Biblical People

Biblical People: Martha

Martha is the sister of Mary and Lazarus, whom Jesus raises from the dead. Though Jesus loves all people, the Bible specifically mentions that he loves Martha and her two siblings.

In reading what Luke and John write about Martha, we can draw several conclusions: She owns her own home. She likes to entertain and has the gift of hospitality. Her love language is acts of service. And she may be older than her brother and sister. 

Scripture shares two stories about Martha. In one, she offers the most profound, faith-filled testimony about Jesus: “I believe you’re the Messiah, the Son of God, who has come into the world.”

Her boldness and confidence are inspiring. She declares this shortly before Jesus faces his execution. Unfortunately, this is not what we best remember Martha for.

The other story happens earlier in her life. She invites Jesus and his friends over for a meal. Amid her busy preparations, she complains to Jesus that her sister, Mary, isn’t helping to get the food ready. Instead, Mary is hanging out with Jesus.

In Jesus’s surprising response, he affirms Mary as doing the best thing she can do and tells Martha she needs to calm down. This perplexes me because if Martha followed her sister’s example, no one would have anything to eat.

Another consideration, however, is Martha’s misguided assumption that Mary should go along with her plans to feed Jesus. It is Martha’s choice to invite Jesus over.

Mary doesn’t make that offer and has no obligation to help. Both sisters show their commitment to Jesus. They just do it differently.

How often do we expect others to automatically go along with our grand ideas or commitments? Do we get mad when they don’t help us as we think they should?

[Discover more about Martha in Luke 10:38–42, John 11:5–44, and John 12:2–7.]

Learn about other biblical women in Women of the Bible, available in audiobook, e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 1,000-page website to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and many books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.

By Peter DeHaan

Peter writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and make a faith that matters. Learn more at