Commemoration of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus of Bethany
The Lord be with you
Today is the Commemoration of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus of Bethany in the LC-MS. They were disciples with whom Jesus had a special bond of love and friendship. When in the Jerusalem area, Jesus would often stay with this family. (Bethany was basically a suburb of Jerusalem.) John’s Gospel records that, “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” (John 11:5). On one occasion, Martha welcomed Jesus into their home for a meal. While Martha did all the work, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, listening to His Word, and was commended by Jesus for choosing the “good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38-42). When their brother Lazarus died, Jesus spoke to Martha this beautiful Gospel promise: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25). Martha responded with a wonderful confession of faith: “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” Ironically, when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, the Jewish leadership became more determined than ever to kill Jesus (John 11:39-54). Six days before Jesus was crucified, Mary anointed His feet with a very expensive fragrant oil and wiped them with her hair, not knowing at the time that she was doing it in preparation for Jesus’ burial (John 12:1-8; Matthew 26:6-13).
Lazarus is commemorated in the Eastern Church on the Saturday before the Sunday of the Passion (AKA Palm Sunday) called “Lazarus Saturday,” which anticipates the resurrection of Jesus on the following Saturday night. In the Western tradition Lazarus has been remembered on December 17. The Roman General Calendar commemorates Martha alone on July 29 and Mary, together with Mary the wife of Cleopas and Mary the mother of James (the “three Marys”) on May 25. The calendar in the Book of Common Prayer, followed by the calendar in For All the Saints, has joined the commemoration of Mary with that of Martha on July 29. The calendars in the Lutheran Book of Worship, Evangelical Lutheran Worship and Lutheran Service Book extend the commemoration to include Lazarus. The three are also remembered on the calendar of the Church of England. There are a number of legends concerning Lazarus and his sisters.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, Your beloved Son befriended frail humans like us to make us Your own. Teach us to be like Jesus’ dear friends from Bethany, that we might serve Him faithfully like Martha, learn from Him earnestly like Mary, and ultimately be raised by Him like Lazarus. Through their Lord and ours, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
O God, heavenly Father, your Son Jesus Christ enjoyed rest and refreshment in the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus of Bethany: Give us the will to love you, open our hearts to hear you, strengthen our hands to serve you in others for his sake and confirm in us your power even over death through him, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Other appropriate prayers:
• For those whose work enables others to meditate and pray and study
• For times of quiet contemplation
• For those whose lives are devoted to pray and contemplation
• For the practice of hospitality among Christians
• For a certain hope of the resurrection
Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House, 572
New Book of Festivals & Commemorations, Pfatteicher, Fortress Press, 362-364)
Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert`