Martha of Bethany vs. Nicodemus

Welcome to the Saintly Sixteen! From 32 saints we have narrowed the field to 16. For this round, rather than the basic biographical information we enter the realm of Quirks and Quotes. Our brilliant Celebrity Bloggers will provide unusual information or legends surrounding their saints along with quotes either by or about their saints.

Don’t forget, you can always go to the Bracket Tab, deftly managed by Bracket Czar Adam Thomas, to easily find previous battles if you need to refresh your basic knowledge on these saints. This is yet another free courtesy extended to you, the Lent Madness Global Public.

In yesterday’s Santa vs. Rudolph Showdown, okay Beatdown, Nicholas of Myra trounced Rudolph of Gubbio by the historic margin of 92% to 8%. Yes, the bracketologists have diligently researched this topic and determined that this has indeed surpassed the previous largest margin of victory. That was just last year when Maria Skobtsova, the Russian Nazi-fighting nun, defeated Quiteria, the early Christian nonuplet warrior 91% to 9%

The Saintly Sixteen gets started with a Biblical battle between Martha of Bethany and Nicodemus. At stake? The very first spot in the Elate Eight. Let’s get to it.

Martha of Bethany

Who was Martha of Bethany? Domestic busybody and foil for her enlightened sister or Daenerys-Targaryen-like tamer of dragons and symbol of female power? Perhaps the medieval biographer Pseudo-Marcilia said it best. In her life, “Martha chose to perform her own ministry, which pleased God greatly.”

Little is known of Martha beyond her portrayal in Luke as the counterpart to her sister. Thanks to early church fathers like Origen and Augustine, the sisters became symbols of classical dualism–Martha, with her earthly concerns as a hostess and Mary, the contemplative. However, she is also a theologian in the Biblical text, confessing her faith in Jesus as a savior in John the same way Peter does in the Synoptics. For this reason, contemporary Biblical scholars see Martha as one of the disciples in Jesus’ inner circle. She has this role in the gnostic gospel Pistis Sophia, where she and other female disciples receive knowledge of the highest mysteries from the resurrected Jesus.

Martha took on an increasingly important role in the middle ages when legend credits her with many fascinating miracles that range from the Christlike to the bizarre. Once a boy drowned in a river across which he was swimming in an attempt to hear her preach, and Martha brought him back to life. Like the perfect hostess she was, she is also credited with changing water into wine at a banquet in her honor. Another legend tells that Martha knew the date of her death and eight days before it arrived she had a vision of her sister Mary’s soul ascending to heaven, held aloft by choirs of angels. After she died, Bishop Fronto of Périgueux fell asleep during a mass at his church and was miraculously carried to Tarascón to officiate over Martha’s funeral.

Devotion to Martha through the middle ages led to an evolving view of her, one where her life of austerity and service reconciled the dualism the early church ascribed to her and Mary. She was seen as an exemplar of both actio and contemplio, two complementary ways of being, both dependent on the other. In this wholeness, Martha becomes a symbol of the church, where spiritual insight fuels worldly service to others.

For this reason, in the church dedicated to her in Tarascón, she is shown with a dragon at her feet. The symbolism is not merely of the miracle attributed to her–the salvation of the town from the Tirascurus, a huge half animal/half fish beast. Martha is shown as the Apocalyptic Woman (Revelation 12), a multi-faceted symbol of female power associated with the Church, and the Virgin Mary, women who confront evil serpents and become a new Eve to partner with Christ the new Adam, and through their active work and generative power help transform the earth into the new creation.

Amber Belldene


Nicodemus appears three times in scripture. Once to hear Jesus’ teaching by night (John 3:1-21), then as a member of the Sanhedrin who suggests that the accused deserved a trial before judgment (John 7:5-51), and finally at the Crucifixion where he not only provides the spices for embalming the dead body of our Lord, but also to assist Joseph of Arimathea in burying his body (John 19:39-42). There is scant, canonical material that suggests he said much of anything at all.

So let’s get Apocryphal. Apocryphal. I wanna get Apocryphal!

He has an entire gospel attributed to him and perhaps some of the most interesting parts of the Gospel of Nicodemus are where he describes the Harrowing of Hell. Just before Jesus arrives at Hell’s Gates, Satan, the Prince of Death, has an argument with Beelzebul, the Prince of Hell, about just who Jesus is. They keep going back and forth, arguing about whether he’s actually powerful or not, until suddenly “there was a voice as of thunder and the rushing of winds, saying, Lift up your gates, O ye princes; and be ye lift up, O everlasting gates, and the King of Glory shall come in.” Jesus really knows how to make an entrance. The Prince of Hell then tells Satan to leave unless he is powerful enough to fight the “King of Glory” (Satan leaves), and then Beelzebul instructs his hellions to bar the gates.

Upon hearing the voice announcing the coming of Christ, the dead begin to revolt, yelling at the Prince of Hell “Open thy gates that the King of Glory may come in.” David, Isaiah, and other prophets and prominent Hebrew Bible figures begin reciting their prophecies of the coming Messiah. After again refusing to open the Gates of Hell, the Prince of Hell falls right into the trap of asking “who is this King of Glory?” King David responds with “the Lord strong and powerful, the Lord mighty in battle: he is the King of Glory” and just then Jesus “appeared in the form of a man, and enlightened those places which had ever before been in darkness, And broke asunder the fetters which before could not be broken; and with his invincible power visited those who sat in the deep darkness by iniquity, and the shadow of death by sin.” Jesus then proceeds to lay the holy smackdown in Hell and leaves with the souls of the righteous.

