There is a fascinating story of the friendship between Jesus, Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus found in Luke 10 and John 11.

In Luke, Jesus and his disciples are invited to the home of Martha and Mary. Martha gets distracted preparing for her guests. Mary on the other hand is sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to him. Martha gets upset that her sister is not helping her. She chides Jesus, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” Jesus responds, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her.”

In a profoundly counter-cultural way, Jesus honours Mary’s desire to sit and listen to him – a picture of devotion and discipleship. It would not be fair to discredit Martha, because she wanted to serve Jesus.  But service to Jesus, noble though it might seem, is not better if it causes you to be distracted, worried and upset. This kind of service is not being done in the Spirit and therefore is of little value.

Being attentive to Jesus, whether in contemplation or in active service, is the better way.

Fast forward to John: Lazarus their brother has died. Jesus, knowing that it was the Father’s will that Lazarus be raised from the dead arrives in their village. Martha comes out to see him first and says, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” What follows is a brief but loaded theological discourse about the importance of believing, the resurrection at the Last Day and Jesus being the Resurrection and the Life. Powerful stuff!

Martha returns to her home to tell Mary that Jesus has arrived. Mary hurries out to meet Jesus and the first thing she says is exactly what Martha had said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” The response this time is not a theological discourse. He is moved to action by Mary’s tears. He raises Lazarus from the grave!

This is the same Mary who subsequently anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume and wiped them with her hair (John 12:1-3). What a lavish expression of devotion! This act of extravagant worship, Jesus said, would be recounted wherever the gospel is preached!

What’s the take-away?

There is nothing that moves God into action on our behalf more than faith that is expressed in extravagant devotion!

  • Mary got her brother back from the dead – and not another theologically sound message.
  • John the Beloved received The Revelation – the unfolding of humanity’s future.
  • King David has an EVERLASTING throne – because he wanted to lavish devotion on God by building His temple.

God is a radical lover. He responds to prodigal affection. You can’t out-give God. You can’t out-love God. Let’s be lovesick for Jesus!