plastered over with mud and,
                    in some cases white-washed.

                 c] Wealthy houses were frequently 2 stories high, with the
                    family quarters on the 2nd floor (with a wood balcony
                    and staircase leading from the courtyard). A living room
                    would have been furnished with furniture such as
                    lampstands, chairs, benches, and stools. There would
                    have been divans around the borders of the room to be
                    used as beds. The walls would have been decorated with a
                    painted wainscot. Cooking would have been done over an
                    open hearth or brazier. Ovens were located in the outer
                    courts as were cisterns or water storage jars and other
                    storage containers- storage rooms were located on the
                    bottom floor. Animals would have been housed on the
                    ground floor also.

                 d] Roofs were flat structures which were constructed of
                    tree poles or palm tree trunks with a layer of smaller
                    branches, reeds, fronds, or brush over them, capped by a
                    final layer of packed clay. Frequently used roofs had
                    parapets around them to keep people from falling off. An
                    outside staircase provided access and awnings sometimes
                    covered the roof terrace from the heat of the day. These
                    roof areas were favorites for evening sitting.

                 e] Floors on the ground floor were beaten earth, perhaps
                    with a lime coating; 2nd story floors were constructed
                    as roofs were with an addition of a lime plaster

                 f] Doors were not always used but if there were doors they
                    were panel doors fitted to a post and lintel doorframe.
                    Windows were large openings if they faced the court-
                    yard, or smaller openings with lattices if they were in
                    walls facing the street.

                    *This information comes from "The Zondervan Pictorial
                    Encyclopedia", copyright 1978, vol.3, pgs. 217-220.

              3) How often did Jesus stay?

                 The scriptures do not mention how often Jesus stayed with
                 them in Bethany but it mentions three separate visitations
                 toward the close of His ministry:

                 a] LUK 10:38-41

                 b] JOH 11:1-43

                 c] MAT 26:6-13; MAR 14:3-9; JOH 12:2-11

           b) They Gave Their Best

              1) Martha used her gift of hospitality

                 a] she hosted feasts for Jesus

                    i] in her home she prepared an elaborate supper (LUK

                       LUK 10:40  "But Martha was distracted by all the
                       preparations that had to be made."

                   ii] at the home of Simon the Leper she served as hostess
                       (JOH 12:2; MAR 14:3; MAT 26:6)

                       JOH 12:2  "Here a dinner was given in Jesus' honor.
                       Martha served, while Lazarus was among those
                       reclining at the table with him."

                 b] personal feasts were given for:

                    i] weddings (GEN 29:22).

                   ii] the weaning of a child (GEN 21;8).

                  iii] the birthday of a king (GEN 40:20).

                   iv] the arrival or departure of a guest (GEN 19:3;

                 c] at feasts:

                    i] servants would pour water over guest's hands to
                       cleanse them before the meal, the feet having been
                       cleansed upon entering the house.

                   ii] guests would recline around 3 sides of a low table,
                       sometimes on couches or divans, with each guest
                       leaning on his left arm with a pillow behind and his
                       lower body stretched out. The next guest would
                       recline head to breast of the 1st.

                  iii] the greater honor a guest had the higher elevation he
                       had and the closer he was to the hosts right or left
                       side. Guests occupying the lowest favor were on the
                       ground floor near the door: those in favor were on an
                       upper story near the host.

                   iv] meat (beef, mutton,) was cooked (boiled or roasted)
                       and served at feasts, whereas ordinary fare was
                       cheese, bread, olives, oil, buttermilk, fruits and
                       vegetables only. Wine was a part of the meal, though
                       all wine was diluted.

                    v] a special honor the host could pay was to offer a
                       guest a "sop", a dipped piece of bread, with his own

                   vi] music and dancing were a part of feasts, though men
                       did not dance with women.

                  vii] after the feast the hands were again cleansed by
                       pouring water over them and drying them on a napkin
                       or towel.

                       *This information came from "Manners and Customs of
                       Bible Lands", by Fred H. Wright, Moody Press,
                       copyright 1953, pgs. 35-68.

