“It won’t be taken away from her.” These words of Jesus seemed to jump off of the page as I led an imaginative prayer exercise on the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38–42, and I welcomed them to sink deeply into my heart and mind.

I’ve often related to Martha in the kitchen in this gospel story, so I was surprised to resonate with Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus too. As the scene unfolded in my imagination, I saw Jesus protect me against the older sister who burst into the room with heated indignation: Jesus! Tell her to help me! I’m here doing all this work on my own!” I realised Jesus was defending my desire to sit at His feet, to soak in His love, to learn from Him.

As this familiar story played out in my mind, I saw Jesus look at Martha lovingly, noticing her frustration and the burden she carried in hosting her guests. He didn’t want her to stew in the kitchen, feeling the martyr for all of the preparations that needed to be done. The feast could wait, He told her gently; Mary had chosen better and it would not be taken away from her. Jesus welcomed Martha to join Mary in focusing on the one thing necessary — Him. 

With reflection, I knew the same applied to me. My desire to sit at the feet of Jesus wouldn’t be yanked away from me. I marvelled at this gift: Jesus sees me. He knows me. He defends me. 


A couple of weeks later, I relayed my experience to two friends, saying how wonderful it was to be like Mary and not to slot into the role of Martha. Tanya and Amy both affirmed how, over my decades of friendship with Jesus, God has been changing me more into the person He created me to be. Tanya said, From the outside, people could see you as a caricature of Martha because busy women are given that label. But that’s to misread you, because at your core, you emulate Mary. Your intimate relationship with Jesus is your anchor and foundation; it’s at the very heart of who you are, with everything else springing from it.” 

I felt seen and known in both of these moments —first with Jesus at the retreat and then in conversation with my friends. Just as Mary and Martha felt loved and affirmed in Jesus’ presence.

Changed by Love

These sisters are so much more than typecast characters of one who served and one who learned from Jesus. They, along with their brother Lazarus, were those whom Jesus loved (John 11:5). And He brought forth the best in them. As we see in the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead in John 11, Jesus drew Martha out of the kitchen and into conversation with Him. She declared Jesus the Messiah, the anointed one — and thus is only one of three in the New Testament to do so before His death and resurrection. 

Mary had sat at Jesus’ feet and received His love and instruction, and thus after her brother died she could throw herself at His feet with her grief and pain. Jesus didn’t leave her there, but joined her in weeping. Then He sprang into action and raised Lazarus from the dead. Jesus saw each sister and loved them, right where they were at. 

What About Me?

Wherever we are on our journey with God, we can trust that the living Christ extends His friendship to us moment by moment. He sees our deepest needs and meets them. For instance, when we’re feeling overlooked and underappreciated, He affirms us lovingly. If we’re misunderstood by those who should know us best, He defends our desire to be with Him. If we feel betrayed by what we think is bad timing, or are dejected over losses in our lives, He brings about restoration and new life. Simply, friendship with Jesus changes everything. 

So, as we look to celebrate International Friendship Day on 30 July, I welcome you to sit at the feet of Jesus and receive from Him. One way to do so is with your imagination, as I share in Transforming Love, my look at the Bethany siblings and their relationship with Jesus (with a more detailed version of this practice appearing in chapter 2). Ask God through His Holy Spirit to lead and guide you, trusting that He will, then read through the passage several times. Think about your senses as you imagine the scene — what are you feeling, hearing, smelling, touching as Jesus comes to the home of Mary and Martha? Which character might you be — one of the main ones, or a disciple, a servant, an onlooker?

Trust that God will lead you as you follow the story. Here’s where emotions or insights might come to mind, as they did for me with the phrase, it won’t be taken away from her.” Dwell with Jesus and receive from Him. When you reach the end of the story, you may wish to make a note of what you felt and experienced, so that you can discern what God has given you. Talking to a mature friend can be helpful here too. 

Friendship with Jesus transforms us – not only our deepening bond with Him, but our relationships with those in our life. We’re never the same!

"Simply, friendship with Jesus changes everything."


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Unconditional friendship

Unconditional friendship

In this second instalment of the four-part series 'Friendship Jesus' Way', Liz Carter explores why the value of friendship shouldn't be measured against societal norms