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Who were Martha, Mary, and Lazarus of Bethany?

Updated: Oct 26

Imagine what it would it be like to know the famous family from Bethany: Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. Yesterday, July 29th, was their feast day, so it's a great time to look at this blessed biblical family.

We know that Martha was considered a busybody and Mary was considered the contemplative one. But I think that is a very 2-dimensional way of looking at these sisters. Martha wasn't just active and Mary was not always sitting at the feet of Jesus. These were real, well-rounded women who made mistakes and sinned, but also were gifted and had a close relationship with Jesus.

Martha fell into irritation and distraction with serving. But she was also faithful and generous for hosting Jesus in her home. She seems to have been a very bright and intelligent woman to me. After Lazarus died, Martha was the first sister to get up and greet Jesus when He arrived in Bethany. She declared at that scene, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, He who is coming into the world” (John 11:27).

Mary had quite the relationship with Jesus, but I wonder what she was like when Jesus was not around. Did she hum to herself as she worked? Did she ever study the Scriptures? Was she sometimes too passive? I think she may have been intense and emotional as she was the one who dramatically took nard and anointed the feet of Jesus (John 12:3).

Then, what was Lazarus like? Was he strong? Average looking? Tall or short? Was he a friendly guy? Shy? Ambitious? He is famous for one thing: Jesus raising him to life. What was his life before dying in comparison to what his life was like after he was raised to life? Was he a people-person, eager to witness to God’s work in him? Was he modest or proud? We know he was very close to Jesus as Jesus wept at his tomb (John 11:35).

Looking at the whole family of Bethany, did they have any unmentioned siblings? Did they ever marry? Who were their parents and were they involved is some sort of trade or family business? Were they rich or poor?

These are a lot of open-ended questions. Meditate on them with imagination and reason. Learn my take on the Bethany family in my novel, Through Esther’s Eyes.

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