Marcus Halley

Martha of Bethany vs. Nicodemus

  • Martha of Bethany (74%, 5,568 Votes)
  • Nicodemus (26%, 1,937 Votes)

Total Voters: 7,505

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Martha: Peters, D. E. (1997). The Life of Martha of Bethany by Pseudo-Marcilia. Theological Studies, 58(3), 441-460. doi:10.1177/004056399705800303

124 Comments to "Martha of Bethany vs. Nicodemus"

  1. Michael Wachter's Gravatar Michael Wachter
    March 28, 2019 - 8:00 am | Permalink

    Our musical tribute to Martha and Nicodemus and to commemorate entering the Saintly Sixteen can be sung to “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” from “The Sound of Music.”

    Oh, Lent Madness friends, it’s a brand-new stage.
    The Round of 32’s done.
    The saints who have won will now re-engage
    In match-ups which are such fun.

    They’re such fun…

    Saintly Sixteen soon to drop to fifteen:
    Bethany represent!
    Mary went down so
    Martha was crowned, oh
    She made the grand assent.

    Saintly Sixteen soon drop to fifteen.
    James took the dive for Nic.
    Some says it awful:
    Beat an apostle.
    Has he moved up too quick?

    Time to reread your Scorecard book.
    Will you pick him or her?
    Are they the same? Let’s take a look…
    They both came bearing myrrh.

    You need some saint-centric fun facts to
    Guide you on what to do…
    I’ll help you to choose from Saintly Sixteen
    In this fun show tune review…

    They’re three siblings hailing from Bethany;
    Two – all their tasks they shirk.
    Lazarus dies and
    Mary just cries and
    Martha does all the work.

    Meanwhile, Nic lives life as a Pharisee:
    Questions from dusk ‘til dawn.
    Challenge extends. He
    Sometimes defends. We
    Aren’t sure whose side he’s on.

    Some say that Martha sailed to France
    And tamed a dreadful beast.
    Nic’s arguments were like a dance.
    Convert, to say the least.

    You now have enough information
    And so you have to choose…
    Saintly Sixteen soon will drop to fifteen
    Based on the saint who will lose.

    • linda's Gravatar linda
      March 28, 2019 - 8:24 am | Permalink

      this is brilliant! my favorite so far!

    • Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
      March 28, 2019 - 8:26 am | Permalink

      Oh hooray, hooray! “Sound of Music” at last! That was my first musical: at five I memorized the whole she-bang and did a fabulous-if-i-do-say-so-myself Julie Andrews, accent and all! Great job, Michael. I belly laughed at “Lazarus dies and/Mary just cries and/Martha does all the work”!

      • Jackson's Gravatar Jackson
        March 28, 2019 - 8:55 am | Permalink

        I, too, are six, did a great (in my mind) Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins/Maria) impersonation.

      • Mary Ruth McKenney's Gravatar Mary Ruth McKenney
        March 28, 2019 - 10:29 am | Permalink

        Oh me too Susan – good laugh! Thank you once again Michael!

      • Grace's Gravatar Grace
        March 28, 2019 - 12:56 pm | Permalink

        Me too!

      • Karen's Gravatar Karen
        March 28, 2019 - 1:31 pm | Permalink

        I absolutely agree with everything Susan says – from singing almost the entire score as a child to loving the lines she quotes. As a Martha in personality and as a deacon who loved the notion of Martha representing both sides of the church – contemplative and active – I had to cast my vote for Martha.

      • Michael Wachter's Gravatar Michael Wachter
        March 28, 2019 - 5:15 pm | Permalink

        I do believe that “Lazarus dies and/Mary just cries and/Martha does all the work” is one of my favorite Forbidden Lent parody lyrics.

        So far…

        • johnieb's Gravatar johnieb
          March 28, 2019 - 7:15 pm | Permalink

          Oh yeah, hence my Iron Rule: vote, then comments.

    • Mary Katherine's Gravatar Mary Katherine
      March 28, 2019 - 9:02 am | Permalink

      You top yourself each day! I am in awe – especially when they’re from the older shows that I know, but impressed you include the newer ones too.

    • Margaret Sharp's Gravatar Margaret Sharp
      March 28, 2019 - 10:56 am | Permalink

      Sang it, and loved it!
      And even voted too!

  2. John Cabot's Gravatar John Cabot
    March 28, 2019 - 8:01 am | Permalink

    When “Those who do what is true” says His voice
    This Sanhedrin makes a perilous choice.
    His heartfelt oblation:
    Our Lord’s preparation.
    Nicodemus: in his faith we rejoice.

    • Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
      March 28, 2019 - 8:23 am | Permalink

      I love a limerick with “oblation” as one of the rhymes! Good job!

  3. Ann G.'s Gravatar Ann G.
    March 28, 2019 - 8:04 am | Permalink

    #VoteMartha for the dragon!

    • Amy's Gravatar Amy
      March 28, 2019 - 9:51 am | Permalink

      Yes, how can one not #VoteDragon!

  4. March 28, 2019 - 8:09 am | Permalink

    Anyone who has anything to do with “Lift up your heads, o ye gates…” has my vote.

    • Stephanie Schultz's Gravatar Stephanie Schultz
      March 28, 2019 - 12:27 pm | Permalink

      I was tempted with those words for sure, but had to go with the Dragon!

    • johnieb's Gravatar johnieb
      March 28, 2019 - 7:12 pm | Permalink

      Point granted: some wicked fine Apocrypha, eh?