              2) Martha struggled with a balanced ministry

                 a] she wasn't spending enough time with God

                    LUK 10:41  "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are
                    worried and upset about many things,

                    LUK 10:40  But Martha was distracted by all the
                    preparations that had to be made. She came to him and
                    asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me
                    to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"

                 b] she lost her focus and spent her efforts doing what she
                    thought was important, not God.

                    LUK 10:40  "But Martha was distracted by all the
                    preparations that had to be made."

                    LUK 10:41,42  "you are worried and upset about many
                    things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen
                    what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."

                 c] she sinned-

                    i] she became frustrated and resentful of Mary

                       LUK 10:40  "...my sister has left me to do the work
                       by myself..."

                   ii] she rebuked Jesus for not intervening

                       LUK 10:40  "She came to him and asked, 'Lord, don't
                       you care that my sister has left me to do the work by
                       myself? Tell her to help me!'"

              3) She was corrected by Jesus (LUK 10:41,42).

                 LUK 10:41,42  "'Martha, Martha,' the Lord answered, 'you
                 are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing
                 is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not
                 be taken away from her.'"


              4) Mary "sat at His feet"

                 WHAT DOES IT MEAN "TO SIT AT HIS FEET"?

                 When an important rabbi taught he would sit on an elevated
                 level from his listeners and they would sit around him at
                 his feet.

                 a] she devoted herself to learning (LUK 10:39).

                    LUK 10:39  ..."Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet
                    listening to what he said."

                 b] she anointed Jesus' head and feet 6 days before his
                    death at the home of Simon the leper (Joh 12:2-11; MAT
                    26:6-13; MRK 14:3-9).

                    i] she served Jesus by preparing Him as well as she
                       could for His burial, because she believed that He
                       would soon die (JOH 12:3; MAT 26:12; MRK 14:8).

                        -- she was criticized for her gift by the
                          disciples, led by Judas (JOH 12:5,6).

                          I. he was greedy - he wanted to steal the money it
                             would have brought if sold, since he was a
                             thief (JOH 12:6).

                         II. he didn't want Jesus to have honor since he had
                             determined to betray Him (MAT 26:14).

                        III. the disciples saw it as a waste of money
                             because they thought the perfume should have
                             been sold and the money given to the poor.

                        -- she was commended by Jesus (JOH 12:7; MAT
                          26:10,12,13; MRK 14:8,9).

                          I. for preparing Him for His burial

                             MAT 26:10,12  "Aware of this, Jesus said to
                             them, 'Why are you bothering this woman? She
                             has done a beautiful thing to me. When she
                             poured this perfume on my body, she did it to
                             prepare me for burial.'"

                             MAR 14:8  "She did what she could. She poured
                             perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my

                         II. for her faith and love

                             MAT 26:13  "I tell you the truth, wherever this
                             gospel is preached throughout the world, what
                             she has done will also be told, in memory of

                             MAR 14:9  "I tell you the truth, wherever the
                             gospel is preached throughout the world, what
                             she has done will also be told, in memory of

                   ii] she sacrificially gave to Jesus a very costly gift

                       HOW EXPENSIVE WAS IT?

                        -- "nard" or "spikenard" (vapoos) was both an east
                          Indian plant and the fragrant ointment made from
                          its roots: it was expensive because it was
                          imported from India in sealed alabaster jars.

                        -- nard could not keep its fragrance long after its
                          seal was broken- to open it meant it had to be
                          used up or be rendered useless.

                        -- the amount of nard that she gave was worth a
                          year's wages for an ordinary workman (300 denari):
                          this would be like a $35,000.00 jar of perfume
                          today (the average yearly income of Americans).

                  iii] she humbled herself to anoint Him

                        -- she anointed His head (as tradition dictated)
                          *a guest's head was anointed as he entered a
                          dwelling; a wealthy host could use "nard", instead
                          of olive oil, if he wanted to show special honor
                          to his guest.

                        -- she anointed His feet even though it was a
                          servant's job to attend to the feet of guests
                          (normally feet were washed with water).

