And Martha Served by Elspeth Young

And Martha Served


{ Martha }
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Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead.

There they made him a supper; and Martha served

John 12:1-2

The story behind And Martha Served

The viewer sees Martha preparing the dinner at which her sister, Mary, anointed the Savior's feet with oil (See John 12:1-9).  Like Mary, whose service the Savior commended, Martha's offering of selfless service is also, "spoken of for a memorial of her" (John 12:9).  Similarly, the good we do, no matter how small the audience may seem, will stand "as a memorial" to our posterity and be restored to us again (see Alma 41:15).

Luke's familiar account of Mary and Martha in Luke chapter 10 is a powerful teaching moment for all who may feel overwhelmed, who believe, however momentarily that their pain is unknown or forgotten by the Lord.  This encounter between Martha and the Savior is not, however, the last time we see Martha.  Yet, many times it seems that this is the only story of Martha many seem to recognize and, therefore, judge her by.  In the hopes of communicating a more accurate understanding of Martha's truly devoted discipleship and testimony of Christ, this image depicts a less recognized moment in Martha's life, and one which happened after the aforementioned story from Luke.  After all, it is Martha who courageously declared, "Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world" (John 11:27), even before she witnessed the Savior raised her brother from the dead.

In addition, this painting also contains reminders that peace is available to any who might be, from time to time, like Martha--"careful and troubled about many things" (Luke 10:40).  Martha's heartfelt plea, "Lord, Dost thou not care?" (Luke 10:40) is much the same question the terrified Apostles asked Christ aboard a tempest-tossed ship: "Master, carest thou not that we perish?" (Mark 4:38).

During such moments of doubt or fear, the Savior's testimony to Martha is the ultimate solution: "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live" (John 11:25).  This "one thing" (see Luke 10:42) is the solution to every worry, every stress, every fear: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt 11:28).  When we, like Martha, follow the Savior through service, our own burdens are made light.

Symbolism in And Martha Served

When the Savior miraculously fed five thousand with only five loaves and two fishes, His disciples "took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full" (Matthew 14:20).  Here, Martha holds a basket brim-full with tilapia, a fish well known to ancient Palestine (see Cansdale 216) as a visual reminder of the Savior's power to heal, lift, and give life.

Furthermore, when the Savior multiplied the loaves and fishes for the five thousand, He expressed thanks to God (see John 6:11)--another lesson for any who may be careworn or troubled.  Our own efforts to overcome are "multiplied" as we "give thanks [to God] in all things" (Mosiah 26:39).

The two olive trees behind Martha remind the viewer of the Savior's Atoning sacrifice in Gethsemane (see Matthew 26:30 and Luke 22:39).  (In addition to the fact that Bethany, where Martha lived, was also located east of the Mount of Olives.)  The stone edifice behind the figure has a door with no visible handle, a visual token of the Savior's words, "I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me" (Revelation 3:20).  As we, like Martha, serve even the humblest within our care, we invite the Savior in, for, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matthew 25:40).

Bibliography

Cansdale, George. All the Animals of the Bible Lands. Grand Rapids, MI: The Paternoster Press, 1970.

© By Elspeth Young, All Rights Reserved. You may not print, copy, or reproduce this artwork or make derivative works from it without the prior written consent of the copyright holder. For permissions, please review our FAQ page.




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And Martha Served

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Illustration: And Martha Served

By Al R. Young
High-resolution digital copies are available from the Studios for use as illustrations.  Use the serial number—appearing below the thumbnail—in requesting permission from the Studios (see links at the bottom of this page for detail).


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