This past week I've been thinking a great deal about Martha, the sister of Mary and Lazarus. I often find myself wanting to come to her defense. Why, you ask? Maybe it's because I think she is misjudged or possibly the reason stems from the fact that I so identify with her. She was a server on steriods for sure, but who can say, except Jesus, what exactly was in her heart?
We find her in Luke 10:38-42 rushing about the kitchen, preparing a meal for the Lord Jesus and His disciples. She is a doer and getting the job done was her priority. Unfortunately, like many of us with the "do instinct", Martha became frustrated in her serving. I do not believe her irritation grew from the work at hand, but rather from her view into the living room. From where she was preparing the meal, she could clearly see her sister Mary, sitting quietly at the feet of Jesus. Martha was frustrated with her sister, but that did not mean she did not love her. Like all of us "Marthas" the growing irritability stemmed more from the circumstances, not necessarily from the people involved. When that happens we tend to take the frustration out on the Lord. After all can't He change any circumstance? Well it seems that is what Martha thought because she didn't go have words with Mary-instead she voiced her complaint to Jesus. And what exactly did she say? "Lord don't you care?" Now here is when everyone starts judging Martha, but why exactly do we? Think about it for a minute-all of us have found ourselves in circumstances that seem unfair and just like Martha, our hearts cry out "Lord, don't you care?"
Jesus' answer is pointed, yet tender and it speaks to all of us. His words convict-they do not condemn. The Lord repeated her name, indicating His gentleness with her. He understood Martha, far better than any theologian or author who has tried to write about her down through the ages. Jesus knew that Martha's spiritual gift of serving was greatly needed, it just had to have balance. She, like all of us, got caught up in secondary matters while Mary had chosen the important over the urgent. Now before any of you go elevating Mary to sainthood, let's understand that Mary also had her faults. Her gifts and talents were also capable of getting out of balance and tipping the scale toward wrong priorities.
Yes Martha had a lesson to learn-the first being that Jesus did care! He demonstrated just how much by taking his time to give her instruction coupled with understanding. Plainly speaking, I believe Martha learned her lesson.
The next time we meet up with Martha is in John chapter 11. Lazarus is dying and both sisters agree to send for Jesus. We all know the story, by the time Jesus arrived Lazarus had died and been burried. Apparently Martha was the first one to see Jesus-and here was her choice-go tidy things up, put the soup on to simmer, or choose that good part that would not be taken away from her. She made her decision and according to John 11:20 Martha headed straight to Jesus. Once again her statement is direct, but Jesus rewards her right priorities by telling her something profound. When Martha assures the Lord that she believes that Lazarus will rise at the Resurrection, He looks directly at her and says, "I am the Resurrection and the life; he that believes in me, though he may die, yet shall he live: and whosoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" Wouldn't you have loved to be standing in Martha's sandals at that very moment? To be able to look into his eyes and say, "Yes Lord I believe you are the Christ, the Son of God." Martha was the first to hear His words-words that still brings tears to a Christians eyes-words that bring hope and courage even in the face of death. How like the Lord Jesus to let Martha hear this amazing truth first.
Yes, Martha had her struggles, but she also had a teachable spirit. Throughout the remaining years of her life, I'm sure she dealt with mixed up priorities and frustrations with her gift of serving. Perhaps there were even times when she wondered once again, "Lord don't you care?" But remember what I said in the beginning, Jesus knew what was in this womans heart. In the end her final answer would be-"Lord, I believe you are the Christ, the Son of God."
Although I do identify with Martha in many ways, I must admit that I would like to be more like her. I realize once again why I admire her so much. It isn't her serving, but rather her transparency and honesty. She would not hide from Jesus what He already knew. Her questions were genuine and sincere and the answers she received came from her Savior who knew her and loved her and accepted her for exactly who she was.