                        -- she let her hair down to wipe his feet- ordinarily
                          a woman never let her hair down in public.

        2. They leaned on Jesus

           a) they needed Jesus because Lazarus was sick (JOH 11:1-12,19).

              1) they knew that Jesus loved Lazarus and assumed that He
                 would save him from death because of that love (JOH 11:3).

                 JOH 11:3  So the sisters sent word to Jesus, "Lord, the one
                 you love is sick."

              2) Martha and Mary knew that Jesus was able to heal Lazarus
                 (JOH 11:21,22; 11:32).

                 JOH 11:21  "'Lord,' Martha said to Jesus, 'if you had been
                 here, my brother would not have died.'"

                 JOH 11:32  "When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and
                 saw him, she fell at his feet and said, 'Lord, if you had
                 been here, my brother would not have died.'"

           b) they needed greater faith

              1) they had faith

                 a] Martha:

                    i] Martha believed that Jesus could ask and receive
                       anything from the Father (JOH 11:22).

                   ii] she understood the facts of the resurrection of the
                       saints on the last day (JOH 11:24).

                 b] Mary believed that Jesus could have saved Lazarus from
                    death (JOH 11:32).

              2) they had an incomplete faith

                 a] Martha did not understand who Jesus really was

                    i] she did not understand that Jesus was her superior
                       because she spoke to Him in the Greek as an equal or
                       inferior, somewhat demanding of His intervention (JOH

                   ii] she did not understand His power over death and
                       resurrection- that He was not merely some tool of the
                       Father to effect miraculous works, but that He was
                       truly God and could truly intervene at will in the

                 b] Mary came to Jesus in her grief seeking comfort, not
                    really believing that Jesus could do anything for
                    Lazarus after the fact of his death (JOH 11:33,34)..

        3. They learned from Jesus

           a) He taught them

              1) He preached the Gospel to them

                 LUK 4:43  But he said, "I must preach the good news of the
                 kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why
                 I was sent."

                 MAR 1:14,15  "After John was put in prison, Jesus went into
                 Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 'The time has
                 come,' he said. 'The kingdom of God is near. Repent and
                 believe the good news!'"


                 a] the call for a new birth of spiritual regeneration (JOH

                    JOH 3:7  You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You
                    must be born again.'

                 b] the call to true worship (JOH 4:23,24).

                    JOH 4:23  Yet a time is coming and has now come when the
                    true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and
                    truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father

                    JOH 4:24  God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship
                    in spirit and in truth."

                 c] that God receives repentant sinners, not the
                    self-righteous (MAT 9:9-13; LUK 19:10).

                    LUK 19:10  For the Son of Man came to seek and to save
                    what was lost."

                 d] that only God can give spiritual sight (JOH 9:37-41).

                 e] that a disciple must "count the cost" of faith and be
                    willing to forsake all to follow Jesus (MAT 19:

                 f] that a hardened heart will be condemned (JOH 13:10,11).

                 g] that one must take Jesus' yoke upon himself (MAT 11:29).

                    i] Jesus commanded all to "come to Him" (MAT 11:28).

                   ii] Jesus had all authority  (MAT 28:18).

                  iii] submission was required (MAT 11:29).

                   iv] obedience would be "light" (MAT 11:30).

                 h] that judgment was certain  (MAT 7:21-23).

                 i] that Jesus is Savior and Lord (JOH 20:28).

                    *This outline comes from "The Gospel According to
                    Jesus", by John F. MacArthur, Academie Books, Grand
                    Rapids Michigan, 1988.

              2) He taught them elementary truths (HEB 6:1,2).

