During the last several years of Jesus’ life on this earth, he had some friends whose home he loved to visit.
Two sisters and a brother by the names of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. They lived in Bethany, a village about two miles from Jerusalem, situated on the south-eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, another place Jesus frequented.
Most Christians and many who are not are well-familiar with this family trio. At least by name and life label, some of them not so admirable: Martha, busy and distracted; Mary, the lazy but loving one; and Lazarus, ill at best and dead at worst. (Read their stories in Luke 10:38-42 and John 11:1-44)
However, the activity of their lives demonstrates spiritual development the Lord looks for and loves to see operating in increasing measure in each of His children. Their lives show us:
- a three-fold working of the Holy Spirit within the hearts and lives of believers, and
- the varied ‘proper functioning of each particular part in the growing of the body for its building up in love’ as described in Ephesians 4:16*
Separately, they portray three different areas of our life experience. Together, they bring balance to our spiritual life.
When it comes to our spiritual development, the three lives in this family unit show us three aspects of how to grow a life that the Lord loves to visit and dwell within. Wherever there is a heart that has become His home, these three will be in attendance. Our spiritual development is aided to the degree they each function.
Martha, the servant – In every life that welcomes the Lord Jesus, Martha the servant is often most visible. The hospitable, hard-working, do unto and for others, serving where needed soul of the trio takes seriously Jesus’ words about serving others, having a servant heart and being a servant leader. Were Martha hearts to stop serving, the world might dangerously tilt off its axis, for lives and well-being would be at greater than usual risk.
Opportunities for serving are found anywhere and everywhere. Needs to be met abound 24/7. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Not just money, but giving of one’s time, energy, effort and heart, too.
Martha represents some aspect of ministry or witness (serving) to which we each are called.
Mary, the worshiper – Equally but different, we are called to a life of devotion and prayer; being a worshiper, content to spend time waiting in the presence of the Lord and communing with Him. Activity takes a back seat, for to steal away for companion time with Him is precious. It is here we come to know and hear His heart.
Mary the worshiper has a poise of heart and soul that soaks in and seeks out some way to express her love, relating her to Martha. Though it may look as though Mary the worshiper is avoiding her ‘spiritual duty’, as she fulfills her family ‘spiritual role’ by staying near to the heart of the Lord, Mary the worshiper and countless others will be blessed.
A heart that sits at His feet in adoration as did Mary of Bethany eventually must find outflow. What form the gospel message takes is as diverse and unique as each worshiper whose heart beats in rhythm with His.
Lazarus, the dying – Lazarus represents the dying to self to which every true believer in Christ will submit. It is possibly the most grievous and misunderstood of these three spiritual roles in this family of the heart. No one easily embraces the process of crucifixion and dying (taking up our cross daily) that our Adamic nature must undergo in order that we might come into resurrection life. Whereas Mary and Martha represent spiritual development, Lazarus’ part is essential to our spiritual development through a process of reduction (death) to the old ways of thinking and doing that we might be called forth and experience Christ’s resurrected life in us.
The servant and the worshiper are affected in the natural while Lazarus lay dying. Note that these three are related; there is no separating them in this family of the heart. Have you ever found yourself faced with the inevitable death to self that does not want to give up but is losing the battle to a greater grace? The agonizing and sometimes slow death process obscures the greater grace, but that is when faith steps up and takes hold. Such faith the Lord will not deny.
The servant and the worshiper in us cries and calls for the Lord to come quickly as our beloved brother is dying. We will even remind Him that He loves Lazarus, so surely He will make haste! Yet, He loves all three of these. What He knows He will do is more thorough than a grieving servant or worshiper thinks to demand or request. (John 11:5-6)
His lingering delay ensures that our Lazarus is really dead, not just mostly dead. It stinks, but the smell of death is sweet incense to Him. Then He reminds us, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (John 11:40)
Out of death comes resurrection life to all three whom He loves: the servant, the worshiper and the dying.
Within each believer’s heart, these three are present. While we often gravitate to our ‘favorite’ – the one with which we most identify – to place emphasis on one part to the neglect of the others may cause loss. Each furnishes its needed supply.
The Lord loves and has need of each member of this heart trio, living cooperatively with Him in an ongoing weaving of servant, worshiper and death to self into resurrection life and that more abundantly, to which there is no end.
This is the home He loves to visit and by our welcoming invitation to stay, comes to dwell and abide. (Revelation 3:20)
“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business.
Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father
I have made known to you.”
Jesus in John 15:15 NIV84
If you wish to explore further your own spiritual development, our door to His friendship is open here.
*It is understood that the Ephesians passage refers to the whole body of Christ. There is also application to be made to each individual body (person) that makes up His body at large. Personal application is key to the prospering and building up of the whole body that we may grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. Believers are not independent of one another, nor are they independent of the One who invites us to abide with Him.
Photo Credit: Three Silhouettes on the Beach at Sunset – Atlantic City, NJ via photopin (license)