Grades 3-6 Sunday School Lesson
New Testament Women of Faith
Mary and Martha
Author’s Notes: This week we’ll continue our series on New Testament Women of Faith with two more women - sisters named Mary and Martha. They were close friends of Jesus. And there are several encounters between them recorded in the New Testament. Our primary focus in this lesson will be on one of the greatest tests of faith Mary and Martha had to face – the death of their brother, Lazarus. We’ll find that they struggled with many of the emotions anyone might go through in that situation. But we’ll also see that they didn’t turn their backs on Jesus, even though they felt He had let them down. And in the end, their faith grew even greater because of what Jesus allowed to happen.
Coloring Page for Young Visitors
Can you name any miracles that Jesus did, in the Bible? (allow the students time to share their favorite miracles, or remind them of your own) The New Testament is full of the miracles Jesus performed while on earth. He changed water to wine. He fed thousands of people with only a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish. He made blind people see again; and lame people walk. He cured lepers; and cast out demons. He even brought some people back to life after they had died!
Do YOU believe Jesus did all of those things? Do you believe He has the power to heal the sick, and bring people back to life? It’s one thing to say we believe it. But what if you happened to be the one in need of a miracle?
Think about your own life for a moment. Is there anything going on in your life that you haven’t prayed about because you either thought God wouldn’t want to be bothered by such a thing, or because it just seemed like too much to ask?
In today’s lesson, we’re going to find two women who were very special to the Lord Jesus. They were His friends. And when their brother became very sick, they of course turned to Jesus to ask for help. They had faith that he could heal their brother. But then something happened that challenged their faith. Did their need go beyond what Jesus could do? Could they still have faith in Jesus, even when it seemed too late? We’ll find answers to those questions in just a moment.
But first, let’s look at this week’s memory verse, together. It’s a great reminder that it’s never “too late” for God. Even when a situation seems impossible, with God all things are possible!
Memory verse: (Have the children repeat this verse with you several times, until they are able to say it themselves. And encourage them to repeat it to others several times during the week, so that it’ll have a place in their hearts.)
“But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26
Opening prayer: Lord, thank You for each student who’s here, today. And thank You for Your Word, The Bible, where we can learn new truths about You, and Your plans for us. Help each one of us here, today, to be attentive to what You would have us learn. Give us open ears and hearts, ready to listen to Your words. Amen.
This Week’s Lesson: The Faith of Mary and Martha (John 11)
While Jesus lived on earth, He had several close friends He liked to spend time with. When He was in the town of Bethany, He spent time in the home of two ladies named Mary and Martha, and their brother Lazarus. Jesus taught them many important lessons while He was in their home. And they came to know Jesus better through those lessons, and from hearing about His many miracles.
But one day, while Jesus was teaching and healing in another town, He received an urgent message from Mary and Martha. You see, when someone has real faith, they do something about it. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Mary and Martha had faith in Jesus, and they put it into action when their brother became very sick.
1 Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.
2 (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.)
3 Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.
Why do you think Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus about Lazarus being sick? We’ll see later that they unquestioningly believed Jesus could heal Lazarus. They were hoping He would leave what He was doing, and come to Bethany to heal their brother. Mary and Martha both had great faith in Jesus power to heal the sick.
And Jesus knew just how they felt. He knew just how much they believed in Him. And He wanted even more. Jesus wanted to see a faith in Mary and Martha that they didn’t even know they could have. So what do you suppose Jesus did? Do you think He began preparing right away to leave, so He could get back to Bethany to miraculously heal Lazarus? Let’s find out.
4 When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.
5 Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.
6 When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was.
7 Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judaea again.
Did Jesus leave right away for Bethany? No. This passage says He stayed two more days right where He was. And what did Jesus say about Lazarus’ sickness? He told His disciples that Lazarus’ sickness would not leave him dead. So after those two days, Jesus told His disciples that Lazarus was sleeping, and it was time for Jesus to go and wake him up. What the disciples didn’t realize, at first, was that things had gotten much more serious for Lazarus.