                 HEB 6:1,2  "Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings
                 about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the
                 foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and
                 of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on
                 of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal

                 a] repentance from acts that lead to death

                 b] faith in God

                 c] instruction about baptisms

                 d] the laying on of hands

                 e] the resurrection of the dead

                 f] eternal judgment

              3) He taught them whenever He was with them

                 a] at Martha's house

                    LUK 10:39  She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the
                    Lord's feet listening to what he said.

                 b] when  Lazarus died (JOH 11:20-44).

                 c] at Simon the Lepers' house (MAT 26:11-13; MAR 14:6-9;
                    JOH 12:7,8).

           b) He Made Them Grow Out Of Love (JOH 11:5)

              1) Jesus devised a learning situation (JOH 11:15).

                 a] He knew that Lazarus would die

                    i] He remained where He was for 2 days after He was
                       summoned (JOH 11:6).

                   ii] He told the disciples that Lazarus had died and that
                       He would raise him (JOH 11:11).

                 b] He knew that Martha, Mary, and the disciples needed to
                    grow (JOH 11:15)

                    i] in their understanding of His power

                   ii] in their understanding of their safety (JOH 11:9)

                 c] He knew many would come to know the truth about Him
                    through this (JOH 11:45).

              2) Jesus Fulfilled His Plan

                 a] Jesus instructed Martha

                    i] He met Martha in seclusion where He could teach her
                       (JOH 11:20,30).

                   ii] He expanded her faith through clarification:

                        -- He taught:

                          I. He promised that Lazarus would live again in a
                             veiled way to provoke discussion:

                             JOH 11:23  Jesus said to her, "Your brother
                             will rise again."

                         II. He explained that He was truly the hope of
                             resurrection in bodily form having all life in

                             JOH 11:25,26  "Jesus said to her, 'I am the
                             resurrection and the life. He who believes in
                             me will live, even though he dies; and whoever
                             lives and believes in me will never die. Do you
                             believe this?'"

                        -- She understood:

                          JOH 11:27  "Yes, Lord," she told him, "I believe
                          that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was
                          to come into the world."

                 b] He empathized with them (JOH 11:31-35).

                    i] He was moved, literally "indignant" at the pain of
                       their loss (JOH 11:33).

                   ii] He wept, literally "sobbed" with them in deepest
                       sympathy (JOH 11:35).

                  iii] He was filled with indignation again at the tomb (JOH

                 c] Jesus demonstrated His power

                    i] He went to the tomb

                        -- the tomb was a cave cut into the rock face sealed
                          with a heavy stone against its opening

                        -- Lazarus had been placed in the tomb after his body
                          had been prepared for burial:

                          I. his body was wrapped in linen strips with
                             spices in layers (see JOH 19:40,41).

                         II. his head was enclosed with a "sweatcloth", a
                             separate wrapper (see JOH 20:7) .

                        -- Lazarus had been in the tomb 4 days (JOH 11:17,39)
                          and putrefaction had advanced to the point where
                          his body stank from decay  (JOH 11:39; and
                          scientists tell us his features would have been

                   ii] He brought Lazarus back to life

                        -- He prayed to the Father and thanked Him in advance
                          for answered prayer (JOH 11:41)

                        -- He commanded Lazarus to "come out" (JOH 11:43).

                        -- Lazarus came forth in response to his summons (JOH

                 d] Faith was increased (JOH 11:45).

                    JOH 11:45  "Therefore many of the Jews who had come to
                    visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith
                    in him."


        1. When we try to use our spiritual gifts we must be certain that
           God is leading us and that we do it His way, not ours.

        2. We must always keep a balance in our lives of service and
           adoration- we cannot truly serve God unless we are walking in
           fellowship with Him.

        3. We must be careful to submit to God's will for us and not try to
           "order Him around" in our ignorance.

        4. God's will for us is that we grow spiritually and He will bring
           learning opportunities into our lives to accomplish that end.

 III. What fruits of the Spirit do we see in them?

  IV. Memory Verse:  1JO 3:18  "Dear children, let us not love with words or
     tongue but with actions and in truth."

Added to Bible Bulletin Board's "Kathy Capoccia's Sunday School Lessons for Young Adults" by:

Tony Capoccia
Bible Bulletin Board
Box 119
Columbus, New Jersey, USA, 08022
Websites: www.biblebb.com and www.gospelgems.com
Email: tony@biblebb.com
Online since 1986