For the past two weeks, we have heard readings, unique to John’s Gospel, that focus on unnamed people whose initial encounters with Jesus lead them to believe in him. This Sunday, however, John records the faithfulness of Jesus’ friends, Martha and Mary, whose brother Lazarus has recently died. Interpreters often focus on the raising of Lazarus and its obvious parallels to Jesus’ resurrection. But Martha and Mary are at the center of this story. They provide us with another biblical example of women as preachers and steadfast believers in Christ.
The sisters Martha and Mary are friends of Jesus who believe that he is the Messiah. In the next chapter, it is Mary who anoints Jesus with fragrant, expensive oil in preparation for his burial (Jn 12:1-8). When their brother becomes ill, Martha and Mary appeal to Jesus, trusting that he has the power to heal. Jesus is unresponsive because he knows that Lazarus’s death will be “for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (Jn 11:4). Raising Lazarus from the dead is the culmination of the powerful signs Jesus performs in the Gospel of John.