  5. Carolyn Mack's Gravatar Carolyn Mack
    March 28, 2019 - 8:14 am | Permalink

    Martha, to me, represents the celebration of tradition gender patterns over Jesus’s clear message that gender is not a barrier to equal apostleship. She was wealthy and had servants; she was not slaving away in the kitchen while Mary made her do all the work and sat at the feet of Jesus. Yet I voted for Martha for her faith in Jesus at the tomb of her brother. Nicodemus had faith in his own traditional way by spending money to anoint the body of Jesus, but his account of Jesus at the gates of hell (where Nicodemus could not have been) strikes me as quite polytheistic (Satan and Beelzebub, Princes of Death and Hell; why not Hades and Pluto?).

    • Karen Mallon Sharp's Gravatar Karen Mallon Sharp
      March 28, 2019 - 1:11 pm | Permalink

      “David, Isaiah, and other prophets and prominent Hebrew Bible figures begin reciting their prophecies of the coming Messiah.“

      This is why I voted for Martha: if we are to believe this Nicodemus story, how could David, Isaiah and other prophets and prominent Hebrew Bible figures STILL be in hell?

      • Gail's Gravatar Gail
        March 28, 2019 - 4:20 pm | Permalink

        Because it was Sheol, not hell. They all waited there until Jesus came to give judgement. Afterwards, the evil went to hell and the righteous went to heaven.

  6. Marcia A. Tremmel's Gravatar Marcia A. Tremmel
    March 28, 2019 - 8:17 am | Permalink

    Absolutely loved the stories about both saints. Martha today for me because of the dragon and the bishop who fell asleep at Mass.

    March 28, 2019 - 8:18 am | Permalink

    Out of curiosity – what are the percentages of voters, male vs female?

    • Margaret Nolde's Gravatar Margaret Nolde
      March 28, 2019 - 8:42 am | Permalink

      I think that would be interesting to know, too. It seems that the women generally do better in these rounds.

      • Cynthia Cravens's Gravatar Cynthia Cravens
        March 28, 2019 - 10:11 am | Permalink

        Unless voters’ email addresses indicate male or female, I think you’re out of luck in finding out.

    • Lynn A Sarnecki's Gravatar Lynn A Sarnecki
      March 28, 2019 - 9:17 am | Permalink

      Good question. This year seems to be heavily skewed to voting for the women just because. And I am one.

  8. Kaye Bellot's Gravatar Kaye Bellot
    March 28, 2019 - 8:19 am | Permalink

    Still going with the hostess with the mostest!

  9. Michelle C's Gravatar Michelle C
    March 28, 2019 - 8:26 am | Permalink

    While I find today’s blog for Nicodemus interesting and I am inspired to find and read the Gospel of Nicodemus, it’s still Martha for me. Perhaps because I can relate more to her. As Ms. Belldene said in her first blog about Martha “she is admired by pragmatics, doers, and practitioners of common sense”. Also, she’s the patron saint of cooks and dietitians.

    • Loni's Gravatar Loni
      March 28, 2019 - 10:40 am | Permalink

      Wow I missed that yet in my head as I read and contemplated Martha I thought she was, pragmatic, a doer and posseser of common sense. I voted for her for these reasons indeed. That and because she is associated with dragons, of course.
      I wonder, were she and Mary twin sisters?

      • Tessa Lucero's Gravatar Tessa Lucero
        March 28, 2019 - 1:44 pm | Permalink

        That is a good question and I don’t know if it has been discussed. I’ve always thought of Martha as being the older sister and Mary the younger. However, I’m probably biased since I’m an oldest child and felt that I did more work than my younger siblings. (They would likely have a different perception.) I wonder where Lazarus fit in in the birth order.

  10. Judy Hoover's Gravatar Judy Hoover
    March 28, 2019 - 8:28 am | Permalink

    Thanks to Marcus for the well written bit. I didn’t know anything about the Nicodemus you described. It makes quite a visual of Hell. But I had to vote for Martha because she is more like me in the kitchen. It is always important to make a visitor welcome.

  11. Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
    March 28, 2019 - 8:29 am | Permalink

    Sticking with my girl Martha. I think Martha and Mary both must have been very influential women in the early church for there to be two completely different stories about them in two different gospels, later gospels though they may be. I’m with Marcia Tremmel (above)–love the dragon and the sleeping priest!

  12. Leann Wilson's Gravatar Leann Wilson
    March 28, 2019 - 8:43 am | Permalink

    You had me at the GOT reference.

    • March 28, 2019 - 9:29 am | Permalink

      I read the dragon story forty-some years ago and fell for Martha then. Maybe that’s behind my devotion to Daenerys? And as a preacher who has charmed a few youth in my own time, today’s write-up just gives me more reason to cast my vote for the saint they tried to turn into a drudge.

      • March 28, 2019 - 12:57 pm | Permalink

        Hola Willa! Good to see you here. I tried to post the following comment, but I had already inadvertently posted a previous draft, and they wouldn’t let me! I wanted to share my “final ” thoughts so I am posting as a reply to you! Plus, you may be the only person who reads it, although you might not have anyway. 🙂

        Nicodemus embodies the Way of the Small, as does Martha. The writers here focus on legend and apocryphal accounts, but I think more of the direct scripture. I love Martha, and the comments here helped me find a way to go beyond the dualism of Martha and Mary. Martha is inspiring, yet I relate more to Nicodemus, who exemplifies to me the path of Jesus that evolves from unknowing, to questioning, to experiencing a different view that runs counter to popular thinking, and then becoming more intimate with Jesus, as Nicodemus did by helping prepare God’s body for burial. Christ died for Nicodemus, and for people like him, that they might come more fully to God. Nicodemus gives me strength and hope, an example that wherever I am and whoever I am that I can come closer to Christ in my own life. He shows what I need to know right now.

        • Greg's Gravatar Greg
          March 28, 2019 - 10:12 pm | Permalink

          Well put Myra! Thank you.