11 …and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.
12 Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well.
This reaction from the disciples was understandable. Most of us, when we get very sick, spend a lot of time sleeping, giving our bodies time to recover. However, for Lazarus, there would be no recovering in sleep because Lazarus had died. Jesus knew this, already. Listen to His explanation to the disciples.
13 Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep.
14 Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.
How do you think the disciples responded to this news? Lazarus was their good friend, too. Jesus had just told them that he was only sleeping. But now Jesus had come right out to say Lazarus had died. Do you think they wondered what Jesus was still doing there… why He hadn’t gone to Bethany if He knew that Lazarus was close to death? Surely He could have and would have done something to save Lazarus if He’d only gone when the message first came.
What would you have thought? Would you wonder if Jesus didn’t really care about these people who were supposed to be His friends? Would you wonder if Jesus thought healing Lazarus was too hard for Him?
Jesus has an answer for our questions. Here’s what He told the disciples about His decision to wait until Lazarus had died:
15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him.
Jesus wanted to show the disciples something they had never seen Him do before. He knew that their faith was great. But He also knew that there were some things that would test the disciples’ faith; and death was one of them. In only a very short time, Jesus Himself would be going to the cross, and lie in a grave for three days. He wanted His disciples to know, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that He had complete power…even over death!
So, in Jesus’ wisdom, He waited till the time was right. Then, He headed for Bethany.
17 Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already.
18 Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off:
19 And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.
How long do these verses say Lazarus had been dead before Jesus arrived in Bethany? 4 days. This length of time was important in Jewish culture because they believed that a person’s spirit hovered near the body for three days, hoping to be revived. But they felt that by the fourth day, the spirit was gone, and there was no longer hope of the spirit reentering the body. Of course, this was just Jewish superstition. But Jesus would have been well aware of it, and wanted it to be clear that it was not humanly possible for Lazarus to come back to life.
How do you think Mary and Martha would react to Jesus coming after Lazarus was already dead? Do you think they were upset that He hadn’t come sooner to save him? How do you think you would respond to Jesus if you were in that situation? Would you be glad to see Him? Or perhaps angry and disappointed enough to avoid Him? Would you maybe even decide you no longer wanted to trust and follow Him, since it looked like He let you down when you needed Him most? Would you begin to doubt how much He really loved you?
Many of those things may have gone through Mary and Martha’s thoughts. But let’s read on, to see how they reacted to Jesus when He finally arrived in Bethany.
20 Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house.
The two sisters reacted very differently. What did Martha do? She went right out to meet Jesus. But what about Mary? Did she go, too? No. Mary stayed at the house, and did not go out to see Jesus. The Bible doesn’t tell us why. But maybe Mary just didn’t know, yet, how she felt about Jesus coming so late. Maybe she didn’t know what she would say to Him. But Martha didn’t feel that way, at all. She wanted to see Jesus right away, and share with Him the things that were so heavy on her heart.
21 Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
22 But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.
Martha made two very interesting statements about her faith in Jesus, here. What did she say would’ve happened if Jesus had arrived earlier? She believed her brother would not have died. Martha had great faith in Jesus’ ability to heal the sick, including her own brother.
But then, Martha added one more thing: “even now, whatever you ask of God, God will give it to you.” What do you think she meant by that? It sounds like Martha believed that Jesus could even raise Lazarus from the dead, if He chose to. What great faith Martha had in her Messiah! But when Jesus asked her directly about the possibility of Lazarus’ resurrection, Martha seemed to stop with what she already knew, rather than considering what more Jesus might have in store for them.
23 Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again.
24 Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.
25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?
27 She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.
There is no doubt that Martha believed that Jesus was the promised Messiah. But she still didn’t seem to understand that Jesus could bring Lazarus back, not just “at the last day,” but that very day. Maybe she thought it would just be too much to ask, for Him to bring Lazarus back after being dead for so long. So Jesus gave Martha a little more time to consider what He’d said. And He called for Mary.
