According to Luke, Jesus sent out seventy-two disciples to prepare His path to Jerusalem, thanked God for hiding the Truth from wise people, and revealed what you must do gain eternal life; following that up with the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37) to further explain how to love your neighbor as yourself, and who your "neighbor" was. Then, Jesus continued on His way to Jerusalem.
this resource, the Hebrew take on "bitter" was not the same the negative connotation we have in English, but rather it became associated with "strong," being that bitter is a strong taste. In turn, it seems that Martha came to mean a woman in charge, while Mary came to mean a strong woman, strong-willed woman, or even rebellious.
That covers meaning. What about identity? We will start with a short anecdote, Luke 10:38-42, which goes like this: While Jesus and crew were traveling to Jerusalem, a woman named Martha invited Jesus into her home. While Martha made preparations, her sister, Mary, sat and listened to Jesus. Martha complained to Jesus, asking Him to tell Mary to help her with the preparations. In Luke 10:41-42, we find Jesus' reply:
"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." NIVConsider what Martha was probably doing here: Perhaps arranging bedding? Perhaps preparing food? Both? At this point, this is not just Jesus traveling; this is Jesus, plus the Twelve Disciples, and possibly plus seventy-two other disciples. That is thirteen to eighty five people! Martha is probably just preparing the bare necessities for all of these house guests. She saw all of these people coming along with Jesus, and she voluntarily chose to make herself a servant to all of them.
Jesus would later say that being a servant to all is the kind of behavior that would make you the greatest in Heaven (Matthew 20:26, Matthew 23:11, Mark 9:35, Mark 10:43, Luke 22:26). But Jesus set a different priority here, and rudely insulted Martha's generous effort in the process. In this case, Jesus thought that it was more important to sit and listen to Him than to do what He would later endorse. Go figure. Yet this singular focus is a repeated message in the Gospels. This episode has a more mild form of that theme, but earlier we saw how Jesus promoted forsaking everyone, and even your own life, in favor of pursuing God.
Who were Martha and Mary, other than being sisters? Luke is the only one to record this episode, so there is not blatant tie in with any other characters in the Gospels.
This Mary is not Jesus' mother, and probably is not Mary, the mother of James and Joseph (Matthew 27:56, Mark 15:40, Luke 24:10), who may have been Jesus' mother as well (Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3). Maybe it is Mary, the wife of Clopas, whoever that is (John 19:25). Catholic doctrine conflates this Mary with Mary Magdalene, but there is no explicit link (The first appearances of Magdalene: Matthew 27:56, Mark 15:40, Luke 8:2 [Jesus exorcised seven demons from her], Luke 24:10 [Luke's second mention of her, corresponding to Matthew and Mark], John 19:25). The picture of this Mary is blurry, so let us focus on Martha.
The name Martha is only used twelve times in the Bible; only in the Gospels, and limited to Luke and John. Just like here in Luke, the first time Martha is mentioned in John, Mary and Martha are reported as being sisters (John 11:1). That seems like a fairly strong, even binding, coincidence, right? These should be the same people. After all, how many sisters, of the names Mary and Martha, were Jesus likely to run into in His travels which were noteworthy enough to include in the Gospels?
John 11:1-44 tells us the story of Lazarus' death and subsequent resurrection through Jesus. In John's account, Lazarus was Mary's brother (John 11:2), and obviously Jesus had known that family for some time based on the great love He had for them (John 11:5) and on the fact that Jesus wept at Lazarus' death (John 11:35). That is where it gets screwy.
Neither Matthew nor Mark record anything at all about Martha, Mary, and Lazarus; this little family that Jesus so dearly loved. And Luke, who does know something of Martha and Mary, neglects to mention that they have a brother who is loved and resurrected by Jesus! Luke does later mention a Lazarus, but only in a parable told by Jesus, with Lazarus being a fictional beggar, and without any connection to Martha and Mary (Luke 16:19-31).
What you see here is the evolution of a myth recorded for all posterity. It is just a shame that it is not presented as such.
What? You do not believe me that this story is a myth? Well then, consider that John 12:1-11 has a grand dinner in Jesus' honor with the resurrected Lazarus in the town of Bethany, where Lazarus called home. Martha served dinner and Mary anointed Jesus with expensive perfume. Judas objected to that waste of money on the perfume. Does that story sound familiar?
Matthew 26:6-13 and Mark 14:3-9 record Jesus having a meal at the house of Simon the Leper, where some unnamed(!) woman anointed Jesus with expensive perfume. Some of the disciples objected to that waste of money on the perfume. Jesus said that the story of this strangely unnamed woman would be told as a memory of her whenever the Gospel was shared. It is odd for such a praise-worthy woman to not have a name, right? It kind of begs later authors to fill in the blank.
Luke 7:36-50 also records Jesus having a meal where He was anointed by an unnamed woman with perfume. However, Luke records this much earlier in the Gospel timeline, sets the meal at the house of a Pharisee, and drops the reference to the disciples complaining about the waste of money. Luke the Editor did not let a little thing like the truth prevent him from telling the story the way he wanted to tell it. Thus, we can clearly see fossilized bones of this evolutionary myth.