“When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet Him, but Mary stayed home.” (John 11:20)
If you read this verse in context you will find it is where Mary and Martha’s brother, Lazarus, has died. They had sent word to Jesus days earlier that he was gravely ill, and to come, it was urgent! Yet, Jesus chose to wait. He said that it was for “God’s glory–that “God’s Son would be glorified through it.”
Of course we have the blessing of knowing how wonderfully the story ends, that Jesus is indeed glorified and that Lazarus is raised from the dead. (John 11:44) Prior to that, however, when Jesus does come, Lazarus has died and has been buried in a tomb. And when Martha hears that Jesus is coming before He has even reached their home, she runs to meet Him, but why does Mary stays at home?
This is the same Mary who while Jesus was at a dinner in Bethany, had honored Jesus by pouring expensive perfume on the Lord and wiped His feet with her hair. (John 11:2, Mark 14:3-9) So why would she not run to meet him now? Was her pain so great that it prevented her from focusing on her Lord?
Mary had also been the one who had sat at Jesus’ feet and listened as He taught when He had come to her and Martha’s house. When Martha had complained to Jesus when she was running around doing all the preparations, He had told her “Martha, Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
So why would she not run to Jesus to meet Him now?
The one she loved so much that she would “waste” such an expensive perfume on Him alone or quietly sitting at His feet to listen to Him teach while there was much work to be done in the home? I can’t say, for the Word doesn’t tell us. We can only speculate.
Although when I read it, it made me identify with Mary in respect that often when overwhelmed with illness, sadness, grief, pain, I may not run to meet my Lord. When my focus is blurred by my tears and I can’t see Him clearly, or feel His touch. When He seems too far away and doesn’t get to me fast enough to solve the problem or restore the situation to what I think is best.
As you read on in the scripture it does say that when Martha reaches Jesus she tells Him, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” She knew, believed and had total trust in Him. She told Him,”I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (John 11:21, 11:27)
After she speaks with Jesus and He comforts her, she runs back to Mary and tells her “The Teacher is here and is asking for you.” (11:28-29) It is then that Mary runs to meet Jesus falling at His feet, proclaiming the same strong faith as her sister Martha, that if Jesus had been there Lazarus would not have perished.
As always, Jesus, being the loving, caring, compassionate Savior that He is, is “deeply moved” when Mary falls at his feet weeping. Then Jesus Himself weeps, (v. 35) showing not only Mary and Martha His love for them and Lazarus, but those there and for us saints who would read and follow after them.
Prayer: Lord, I pray as each of us walk in the paths that You have set before us, that You would help us when our focus is blurred, that You would forgive us when we don’t run to You first with our pain, both physical and spiritual. I thank You that You are such a compassionate Savior, who weeps when we weep and loves more than we could ever know. Be with us, Lord, each and every step of our day. Amen.
About the author
Diane Kalata lives in the central Florida area. She has three grown children and her wonderful husband offers much support. She enjoys leading a women bible study group as well as a chronic pain and illness support group. She also goes on mission trips in the summers, as God allows, enjoying the opportunity to minister to others in need.
Do you identify with Mary or Martha? What situation have you encountered recently that has allowed that? What has God showed you when walking though a time of pain that might be an encouragement to someone else?
Providence Quartet sins “Run to Jesus” in this video. A nice reminder of which way we need to head when we feel like running. -Lisa