In his gospel, John wrote, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” (John 11:5) Martha, her sister Mary and Lazarus were siblings. They did not belong to the same family as Jesus. Nor were they known specifically as Jesus’ disciples. But, Jesus loved them. They were Jesus’ friend. Jesus often visited their house and stayed with them.
Only a few encounters Jesus had with Mary, Martha and Lazarus were recorded in the Holy Scripture. Two of these encounters are Jesus’ visit to their house (Luke 10:38-42) and the raising of Lazarus from death (John 11:1-44). Mary, Martha and Lazarus are three different individuals of the same family. Each one describes one aspect of ministry. Mary represents worship, Martha represents service and Lazarus represents glory. These three aspects of ministry must be in the right order. Ministry begins at Jesus’ feet, it begins with worship; followed by washing people’s feet, serving them and the result should be the transformation in their lives from death to life and freedom.
1. Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet to hear His word (Luke 10:39)
The beginning of ministry is not washing the feet of the people but sitting at the feet of Jesus. The beginning of ministry is not humbling ourselves before people but before Jesus. The ministry does not start with speaking to people but with hearing from Jesus. If we do not humble ourselves and sit at Jesus’ feet and hear His word, it will be very difficult for us to humble ourselves before people, to wash their feet, serving them and we have no words from God to speak to them.
The problem with many of us is we often come to Jesus just to speak to Him. We may sing to Him but we do not really worship. We just want talk in prayer, but never listen. If we worship Jesus, His presence will bring us to quietness so that we can hear from Him. Then when we speak to Jesus it is more as a response than as a request.
When we often sit at Jesus’ feet and hear His word, we will get to know Him. Because Mary often sat at Jesus’ feet, she got to know Him. When Jesus was about to die, she kind of knew that. So, she came to Him, taking with her a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, then anointed His feet and wiped His feet with her hair (John 12:3). Jesus said she did it for the day of His burial (John 12:7).
2. Martha serving people at the table (John 12:2)
Ministry is not only sitting at Jesus’ feet but washing the people’s feet as well. Ministry is not only worshiping God but serving people as well. To wash the people’s feet we must humble ourselves before them and bear with their conditions. In serving people, we must attend to their needs. Like Martha, we must be diligent and fervent in spirit in doing so (Rom 12:11). Nevertheless, if we do not spend enough time at Jesus’ feet in worship to hear His word, we will be troubled and worry about many things like Martha when we serve people. We will easily be distracted and discouraged. Then we will not be effective in serving.
3. Lazarus raised from death and set free (John 11:44)
Ministry is not serving people and meeting their needs by any means but by the glory of God only. Why? Because any other means has no power to bring people from death to life and set them free. Only the glory of God can do that. But the glory of God will not manifest if there is no worship. After their brother Lazarus died of sickness both Martha and Mary came to Jesus, saying the same thing, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:21 32) Martha most likely was standing on her feet and feeling angry when she said that, but Mary was falling down at Jesus’ feet in worship and weeping when she said that. The glory of God did not manifest after Martha came to Jesus. It manifested only after Mary came to Jesus. This glory of God raised Lazarus from death.
With Jesus every helpless and hopeless situation is an opportunity for the glory of God. When Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4) But for that glory to be manifested, faith must be present. Jesus said, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:40) And faith will be imparted to us as the spirit when we worship God.