  13. Rian Restau's Gravatar Rian Restau
    March 28, 2019 - 8:45 am | Permalink

    Please Vote for Nicodemus!!!! 🙂

    • Colleenrose's Gravatar Colleenrose
      March 28, 2019 - 1:26 pm | Permalink

      I did! I love the fact that Nicodemus showed curiosity about the teachings of Jesus and that his mind was not closed. Nicodemus and Jesus at the gates of hell is a great story too.

  14. Pastor Paul's Gravatar Pastor Paul
    March 28, 2019 - 8:48 am | Permalink

    Martha for me, although I question the use of “busybody” to describe Martha. It seems that she was always busy; however, my understanding of “busybody” is a person who does not have enough to do, and spends time in gossip, judgmental conversation, and sticking a nose into other people’s business. (Please note my non-gender-specific description.)

    Did you hear about the elderly bishop who dreamed that he was preaching, and when he awoke, he was?

    • Elaine Chilcote's Gravatar Elaine Chilcote
      March 28, 2019 - 6:00 pm | Permalink

      Here in the Pittsburgh area, we call a busybody a “nebnose.” It is more descriptive, I think, although also probably redundant, since “neb” means “beak.” I agree that Martha wasn’t a busybody, and I voted for her, although her sister Mary got my vote the first time.

  15. Carolyn's Gravatar Carolyn
    March 28, 2019 - 8:58 am | Permalink

    Jesus said Martha had chosen the better way and I chose Martha today.

    • Greg's Gravatar Greg
      March 28, 2019 - 10:15 pm | Permalink

      Luke 10:42 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
      42 there is need of only one thing.[a] Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

  16. Sally in Dallas's Gravatar Sally in Dallas
    March 28, 2019 - 9:07 am | Permalink

    I’ve also wondered about the gender make-up of theLent Madness participants. There no accurate way to know the answer to that question. But the female saints certainly seem to beat their male counterparts, over and over again. As a woman myself, I understand. Our culture is still male dominate, in subtle and not so subtle ways. But having long ago voted for Mary and then James, I’m now I think rigued by Nicodemus. And perhaps that’s the purpose of Lent Madness: to make us think, to stretch us beyond our comfort zone, to challenge our hearts and minds? Well done, Scott and Tim.

    • Kathleen's Gravatar Kathleen
      March 28, 2019 - 12:22 pm | Permalink

      Women were mostly written out of Christianity by the Church Fathers–I think of this as a kind of corrective action, because even if over the centuries they’ve been rendered invisible and largely deprived of power and agency, women really are the heart and soul of the Church, and they should be lifted up and recognized for once.

  17. St Celia's Gravatar St Celia
    March 28, 2019 - 9:07 am | Permalink

    Martha: “But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.” John 11:22
    Martha: “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” John 11:27
    I think I’ll stick with that today.
    Although I love hearing Marcus Halley sing Handel’s “Messiah” as I’m reading.
    I don’t need the dragon.

  18. Not Miss Peggy Lee's Gravatar Not Miss Peggy Lee
    March 28, 2019 - 9:10 am | Permalink

    I can take on a dragon,
    Cook a treat in a pan,
    And never let you forget
    Jesus’s plan–
    Because I’m Martha,
    (Say it again)
    Because I’m Martha,

    • Amy's Gravatar Amy
      March 28, 2019 - 11:12 am | Permalink

      That was priceless!

    • Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
      March 28, 2019 - 12:43 pm | Permalink

      I knew where you were headed with the first line! Well done!

      • andrea's Gravatar andrea
        March 28, 2019 - 9:20 pm | Permalink

        I agree! Well done! I voted for Martha. Dragon.

        • andrea's Gravatar andrea
          March 29, 2019 - 12:39 am | Permalink

          p.s. I had to vote from a smartphone today and there seemed to be a problem with the connection.

    • Laura of Ohio's Gravatar Laura of Ohio
      March 28, 2019 - 9:52 pm | Permalink


  19. Liz in NY's Gravatar Liz in NY
    March 28, 2019 - 9:18 am | Permalink


    The Sons of Martha
    Rudyard Kipling

    THE Sons of Mary seldom bother, for they have inherited that good part;
    But the Sons of Martha favour their Mother of the careful soul and the troubled heart.
    And because she lost her temper once, and because she was rude to the Lord her Guest,
    Her Sons must wait upon Mary’s Sons, world without end, reprieve, or rest.
    It is their care in all the ages to take the buffet and cushion the shock.
    It is their care that the gear engages; it is their care that the switches lock.
    It is their care that the wheels run truly; it is their care to embark and entrain,
    Tally, transport, and deliver duly the Sons of Mary by land and main.

    They say to mountains, ” Be ye removèd” They say to the lesser floods ” Be dry.”
    Under their rods are the rocks reprovèd – they are not afraid of that which is high.
    Then do the hill tops shake to the summit – then is the bed of the deep laid bare,
    That the Sons of Mary may overcome it, pleasantly sleeping and unaware.

    They finger death at their gloves’ end where they piece and repiece the living wires.
    He rears against the gates they tend: they feed him hungry behind their fires.
    Early at dawn, ere men see clear, they stumble into his terrible stall,
    And hale him forth like a haltered steer, and goad and turn him till evenfall.

    To these from birth is Belief forbidden; from these till death is Relief afar.
    They are concerned with matters hidden – under the earthline their altars are
    The secret fountains to follow up, waters withdrawn to restore to the mouth,
    And gather the floods as in a cup, and pour them again at a city’s drouth.

    They do not preach that their God will rouse them a little before the nuts work loose.
    They do not teach that His Pity allows them to leave their job when they damn-well choose.
    As in the thronged and the lighted ways, so in the dark and the desert they stand,
    Wary and watchful all their days that their brethren’s days may be long in the land.

