Mary and Martha are the sisters of Lazarus. The three were close personal friends of Jesus Christ, who loved them. The sisters were very different, as was shown when Jesus came to visit. Martha worked very hard, trying to prepare and serve a nice meal for the Savior’s visit, but Mary stopped work to sit at the Savior’s feet and learn from Him. Martha was naturally unhappy about this and asked the Savior to intervene. The Savior recognized her diligence but gently helped her identify proper priorities:
41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her (Luke 10:38).
Lazarus became ill and the sisters sent for Him, knowing He had the ability to heal their brother. However, Jesus did not arrive for several days, knowing there was a greater plan in place for Lazarus. His illness would help people to gain a testimony of Jesus Christ. By the time He arrived, Lazarus had been dead for four days. Upon learning that Jesus was approaching the city, Martha hurried off to meet Him. She told Him that if He had been there, her brother would not have died, but that she knew God would do whatever Jesus asked of Him. Jesus reminded her that He was the resurrection and promised that her brother would rise from the dead. However, she misunderstood and thought he was referring to the final resurrection. He told her He was the resurrection and that the dead would live again. He asked her if she believed this, and she said she did.
She then returned home and told her sister that Jesus wanted to speak with Mary. Mary went outside the city boundaries to meet Jesus as He approached and, falling to her knees, also said that if Jesus had been there, Lazarus would not have died. Jesus saw her tears and was troubled.
Jesus asked to be taken to Lazarus. At the tomb, He wept. He then proceeded to call on Lazarus to rise from the dead, which Lazarus did. The story of this miracle spread quickly. At a supper six days before Passover, Lazarus and his sisters were in attendance with Jesus and the apostles. Many people came to the dinner just to see Lazarus themselves, having heard of the miracle.
At the dinner, which was held in the home of Simon the leper, Martha, true to form, served the meal. Her sister Mary, also true to form, anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive ointment of spikenard. She wiped his feet with her hair. Judas Iscariot complained that she should have given the money she spent on the ointments to the poor instead, although John noted that Judas was not at all concerned about the poor in reality.
Jesus told Judas to leave her alone and that what she had done was a foreshadowing of His death and burial. He said that they would always have poor people to take care of, but that He, Jesus, would not always be on earth with them. He asked that this story be told wherever the gospel was preached as a memorial to her.
*This article was adapted from the LDS Bible Dictionary and Every Person in the New Testament by Lynn F. Price (Horizon Publishers, , 25-26).