What is the Story of Saints Martha, Mary, and Lazarus?

What is the Story of Saints Martha, Mary, and Lazarus?

Written by Shasta Leininger, a Catholic wife, full-time working mom, and friend of Stella & Tide

Pope Francis decreed that July 29 be designated in the General Roman Calendar as the Memorial of Saints Martha, Mary and Lazarus, who were very close friends of Jesus—friends who He visited at their home and shared meals with. The depth of their friendship and love can be felt when reading stories of their time spent together in all four Gospels, and their relationship with the Lord can help us along our own path in growing closer to Him.

Martha & Mary

One account of Jesus’ time with Martha and Mary can be found in Luke when He is welcomed into Martha’s home (Luke 10:38-42). It tells the story of Martha’s sister, Mary, sitting at the Lord’s feet listening to Him speak. Distracted by the many preparations of serving, she came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me”. The Lord answered, “Mary has chosen the better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

How many of us can relate to this? I often find myself filling my time with busyness instead of taking time to sit at the Lord’s feet and rest in his gaze. Though there is certainly a time and place to serve, building a deeper relationship with Jesus through prayer and contemplation should always be at the top of our list. Let’s strive to imitate the actions of Mary and “choose the better” by dedicating a portion of each day (even if it’s only a few minutes) to Christ.

The Death of Lazarus

Another story found in the Gospel of John is the death of Lazarus (John 11:1-44). At the time of Lazarus’ death, his sisters Mary and Martha called upon their friend Jesus for help. They sent word to Jesus, “Lord the one you love is sick.” Jesus received the message and replied, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” With full knowledge and intentionality, Jesus spent two more days with the apostles before he returned to Bethany to be with them.

Upon Jesus’ arrival in the village, He found that Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. When Martha heard that Jesus had arrived, she ran out to meet him saying, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you” (v. 21-22).

After Jesus tells her that her brother will rise, Martha replies, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day” (v. 24). Jesus replies, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (v. 25-26). In response, Martha says, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world” (v. 27). She then goes to call Mary, who was in great despair and sorrow; so much so that she did not greet Jesus upon His arrival. When Mary saw Jesus she also said to him, “Lord, if you have been here, my brother would not have died” (v. 32).

This moment in the story is a great opportunity to reflect on how we respond to Christ in the midst of great sorrow. Do we respond like Martha and run out to meet Jesus to be consoled, or do we respond like Mary and wait for Jesus to call us out of our agony? No matter what we’re going through, the Lord will always meet us where we are in our sorrow. He will give us hope and console us just as he consoled Martha and Mary in different ways. It will be up to us to turn to Jesus and let Him into our hearts.

The Rising of Lazarus

As we continue on in Chapter 11 of the Gospel of John, we hear that Jesus’ spirit was deeply troubled and moved by Mary’s sorrow, even to the point of weeping. Upon asking where Lazarus is laid, Jesus was led to the tomb where He ordered for the stone to be taken away.

Martha cautioned that there would be an odor since he had now been dead for four days, but Jesus replied, “‘Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?’” (v. 40). Once the stone was removed, Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out” (v. 42). And then Lazarus, the dear friend of Jesus, emerged from the tomb with “his hands and feet bound with bandages, and his face wrapped with a cloth”—alive and well (v. 44).

The story of Lazarus rising from the dead reminds us there is truly no limit to God’s grace. When speaking to Martha and Mary, Christ asks for faith in Him. He asks the same of us when we find ourselves facing seemingly impossible circumstances. The same God who raised Lazarus to life can raise us out of any heartache, trouble, or despair—we simply have to believe in Him. Jesus has conquered death and will always be there in His own time to restore our peace.

As we reflect on Jesus’ close friendship and the time He spent with Saints Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, let us pray:

Lord, may we be reminded that Jesus is always near to call upon us in times of despair. May we always be fully present to those around us and take the time to be thankful for everyone that You have placed in our path. Give us the patience to endure hardships and the faith to know that our peace and happiness will be restored in Your own timing. Thank you for Saints Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. Their friendship with Jesus is an example of love and obedience. May we cherish our relationships and seek You in all that we do. Amen.

St. Martha, St. Mary, and St. Lazarus are available as charm selections for our Custom Saint Necklace, Custom Saint Bracelet, and Floral Cross & Saint Necklace

1 comment

  • Melanie Mire

    Shasta- thank you this beautiful reflection on how Jesus will meet us where we are; we need only to turn our eyes to him.
    Stella & Tide replied:
    Thank you so much for your comment, Melanie—we’re glad you enjoyed the post. God bless!

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