When Duty Becomes Love

I wonder what happened to Martha’s ministry after she saw Lazarus raised from the dead.

How did her ministry change as she walked away from that tomb of death with her brother?

Martha’s Ministry After Lazarus’ Death

John 11 – 12

I wonder what happened to Martha’s ministry after she saw Lazarus raised from the dead. 

How did her ministry change as she walked away from that tomb of death with her brother?


Martha was known for her hospitality. Her home was an anchor for Jesus and His disciples.

Jesus frequently stayed at her house as He traveled in and out of nearby Jerusalem.

Her home was a haven from the weariness of the dusty roads that threaded the countryside.

How many times did Jesus wash His feet there? How many times did a warm meal fill His empty stomach? How many times did He lay His head down to rest there?

I wonder what the pillows would say if they could talk. I wonder what the dogs under the table would repeat if only we could understand their barkings.

Martha’s gift

Martha had a gift. She loved to cook and to serve. She opened her home not only to Jesus but to His followers also.

I wonder if she looked forward in anticipation of Jesus’s next return from His wanderings about Galilee. Did she realize how important her ministry was to Him during His 3 ½ years of evangelization?

So, what happened that dreadful day that her brother died? Did she lose all hope and sink in despair? Did her faith in Christ falter?

Her thoughts must have troubled her. Where was He? Where was the Christ that she so loved? Where was the Christ that so loved her brother?

Lazarus was dead. That was a fact. She had to face it. Jesus did not come.

But Christ knew. The messengers told Him Lazarus was sick, but they had returned without Him.

Her heart sank as she looked desperately down the long road that she had seen Jesus travel so many times before, but He was not there.

Today she and Mary would prepare Lazarus for the grave. His body would be thoroughly cleaned. Spices would be placed upon his body to temporarily preserve and prevent the soon-coming stench of death.  His body would be wound tightly in linens. Then would begin the procession to the burial site where his body would be placed among the skeletal remains of other loved ones gone on before.


Today was now yesterday. Lazarus was buried. What was in Martha’s thoughts as she looked down the road and saw no Jesus? Oh, how her heart must have yearned to talk to Him. If only He would have come, her brother had not died.


But he did die. Three days have passed. Now it is the fourth day. There is no hope.

The mourners are beginning to leave.

Family members are packing their bags in hopes of returning to their homes safely. There is nothing left for them to do but finish the day with Martha and start their trip early in the morning.

It’s been four days. Even the superstitious believe that Lazarus’s spirit has left his body to never return.

Martha’s lack of understanding

Four days of preparing meals and preparing beds and serving drinks. Martha’s body must have cried out for relief. Yet she’s sitting with her guests when a messenger arrives.

Jesus has returned! Yes, He’s on His way!

But as Martha looked out the window she did not see Jesus. He was not there; but, she would go to Him. Yes, she would go to where He was.

“Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house.

Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.”

Martha regretted that Jesus had not been there. Maybe she thought that she should have sent for Him sooner. Maybe she thought that she and Lazarus were not as important as some others in His life. The ‘maybe’s’ occupied her thought life. The ‘maybe’s’ clouded her ability to hear Jesus’s words as He spoke to her:

“Thy brother shall rise again.”

Martha acknowledged that she knew that Lazarus would rise again at the last day. But her ‘maybe’s’ kept her from hearing the most precious words she could hear on that fateful day:

“I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.”

If only she could have placed Lazarus’s name in that verse at that tearful moment. Jesus was telling her that He is the resurrection, that He is the life. He (Lazarus) that believes in me (Jesus), though Lazarus is dead, yet shall Lazarus live!

Though Martha acknowledged that Jesus is the Christ, she did not understand His resurrection power. Without fully understanding Jesus’ words to her, she left to find her sister Mary and tell her of His return.

The conversation that passed between Martha and Mary, as Martha led Mary to where Jesus was waiting, must have been filled with a mixture of emotions. Painful because Lazarus is dead, yet joyful because Jesus is near. A chorus of loud wailing followed them as they made their way to where Jesus was waiting.

Jesus’ painful request

Upon seeing Jesus His request to them was the simple response, “Where have ye laid him?”

As Martha and Mary led Jesus to the tomb, they felt Jesus’ pain over the death of Lazarus. As they heard Jesus weeping, it must have comforted them.

Yes, He did love Lazarus. Maybe His tears helped to heal their hurting hearts. Even those that followed behind acknowledged how Jesus must have loved Lazarus.

Then came the shocking words:

“Jesus said, Take ye away the stone.”

Take away the stone? How could Jesus want to see Lazarus’ body now?

“Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.”

How could Martha see Lazarus again in his present state? She could not fathom how she would feel seeing him after being dead four days. She did not wish to see his swollen body, nor smell the stench nor see the maggots at work consuming his flesh.

Lord, he stinketh. He’s been dead four days. You don’t want to see him now. Why did you not come sooner? You could have seen him then. Not now, Lord.

“Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?”

Oh, if only she had heard and understood His precious words.

Suddenly, a booming voice was heard.

“Lazarus, come forth.”

Could it be? Could Jesus really raise Lazarus back from the dead? Is He truly the resurrection and the life?

Martha’s mind must have been racing. If I will “believe”; yes, Lord, I will believe.

“And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin.  Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.”

A change of ministry

Martha walked home with her brother that day. Later, (John 12:2) we find Martha serving Jesus at her table.

Her table was where she ministered to Jesus. He and His disciples were always welcome at her table.

Martha was a servant. Her gift of hospitality became a gift of love.

No longer did she serve out of duty. Her life was changed when she realized Who it was that she was serving.

No matter who was in her home, she was now serving the Resurrection and the Life.  She was serving Jesus. She was not just serving in love but she was serving love.

Copyright ©2017 by Peggy Clark

Above Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, King James Version.

Peggy Clark is also the author of So, What's the Latest News? Messages from a Prisoner in Rome. This title is available from Westbow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson & Zondervan.