    Raise ye the stone or cleave the wood to make a path more fair or flat;
    Lo, it is black already with blood some Son of Martha spilled for that !
    Not as a ladder from earth to Heaven, not as a witness to any creed,
    But simple service simply given to his own kind in their common need.

    And the Sons of Mary smile and are blessèd – they know the angels are on their side.
    They know in them is the Grace confessèd, and for them are the Mercies multiplied.
    They sit at the Feet – they hear the Word – they see how truly the Promise runs.
    They have cast their burden upon the Lord, and – the Lord He lays it on Martha’s Sons !

    • B. Willard's Gravatar B. Willard
      March 28, 2019 - 10:10 am | Permalink

      Thanks for this. What a blessing to read in a tough week!

    • Verdery Kassebaum's Gravatar Verdery Kassebaum
      March 28, 2019 - 11:46 am | Permalink

      A very stirring poem, Liz in NY. Thank you for sharing it.

  20. Ellen's Gravatar Ellen
    March 28, 2019 - 9:19 am | Permalink

    I’m thinking that Martha might actually take this whole thing!!!

  21. Kate Mason's Gravatar Kate Mason
    March 28, 2019 - 9:23 am | Permalink

    Action and prayer –
    gracious lady, host, preacher….
    And dragons be gone!!

  22. St Celia's Gravatar St Celia
    March 28, 2019 - 9:30 am | Permalink

    Martha affirms Christ
    while busy in the kitchen
    soul and body fed.

  23. Waynecarlos's Gravatar Waynecarlos
    March 28, 2019 - 9:31 am | Permalink

    Nicodemus is a story about being a human and growing into sainthood. Over time Martha transformed into a comic book character.

  24. Nancy's Gravatar Nancy
    March 28, 2019 - 9:35 am | Permalink

    Voted for Nic today for he seems to be the underdog, and our bracket for this year was broken very early.

  25. Carol Buckalew's Gravatar Carol Buckalew
    March 28, 2019 - 9:35 am | Permalink

    I love the idea of Martha as a symbol of the church, where spiritual insight fuels worldly service to others. That will stick with me.

  26. March 28, 2019 - 9:43 am | Permalink

    I’m still sulking from the Mary/Martha split, so I’ve decided this Lenten season to stand with those who sit at the feet of Jesus. Yes, Martha did that, too, and lovingly implored Jesus as an act of profoundly honest prayer, but I’m voting for Nicodemus and his questions, even though I won’t be the least bit frustrated at Martha’s win. And that’s the wonderful thing about these saints, they (or their tradition) annoy us and they teach us at the same time.

  27. March 28, 2019 - 9:49 am | Permalink

    One of the things I appreciate about Lent Madness is that women disciples like Martha are presented in all their complexity. As is pointed out in today’s reflection, Martha was far more than a complaining, critic of her sister and “hostess with the mostess”. She, like Peter, recognized Jesus as savior. She seldom gets any recognition as theologian and confessor of faith in Jesus. Perhaps women Saints receive more votes in LM because in order to be recognized as a disciple and/or heroic member of the church women are required to be more courageous and more heroic than men. Another example of the the dancing backwards and in high heels thing.

  28. Claire of Quincy's Gravatar Claire of Quincy
    March 28, 2019 - 9:57 am | Permalink

    As a Red Sox fan of the old school, I usually vote for the Underdogs (Rudolph of Gubbio). My streak continues with Nicodemus. “Still be believe.”

  29. Kate the Catechist's Gravatar Kate the Catechist
    March 28, 2019 - 10:09 am | Permalink

    I’m with Nicodemus this round!

  30. Alethea in New Mexico's Gravatar Alethea in New Mexico
    March 28, 2019 - 10:14 am | Permalink

    If the voting this year leaned toward men, would there have been a question about the distribution of the sex of the voters? I am a Mary, happily undomestic, but I love Martha for her confession of faith. Nicodemus is also one of my favorite individuals from the Bible. I could see myself seeking Jesus in the shadows of night to ask questions that his presence stirred in my heart. What to do?

    • Davis Dassori's Gravatar Davis Dassori
      March 28, 2019 - 12:37 pm | Permalink

      That’s a pretty darn theoretical question.

      • Davis Dassori's Gravatar Davis Dassori
        March 28, 2019 - 12:43 pm | Permalink

        (I meant the first question. Nothing theoretical about the second; it’s the daily existential Lent Madness howl of despair.)

  31. Mary Jane C. Ingalls's Gravatar Mary Jane C. Ingalls
    March 28, 2019 - 10:22 am | Permalink

    Martha speaks to the contemporary view of spiritual growth through action and pray, so I gave her my vote. However, my spiritual imagination took flight contemplating the evolution of the Nicodemus story as nomadic and small settlements of people sat by campfires under a vast, starlit desert sky of people sharing storied traditions that could transfer from one generation to the next an explanation of life’s end and the great mystery of death and beyond.

  32. Linda S's Gravatar Linda S
    March 28, 2019 - 10:23 am | Permalink

    Amber Belldene’s write up brings Martha into complete focus. Many thanks!
    I’ve never felt entirely comfortable with the common tendency to wag a finger at the lady whose hosting God for lunch. What host wouldn’t be scrambling for a delightful time, and, the table won’t set itself….
    This year’s foray into the life of Martha reveals her as a servant on her journey to maturity in the faith. In scripture I find a strong thread that deeper understanding and insight comes from obeying God. This is now how I view the Mary/Martha narrative. Each woman was free to inhabit their gift and church tradition reminds me that of course they bloomed in all sorts of directions just like the faithful servants we see in the parable of the talents.

