Martha and Mary
The Bethany Sisters
Not Martha versus Mary, but Martha and Mary. They were very unlike, but each was a complement of the other and both were the friends of Jesus and helped to make the home in Bethany a restful place to which he could overcome from the murderous plottings [sic] of the priests and Pharisees.
Martha was probably the elder of the two, a vigorous, matronly, bustling housewife, over-careful about a multitude of unimportant details of the household. She was no doubt proud of her perfectly ordered home, but she had by degrees become the slave of her ambition to have the best kept house in Bethany.
Mary, on the other hand, was of a contemplative mind and had a more of a hungering for spiritual things. When Christ came to their home she took the opportunity, not to entertain him, but to learn of him. “For the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister,” and he was best pleased when people received from him. He commended Mary and told Martha that she was unnecessarily burdening herself with over-carefulness and much serving. Her zeal was honored in its turn, however, and she shared equally in the Lord’s affection.
We again see the sisters when bereavement has come. Their brother Lazarus, the loved friend of Jesus, is dead. They send word to Jesus. He comes to Bethany. Martha is first to meet him and hear the wonderful word of comfort, “I am the Resurrection and the Live.” Their brother is restored to them, the broken circle is made whole.
Shortly before the death of Christ we see Him again in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, where a banquet is given in his honor. Martha serves the table, lovingly ministering to the physical comfort of the guests. Mary brings an alabaster box of ointment an anoints the head and feet of Jesus in a manner fit for royalty. Thus the two sisters, each in their own way, show their devotion to Christ.
Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World. Designed and Arranged by William C. King. Published in 1900 by The King-Richardson Co. Copyright 1903 The King-Richardson Co.