She must have frozen at His voice. Was it gentle, scolding, smiling, stern?
We’ve probably all been there. Rushing around, doing doing doing, trying to cook, trying to impress. Meanwhile, she just sits there, NOT DOING ANYTHING TO HELP.
I’ve been thinking about Martha this Thanksgiving week, the story about when Jesus pops over for dinner. Luke tells it this way:
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
It’s so easy to judge Martha, 2,000 years and a Bible later. We read this story and tsk tsk her, wondering how she could ever be so clueless as to be worried about the hummus and naan when GOD’S VERY OWN SON was hanging out in her living room.
Martha was the practical one.
By the time Jesus arrived at Martha’s doorstep, His ministry was picking up speed, and there were a lot of people following Him around. In fact, just a few paragraphs earlier, Luke relates the story of the 72 disciples Jesus sent out, and how they came back rejoicing to Him that even the demons submit to us in your name. They may have been rejoicing right up to Martha’s front door, and who can blame her for looking out the window in horror, wondering how she was ever going to feed them all.
And there was Jesus, dusty and tired, surrounded by perhaps a few dozen of His closest followers, relaxing, talking, laughing, teaching. And who is that scooched up right under His very sandals? Could it be? Is that my lazy sister Mary?
Yes, if we are honest with ourselves, we have all had our Martha moments. Moments when we feel unhelped, unnoticed, unimportant, unloved. When maybe we even feel that we’re the only ones doing the right thing, and the rest of the world is a bunch of slackers.
“Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
Martha spouts off at THE LORD and tells Him to tell her sister to helpoutwithdinnerforthelove. Did Jesus get angry, rebuke, scorn? All we have are the few words of Jesus that Luke records, but when I imagine the scene, I picture Jesus with a small smile teasing the corner of his mouth, His eyes dancing with love and fire.
Martha, Martha. I see you working over there. I see your heart, Martha. I know you want only to please, to bless. And, yes, we have traveled far and we are hungry and you are seeing to it that our simple needs are met. I so appreciate that.
I see you, Martha. I see you, but come over here. Come closer. I have something important to tell you.
Worry and disorder are not of My kingdom, Martha. Your distracted mind and troubled heart have no place in My presence. My kingdom is a peaceable one, even in the midst of strife, yes, even then. Especially then. Yes, we are many and we are hungry, but did you not hear how I fed the 5,000 with but a few loaves and fish? I AM not worried, therefore you need not worry. Don’t you trust Me?
We are constantly told as parents that we should never compare our children, so it has always surprised me that Jesus tells Martha to regard her sister Mary, sitting at His feet. Few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.
My own kids love to tease each other about who is “the fave,” but of course they know there is room enough in my heart to love each of them with an abandon that sometimes hurts. So surely the Creator of the universe, Maker of hearts, knows His children well enough, knows the love between the two sisters, knows that Martha would not resent the comparison.
Only one thing is needed.
It’s a picture of the cross before the cross. That’s the whole point: Jesus isn’t asking us to perform, to work, to earn His love. He already loves us, has loved us from the beginning of time. We don’t need to rush around, to jump through spiritual hoops, to do or be anything other than ourselves.
Only one thing is needed, and, at first glance, it sure looks like the least practical thing. Sit with Me. Be with Me. Listen to Me. Choose ME.
Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.
I have to say this is quite the relief as the chores begin to stack up from a day spent giving thanks. I’ll just sit here with Him. The dishes aren’t going anywhere.
Plus maybe if I wait, somebody else will do them.