  33. Joyce's Gravatar Joyce
    March 28, 2019 - 10:26 am | Permalink

    I voted for Martha for two reasons, one it is my sister’s name even though I was the Martha and she was the Mary and two Martha always seems to get the “put down” in the story. I am glad to have the “rest of the story” told.

  34. John Lewis's Gravatar John Lewis
    March 28, 2019 - 10:30 am | Permalink

    I voted for Martha because she had the more creative afterlife, a sign of the Holy Spirit working overtime to bring us closer to maturity in Christ.

  35. Jan Kellogg's Gravatar Jan Kellogg
    March 28, 2019 - 10:33 am | Permalink

    Who wants a busybody for Best Saint?

    • Tessa Lucero's Gravatar Tessa Lucero
      March 28, 2019 - 1:47 pm | Permalink

      Not a busybody, rather a busy body.

      • Jan Kellogg's Gravatar Jan Kellogg
        March 28, 2019 - 3:07 pm | Permalink

        Either way, it’s the 1st century equivalent of a Church Lady – not pretty.

        • Barbara MacRobie's Gravatar Barbara MacRobie
          March 28, 2019 - 5:42 pm | Permalink

          Parishes would be in deep trouble without the dedicated, spirited service of church ladies.

  36. Charles Stuart's Gravatar Charles Stuart
    March 28, 2019 - 10:42 am | Permalink

    Martha’s exemplification of actio and contemplio gets my vote.

  37. Gail's Gravatar Gail
    March 28, 2019 - 11:00 am | Permalink

    Michael Wachter gets my vote. He’s extremely talented!

  38. TJMannion's Gravatar TJMannion
    March 28, 2019 - 11:01 am | Permalink

    Ol’ Nic is going down! He’s very indecisive; thus, he deserves a wee bit o’ridicule. This goes back to the adage: “Ask me no questions, and I’ll tell you no lies”. He comes to Jesus by night asking what must be done, and then doesn’t like the answer. Sorry, bro.

    Martha, dear sis of Mary and Lazarus, knew her job and did it, to the sad scorn of Jesus’ pity. But she accepted His answer, and chose the lesser part, which was also not to be taken from her. So, Martha for the win!

    • Greg's Gravatar Greg
      March 28, 2019 - 10:43 pm | Permalink

      He’s not indecisive (very or otherwise) and it doesn’t say he doesn’t like the answer, he is working to understand.
      Read John 3.

  39. Miss Jan's Gravatar Miss Jan
    March 28, 2019 - 11:01 am | Permalink

    Nicodemus for insisting on a trial and not just summary execution and for showing up with spices to help Joseph of Arimathea prepare our Lord’s body for burial.

    We don’t hear of Peter, James, John, or any of the other apostles showing up to help.

  40. Ginny Berkey's Gravatar Ginny Berkey
    March 28, 2019 - 11:03 am | Permalink

    Michael, your songs get better and better. Definitely a God-given talent. Bless you for a bright spot in my mornings!

  41. Rene Jamieson's Gravatar Rene Jamieson
    March 28, 2019 - 11:05 am | Permalink

    As one who believes that a well-rounded Christian life requires both actio and contemplatio, my vote goes to Martha (although my Welsh heritage prompts me to question the routing of dragons!)

  42. Meredith Hales's Gravatar Meredith Hales
    March 28, 2019 - 11:09 am | Permalink

    Nicodemis because “the wind blows where it wills.”

  43. Amy's Gravatar Amy
    March 28, 2019 - 11:18 am | Permalink

    I’m going with Nic at Night in this round, for inspiring/eliciting the declaration of John 3:16, and for reminding the Sanhedrin that Jesus had the right to at least a hearing (I’m a lawyer), and because I think his care for Jesus’s body shows that he became a follower of the Way after that conversation with Jesus about his need to be “born from above.” But I’ll also be happy if Martha gets the nod – both of these are Golden Halo-worthy, imho!

  44. Deb Smith's Gravatar Deb Smith
    March 28, 2019 - 11:24 am | Permalink

    Tough call today, but as a member of Altar Guild, I feel compelled to cast my vote for Martha, the faithful servant and disciple who exemplifies service along with her piety!

  45. Patricia White's Gravatar Patricia White
    March 28, 2019 - 11:25 am | Permalink

    I do love Martha. We housewives struggle to find time for contemplio in the midst of our actio. Yet, the legendary difficulty Christ met at the Harrowing thrilled me. Wow, thanks, Bloggers.

  46. Mary E. Winston's Gravatar Mary E. Winston
    March 28, 2019 - 11:28 am | Permalink

    Amber, great write up about Martha. Marcus, thank you from the bottom of my heart for putting that song in my head to last ah, maybe all day. I voted for Martha because of another song “I am Woman Hear Me Roar”

  47. Marie's Gravatar Marie
    March 28, 2019 - 11:42 am | Permalink

    I have to vote for Martha. My mother was Martha, and her grandmother was Martha whose twin was Mary.

  48. Verdery Kassebaum's Gravatar Verdery Kassebaum
    March 28, 2019 - 11:52 am | Permalink

    Tough choice, but I went for Nicodemus. The story of the Harrowing of Hell is fascinating and encouraging–just because someone lived before the birth of Jesus doesn’t mean they have to stay in Hell forever. And long ago our choir sang the anthem “Most Glorious Lord of Life”, with the lines,
    “and having harrowed hell, didst bring away
    captivity thence captive, us to win.”

  49. Julie Nelson's Gravatar Julie Nelson
    March 28, 2019 - 11:53 am | Permalink

    Marcus Halley – I see what you did there with the Olivia Newton-John reference in the middle of that write-up. What an ear worm to have stuck in my head all day!

