Archive for the ‘Such Devoted Sisters’ Category

Never Stop Asking the Questions

September 11, 2017

While we were still reeling from the disturbingly open displays of racism in my beloved Charlottesville, hurricane season swept in like a vengeance with Harvey and Irma. Wildfires are ravaging exquisitely beautiful forests out West. Earthquakes rocked cities in Mexico.

Add to these massive catastrophes the countless recent individual experiences of serious illness, death, splintering relationships, etc.

One of these tragedies alone can make us wonder where God is and why isn’t he intervening in more obvious ways. I wouldn’t dare speculate on the “why?” questions here, but my thoughts certainly run in the same direction as Martha’s did when she encountered stress and loss. She had the advantage of pondering directly to Jesus, so we might be informed a bit by his responses.

Don’t You Care?

This is the question Martha asked Jesus on that familiar occasion in Luke 10, when she was worried, upset and left alone by her sister Mary. (Read More)

Jesus, Mary and Martha in John’s Gospel

March 5, 2016

flowerI’m spending a little more time in the Jesus-Mary-Martha stories on the blog this month, because I recently ran across an interesting article that interprets John 11 through a more literary lens.*

Considered from this perspective, we can see that John used both Martha and Mary in their own way to reveal something about the identity of Jesus. Rather than being set against each other, as in the Luke 10 story, John shows both of these women exemplifying faithful, albeit different, responses to Jesus that the gospel presents as models of discipleship.

This story fits well within the context of John’s gospel, whose major purpose is explicitly stated at the end:

“Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31)

As the narrative begins in John 11, Mary is immediately highlighted:

“This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.” (John 11:2)

This foreshadowing is unusual for John and may indicate that his readers were already familiar with the anointing story. They may have known her from Matthew 26:6-13 and Mark 14:1-9, where the woman went unnamed, yet Jesus stated, “Wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”  (Remember that John’s gospel was the written last.) Clearly, John wanted readers to know beforehand that they were reading about a familiar figure. (Read More)

What a Friend We Have…

November 22, 2015

Remember that old hymn, “What a Friend We Have Jesus?” The lyrics speak of him bearing our sins and griefs, knowing our weakness, being the one to whom we can take everything in prayer — our refuge and solace.

It’s a nice song, but a version written by  the siblings Mary, Martha and Lazarus would have taken a much different tenor. It would have spoken of Jesus as a friend in a more literal and personal kind of way, in the “favored companion” sense of the word. He was not only a superior who healed or saved or taught them. He had a mutual relationship with this family, whom he clearly liked and enjoyed being with.

Image Martha, Lazarus and Mary clipped from the movie, "The Gospel of John"

Image of Martha, Lazarus and Mary clipped from the movie, “The Gospel of John”

This friendship is unique in the Gospels. Jesus certainly spent a lot of time with his disciples, but Martha’s home is the only one that he returned to time and again (see Luke 10:38-42, John 11:1-47, 12:1-11).

Jesus even referred to Lazarus as “our friend” (John 11:11), although we never actually hear the voice of Lazarus in any of the narratives. Luke and John seem much more interested in Jesus’ friendship with the sisters. You see it even in this sequence (John 11:3-5):

“The sisters sent word to Jesus, ‘Lord, the one you love is sick.’”

John didn’t let it go at that. He added, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.”

He put these siblings are on a very short list of individuals named explicitly as being loved by Jesus (another of whom was John himself). John really wanted us to understand the nature of this relationship. (Read More)

Guest Post: Mary and Martha

December 17, 2011

Today, I would like to introduce you to guest blogger Zeke Lam. Zeke is the founder of SUBMISSION Ministries—a ministry devoted to seeing lost souls encounter God and live lives fully surrendered to the risen Christ. Zeke reminds us that the power of the stories about Jesus and women touches men’s lives too!

Scattered throughout the New Testament Gospel books are several interesting and powerful interactions between Jesus and women. In each case, an intriguing lesson is brought to light for the individual and very applicable to our present day. From the story of the widow and her two mites in Luke 21 to the lady touching the hem of Jesus’ garment in Luke 8, to the woman at the well in John 4, each case provides valuable truths.

While each are critical and essential depending on the season of life a person is currently facing, the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42 has offered significant help at various times in my life. Hosting Jesus was a privilege indeed. Mary sat at the feet and Jesus and worshipped while Martha was busy with much serving. This busyness became a distraction in her life from her chance to be at the feet of Jesus. (Read More)

One Woman’s Passion for Jesus

November 12, 2011

While my husband and I lived on the West Coast back in the 1990s, I met a sister at our church who soon became one of my closest friends. Her love for Jesus compelled her to minister to hurting women in ways I had never observed before. She possessed an incredible compassion for those who suffer from deep emotional pain, and she taught me about the path to God’s healing for broken hearts. She was never content to be superficial with people. She always wanted to serve in ways that mattered deeply to others.

In our church tradition, her manner of service was often considered unorthodox. She advocated for women whom others labeled odd, needy, weak, even immoral. She told good churchgoing folks facts they didn’t want to hear.

Fellow Christians knew nothing of her own pain-filled past nor of the soaring liberation from bondage she had experienced with God. They didn’t perceive people and issues the way she did, and they didn’t understand her emotional intensity. Therefore, they criticized her and marginalized her ministry. She never let them know, but every negative, suspicious comment wounded her deeply. (Read More)

An Outrageously Extravagant Gift for Jesus

September 14, 2011

Welcome to the first entry of The Gentle Savior blog!
About once a week I’ll be posting reflections and musings here about the interactions between Jesus and women described in the Gospels. I hope this blog will be a place where we can ask questions of each other and of scripture. I won’t pretend to know and understand everything about God or about difficult issues raised in the Bible. We’ll just be honest about our questions and try to help each other understand Jesus a little better.

Lynn Bell


While [Jesus] was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly. (Mark 14:3-5)

Why in the world would a woman do something like this?  What would compel you to take a year’s worth of earnings, buy a ridiculously expensive bottle of perfume, and then pour out its entire contents on one person?

To some of the men in the room, this act was an unfathomable mystery. All they could perceive was the frittering away of valuable resources by an irrational female. Anointing is one thing, but did she have to break the jar and use it all?

(Read More)