“So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house.” (John 11:19–20 ESV)
Martha hears word that Jesus is coming to Bethany, although he is too late, her brother is already dead. She gets up to go speak with him. The NET Bible says that she gets up to greet him because: “Here again one finds Martha occupied with the responsibilities of hospitality; she is the one who greets Jesus.” I don’t think I agree with this interpretation because in this case as I pointed out in “sitting shiva” the responsibilities of mourning rested on Jesus, not upon Martha to show Jesus hospitality. I think she gets up because this is a “new” Martha.
We see the “old” Martha in Luke 10:
“While they were traveling, He entered a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who also sat at the Lord’s feet and was listening to what He said. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks, and she came up and asked, “Lord, don’t You care that my sister has left me to serve alone? So tell her to give me a hand.”
The Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her.”” (Luke 10:38–42 HCSB)
Jesus gently rebukes Martha because she is “distracted by her many tasks” when only “one thing is necessary:” to learn at Jesus’ feet.
We do not hear again from Martha until her brother Lazarus has died and she greets Jesus. She does not go out to show him hospitality, she goes out to express grief. In words that Mary will echo exactly, she says: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” I do not believe that this is a rebuke of Jesus, as if she is blaming him, so much as it is a cry of grief, as if to say, “you could have done something for Lazarus, but you were not here in time, oh, if only you had been here in time.”
The “new” Martha is willing to set aside custom and leave the house of mourning to greet Jesus. [Jewish New Testament Commentary] She has learned that custom is not so important as the person of Jesus himself. [and oh, how she learned that fact! We will see how she demonstrates this shortly.]