28 And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee.
29 As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto him.
Remember, Mary knew that Jesus was in town. But she had chosen not to go and see Him. She probably felt like Jesus had let them down by not coming in time. But Mary loved Jesus very much. And she, too, believed that He was the Son of God He claimed to be. So regardless of how she felt, when He called she was ready to go and see Him.
30 Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met him.
31 The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out, followed her, saying, She goeth unto the grave to weep there.
32 Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
Mary and Martha both believed the same thing: what was it? They both believed that if Jesus had come in time, He could have healed Lazarus. They had spent a great deal of time with Jesus, and had come to love and trust Him both as their friend, and as their Messiah. But like Martha, Mary too had more to learn about Jesus, and just how all-powerful He really is. And it was time for Jesus to make it clear to them, and everyone, that He could heal the sick AND raise the dead back to life!
33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled.
34 And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see.
35 Jesus wept.
36 Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him!
37 And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?
Notice, here, that there were many others who also wondered why Jesus hadn’t come earlier, to heal Lazarus. And Jesus had an answer for them.
38 Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it.
39 Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.
40 Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?
Martha had now had a little time to consider what Jesus had said to her about resurrection. But she still didn’t realize what He was about to do. What was Martha’s concern, as Jesus told them to open Lazarus’ grave? She was afraid there would be a terrible smell from Lazarus being dead so long.
But Jesus took her mind away from her earthly concerns, and redirected her toward Himself, and what He was about to do - display the glory of God, for all of them to clearly see that He was, in fact, the Son of God! What do you think Jesus was going to do? Let’s see…
41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.
42 And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.
43 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.
What did Jesus do first, as He approached Lazarus’ grave? He prayed. Jesus wanted to be sure that everyone there knew He was in direct contact with His Father, God. Then what did He do? He called Lazarus to come out of his grave. No one else would have done such a thing. But Jesus wasn’t just anyone. He was God. And what does our memory verse tell us about what God can do? “With God, all things are possible!” And that includes bringing a dead man out of his grave.
44 And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.
45 Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him.
Mary and Martha may not have realized just how powerful Jesus was. But He was still the One they called when they thought no one else could help. He was still the One they put their faith in. And even though it looked, for a time, like He had let them down, Mary and Martha soon learned that they had, indeed put their faith in the right person…in Jesus Christ. And He was far more than they ever imagined Him to be. Not only could He heal the sick, He could bring a very dead person back to life!
Have you put your faith in Jesus?
We thought about a question earlier; now let’s think, again. Is there anything going on in your life that you think is just too hard for God to handle? Do things at school seem to have gotten too hard? Are things at home getting too messed up? If you’ve placed your trust in Jesus to be your Savior, why not give Him a chance to show you just how great a God He really is. Show Him your faith by asking for His help, no matter how hopeless it might seem to you.
God loves to take difficult circumstances and turn them around, so He can display His greatness and glory. If Jesus had healed Lazarus before he died, Mary, Martha and Jesus’ disciples would still have had a limited faith in Him. God sometimes lets us go through more difficult things so our faith in Him will grow, and grow. Maybe this is a growing season for you. If that’s the case, then remember the lesson Mary and Martha learned that day, as their faith grew by leaps and bounds: with God, all things are possible!
Closing Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the example of Mary and Martha, and the faith lesson they learned in seeing Jesus bring their brother back from the dead. Help us learn to always turn to You for help, just as they did. And help us to believe that there’s nothing too hard for You. For we pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
Activity: (Review Questions)
Fill in the Blanks
True or False
1. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were friends of Jesus. (true)
2. When Jesus learned of Lazarus sickness, He left right away to go and heal him. (false – He stayed where He was two more days)
3. When Mary heard that Jesus was in Bethany, she went with Martha to meet Him. (false – she stayed in the house)
4. Mary and Martha both believed that Jesus could have healed Lazarus. (true)
5. Jesus waited till Lazarus was dead so He could do an even greater miracle. (true)