Her story: Luke 10:38-42
Martha has come to us through history, more often than not, as the woman who was too busy; a woman of action who was too preoccupied with the task at hand to spend time with Jesus. But there was much more to Martha than that. She and her brother and sister enjoyed a close relationship with Jesus. ‘Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus’, John writes (John 11:5). Their home in Bethany was always open to him. Jesus and his disciples often enjoyed the hospitality and fellowship found there.
However, like many of us, Martha became distressed when life didn’t go according to her plan. On the occasion of Jesus’ visit recorded in Luke 10:38-42, Martha was greatly upset that her sister Mary chose to sit with Jesus instead of helping with the preparations for their guests. In frustration, she came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to come and help me!”
“Don’t you care?”
We might express it differently, but when we are under stress we sometimes have similar thoughts. “Lord, don’t you care!” We do not understand why he let’s certain things happen, or does not stop other things from happening. We wonder why he is not smoothing the way for us to do our ‘good works’. And, like Martha, when we become distracted by such worries it can be very easy to find fault with others, especially if they seem to have found a degree of peace and satisfaction that is eluding us. We can even begin thinking God does not care about us.
“My sister has left me to do all the work by myself.”
It seemed very unfair to Martha that she was doing all the work without Mary’s help. Her joy in serving had been snapped as she became overwhelmed by all that she believed had to be done. In our attempts to serve God we can weigh ourselves down with unnecessary burdens. We might also feel disappointed and angry when people we expected to help and support us, show no inclination at all to do so. On the contrary, they seem to be doing nothing much at all. At such times life can be unfair to us, too. We, like Martha, can feel that we are doing all the work by ourselves. Martha obviously had practical and organising gifts but she shared, with many other people gifted that way, the temptation to feel that others took advantage of her practical nature. From Martha’s point of view, Mary should have been helping her, not leaving everything to Martha. Jesus on the other hand was conscious of his approaching death and the little time left to share with his followers but his words also draw attention to the importance of sometimes choosing to put other busy things aside and spending time with him, as Mary was commended for doing.
It’s not uncommon for Christians to overdo things in their genuine attempts to please God. The situation at Bethany on this day was not a competition between Mary and Martha to see who was doing the right or wrong thing. For all of us, following Jesus will mean times of public activity for him, coupled with times of private withdrawal with him. It is as we spend time with Jesus that we learn to get the right blend. This is also when we are empowered by his Spirit for whatever he asks us to do.
“Tell her to help me!”
Martha probably expected Jesus to come to her defense and send Mary into the kitchen to help her. Instead he spoke to Martha herself, helping her to regain perspective. Sometimes we go to God full of what we think is righteous indignation about someone, expecting him to vindicate us and put the other person in their place. But are we prepared to consider that he might need speak to us instead? God doesn’t always tell us what we want to hear, but he does tell us what we need to hear. If we are listening, we will hear him. If we are willing to be obedient, we will allow his words to reach us, teach us and change us.
We are told how Martha responded to Jesus’ words to her, but accounts in John’s Gospel indicate that she was a teachable and faiths filled believer, in spite of further challenges and heartaches. Martha continued to gladly serve through hospitality, while Mary again spent time at the feet of Jesus (John 11:1-43; 12:1-3). Martha would no doubt always be the one who organised the family and her sister Mary comes across in the gospel as the more emotional and impulsive of the two. Mary would never be Martha and Jesus was helping Martha to learn to let people be themselves, showing their love to Jesus and serving him in their own God-given ways. She was learning to receive what Jesus said to her, even when it meant realigning her beliefs or actions so as to be obedient.
Obedience to God is often equated with doing something, with being active. But obedience is often simply believing. Or waiting, or resting, or trusting, or relinquishing. All are important. As we spend time with Jesus learning to listen, we discover the right mix of being and doing.
In Martha we discover more than a woman who in frustration threw her hands in the air one day and lost her temper. (Can’t we relate to that?!) She was a woman who demonstrated her love for Jesus through exercising her gift of hospitality, and being open to learn how to use it more wisely. In good times and bad, we see a woman with strength of character and commitment, who was ready to receive from Jesus both words of hope as well as of correction. A woman Jesus loved- as he does you and me.
I wrote a poem relating to this post titled: At His Feet!
Hope we gained one or two things from this post.
Your comments mean a lot to me, so let it out…
Till my next post.. Namaste
(Post from Women’s Devotional $ Study Bible)