A Jewess, the sister of Lazarus and Mary of Bethany. (Joh 11:1, 2) Evidently Christ often visited their home when he was in the vicinity of Jerusalem. Bonds of affection existed between him and these three, for it is specifically said: “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.”
Luke reports that when Jesus entered “a certain village,” “a certain woman named Martha received him as guest into the house.” (Lu 10:38) On the basis of Matthew 26:6, Mark 14:3, and John 12:1-3, the thought has been advanced that Martha was the wife, or the widow, or even the daughter of Simon the leper. However, the Scriptures do not make any specific statements in support of these views.
On one occasion when Jesus visited the home of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha, Mary “sat down at the feet of the Lord and kept listening to his word,” whereas Martha “was distracted with attending to many duties.” Martha tried to obtain Mary’s assistance, saying: “Lord, does it not matter to you that my sister has left me alone to attend to things? Tell her, therefore, to join in helping me.” Obviously Martha was concerned about satisfying Jesus’ material needs. But Christ then emphasized the excelling value of spiritual things and gave her kind reproof, saying: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and disturbed about many things. A few things, though, are needed, or just one. For her part, Mary chose the good portion, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Lu 10:38-42) Christ would have been satisfied with one item of food if his doing so would mean that Martha, too, would gain greater advantage from his teaching.
While it may seem that Martha was overly concerned with material things, it should not be concluded that she lacked interest in spiritual matters. After the death of Lazarus, it was Martha who went to meet Jesus as he journeyed to Bethany, while Mary, at first, sat at home (possibly because of grief or because of the many visiting friends). Martha showed faith in Christ when she said that Lazarus would not have died if Jesus had been present. She also acknowledged: “I know he will rise in the resurrection on the last day,” showing she believed in the resurrection. During that conversation Jesus explained that he is “the resurrection and the life,” pointing out that though one exercising faith in him died, he would come to life. When Christ asked Martha, “Do you believe this?” she clearly showed her faith by replying: “Yes, Lord; I have believed that you are the Christ the Son of God, the One coming into the world.” (Joh 11:19-27) This, of course, does not rule out the possibility of her having some doubts as to what Jesus could or would now do in the case of her dead brother. (Compare the apostles’ attitude related at Lu 24:5-11.) At Lazarus’ tomb, when Christ ordered that the stone be taken away, Martha said: “Lord, by now he must smell, for it is four days.” But in response Jesus asked: “Did I not tell you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” That she witnessed when her brother was resurrected.
After the resurrection of Lazarus, Christ departed. Later, he returned to Bethany and gathered with others, including Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, in the home of Simon the leper. An evening meal had been prepared and again “Martha was ministering.” Lazarus was at the table, and it was on that occasion that Mary anointed Jesus with costly perfumed oil. (Joh 12:1-8; Mt 26:6-13; Mr 14:3-9) The Scriptures are silent regarding subsequent events in Martha’s life and the time and circumstances of her death.