  50. Michael Fay's Gravatar Michael Fay
    March 28, 2019 - 12:04 pm | Permalink

    OK I like this: but Martha gets my vote.

  51. alexis dorf's Gravatar alexis dorf
    March 28, 2019 - 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Just a general comment about Lent Madness: we are using the booklet for our Sunday School teachings during Lent, and the kids are so fascinated that they chose to skip Eucharist to continue what they were doing, and then took their hospitality hour snacks back to their classroom to talk and explore further! Now THAT is impact!

  52. Glenn Brown's Gravatar Glenn Brown
    March 28, 2019 - 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Today’s dilemma – do I vote for Martha because she’s who I want to win or do I vote for Nicodemus because I suspect Marthas going to win and I don’t want Nic to get beat too badly 🙂

  53. Davis Dassori's Gravatar Davis Dassori
    March 28, 2019 - 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Oh, Hell, I’m voting for Nicodemus. He had his very own gospel, who could ask for anything more?

    (Who can write a lyric about him to the tune of “I Got Rhythm” and ending with “Who could ask for anything more?” I’ve tried, and can’t.)

    • Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
      March 28, 2019 - 12:53 pm | Permalink

      I know–I wish writing holy parodies of show tunes were my spiritual gift, too, but, alas, it is not.

    • Grace Kennedy's Gravatar Grace Kennedy
      March 28, 2019 - 1:09 pm | Permalink

      Sure could be us
      Questioned Jesus,
      Who could ask for anything more?

      Jesus hell-bound
      Had us spellbound
      Old Nic came around,
      Who could ask for anything more?

      • Davis Dassori's Gravatar Davis Dassori
        March 28, 2019 - 4:45 pm | Permalink


      • Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
        March 28, 2019 - 9:13 pm | Permalink

        Well, I’ll be! That’s great!

  54. Dorothy Drennen's Gravatar Dorothy Drennen
    March 28, 2019 - 12:38 pm | Permalink

    I’m a Martha, for sure. Rooting for her all the way to the Golden Halo!

  55. Irene Lawrence's Gravatar Irene Lawrence
    March 28, 2019 - 12:39 pm | Permalink

    I spent six years as Principal of the House of Bethany in Liberia, the girls’ half of the Episcopal High School in Robertsport, Liberia. That didn’t help me in the round of 32, but now, of course, I’m voting for Martha.

  56. Amy Cook's Gravatar Amy Cook
    March 28, 2019 - 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Although I like Nicodemus, Martha is a saintly hero! In the gospels, only 4 people proclaim that Jesus is the Messiah – One is the woman at the well, one is Andrew when he brings his brother, Peter, to Jesus, one is Peter when he answers Jesus’ question “who do you say that I am”, and the last person is Martha. But Martha not only says Jesus is the messiah – but she uses 3 messianic titles – the only person to do so before the Resurrection. In response to her, Jesus gives the greatest of his “I am” statements: “I am the Resurrection and the life…” I think for too long Martha has been relegated to the role of housekeeper or the “practical” one. However, I think she too started sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening with her sister Mary, and then became an important leader in the early church.

  57. Mike Juhasz's Gravatar Mike Juhasz
    March 28, 2019 - 12:43 pm | Permalink

    “Jesus then proceeds to lay the holy smackdown in Hell….”
    So the Gospel of Nicodemus details how Christ won the WWE Nether World Champion Belt.

  58. March 28, 2019 - 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Nicodemus embodies the Way of the Small, as does Martha. The writers here focus on legend and apocryphal accounts, but I think more of the direct scripture. I love Martha, and the comments here helped me find a way to go beyond the dualism of Martha and Mary. Martha is inspiring, yet I relate more to Nicodemus, who exemplifies to me the path of Jesus that evolves from unknowing, to questioning, to experiencing a different view that runs counter to popular thinking, and then becoming more intimate with Jesus, as Nicodemus did by helping prepare God’s body for burial. Christ died for Nicodemus, and for people like him, that they might come more fully to God. Nicodemus gives me strength and hope, an example that wherever I am and whoever I am that I can come closer to Christ in my own life.

  59. Judy Bye's Gravatar Judy Bye
    March 28, 2019 - 1:02 pm | Permalink

    Before I voted I went back and read the article about the Jewish Burial Society, performing their duties ,chevra kadisha, to clean up after the massacre at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburg, PA. The article is “Their Bloods Cry Out from the Ground” by Shira Teluskin, Nov. 1, 2018. I imagine Nicodemus doing all this, in accordance with Jewish law, for Jesus. I imagine such detail was not recorded because Jews were routinely murdered for being Jews and many of us are still not well versed in the details of many Jewish rituals. In my simple mind, Nicodemus, could very easily have been a principle player in, say…Easter morning! I think he was there for a reason. The story is there for a reason.

  60. Micah's Gravatar Micah
    March 28, 2019 - 1:08 pm | Permalink

    This was a hard one for me. But I went with Nicodemus because that scene of Christ harrowing hell is so vivid and cinematic. (I can almost imagine it being done with muppets. But I digress…) I especially loved the quotation of the psalm, the Biblical figures speaking their writings, and Satan taking his line!

  61. Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
    March 28, 2019 - 1:19 pm | Permalink

    The Harrowing of Hell with Muppets…. Oh, you are BAD, Micah! I’ll never be able to think of that now without Oscar the Grouch in a major role!

  62. Jane Bucci's Gravatar Jane Bucci
    March 28, 2019 - 1:25 pm | Permalink

    The outrageous talent displayed in these comments continues to blow me away. While I chose Nicodemus and Mary in the Saintly 16, I’m now swinging my vote to Martha. Amber Belldene’s write-up won the day for me, dragon and all.

  63. Waynecarlos's Gravatar Waynecarlos
    March 28, 2019 - 1:32 pm | Permalink

    To quote the townsfolk in the wonderful TV series Northern Exposure “No more show tunes Maurice!”

  64. Anne E.B.'s Gravatar Anne E.B.
    March 28, 2019 - 2:28 pm | Permalink

    The Harrowing of Hell was moving but Martha is the Lady of the day!

  65. Lee Greenawalt's Gravatar Lee Greenawalt
    March 28, 2019 - 2:53 pm | Permalink

    I went with Nick who not only had faith though struggles of reasoning and doubts, but risked position and personal assets to challenge authority with which he identified and honored.

  66. Juanita's Gravatar Juanita
    March 28, 2019 - 3:02 pm | Permalink

    I voted for Nicodemus because I thought he probably didn’t have a chance in hell, except that his apocryphal gospel says that he does.

  67. James Lodwick's Gravatar James Lodwick
    March 28, 2019 - 3:30 pm | Permalink

    I think Amber Belldene meant to say that Martha was considered in the Middle Ages to be a model of both “actio and comtemplatio,” not “contemplio.” I don’t believe the latter word exists in Latin. I say it without “contemptio.”

  68. Jeanie's Gravatar Jeanie
    March 28, 2019 - 4:21 pm | Permalink

    Martha has never been a cartoon character for me.

  69. Linda's Gravatar Linda
    March 28, 2019 - 5:41 pm | Permalink

    I agree that Michael’s offering today to the tune of “I am Sixteen, Going on Seventeen” is my favorite show tune so far. The line “Lazarus dies and/Mary just cries and/Martha does all the work” is one of my favorite Forbidden Lent parody lyrics. Thank you, Michael, for the best & funniest Lent Madness of all times.

  70. Linda Burnett's Gravatar Linda Burnett
    March 28, 2019 - 5:46 pm | Permalink

    I love the story of the Harrowing of Hell, but went with Martha.

  71. Melanie Mitchell's Gravatar Melanie Mitchell
    March 28, 2019 - 5:58 pm | Permalink

    I am so grateful that both Martha and Photina are representing the women who knew, listened to, and believed in Jesus. Mary too, though she got eliminated in the first round sisterly smackdown (there can only be one). I don’t suppose the brackets are structured in such a way that Martha and Photina could go all the way?

  72. Fiona's Gravatar Fiona
    March 28, 2019 - 6:04 pm | Permalink

    Fabulous to learn more about both of these great Saints. However, I have always loved the story of the harrowing of hell – that wonderful passage where Isaiah, sitting in the darkness, sees his prophecy come true as the light of Christ shines upon them. For this beautiful image my vote goes to Nicodemus.

  73. March 28, 2019 - 8:09 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps it depends on one’s understanding of the Resurrection . . . I, too, voted for Nicodemus.

  74. Gay jolley's Gravatar Gay jolley
    March 28, 2019 - 8:53 pm | Permalink

    Nicholas spoke when it was dangerous, sought knowledge that was antiestsblishment, and acted in kindness when he could have suffered greatly to do so. He had power and risked it. Nick for me, though I have always been a Martha fan.

  75. Robert Coates's Gravatar Robert Coates
    March 28, 2019 - 8:58 pm | Permalink

    I’m loyal to my Martha.

  76. Nolan McBride's Gravatar Nolan McBride
    March 28, 2019 - 9:14 pm | Permalink

    I love Martha and honestly expect her to win, but having recently sung an arangement of the psalm quoted in the Gospel of Nicodemus with my university choir I have to vote for him.

  77. Kim's Gravatar Kim
    March 28, 2019 - 9:54 pm | Permalink

    The union of actio and contemplio did it for me.

  78. Terrie Wallace's Gravatar Terrie Wallace
    March 29, 2019 - 1:01 am | Permalink

    I was originally going to vote for Martha, however after the comment on Nicodemus representing the small, I couldn’t help but agree. I also saw him literally going through an internal fight within his soul when push came to shove and he was performing his role in the Sanhedrin. First comes to Jesus at night open, wanting to learn and it seemed and possibly even thinking about following yet fearful of being part of the crowds during the day due to his position, as well as possibly being in a position which made him very despised by others, not within his social status. The pressure of his day job- a member of the Sanhedrin probably was also probably in such conflict with what his spirit knew he was absolutely hungering for deep within that after he left, he decided he absolutely couldn’t become a believer, and a follower. Who knew would happen if it got out that a member of the highest court of Jerusalem had come late at night to find Jesus and learn from him- possibly even death. When Christ was then arrested, there was the same member of Jerusalem’s high court probably still feeling the late-night visit deep within his heart. He knew on the outside that he absolutely couldn’t try to convince of innocence due to expectations of his role, those around him in the high court, and the gargantuan pressure of all surrounding him at the time absolutely expecting a negative fate for Jesus. So, in the end he offered a compromise- instead, he only convinced Christ’s accusers and the court as a whole that the accused first needed a trial before anything else thus at least offering some chance that the innocence which he also knew within that Christ was deserving of might be the verdict. Lastly when he brought the spices, and oils to help prepare Christ’s body for burial it was almost like he was finally allowing God in as well as well as offering an apology to his beloved deciples, and followers for bending to the huge pressures he was under to go with the masses instead of being true to the seeds of faith and belief that Christ had planted that night during his late-night visit.

  79. Donny Smith's Gravatar Donny Smith
    March 29, 2019 - 7:13 pm | Permalink

    What happened to Friday the 29th???

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