Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I Heart Martha!

Martha gets a bum rap.

Yes, I'm talking about Martha the Domestic Diva.

But not the modern one.

I refer to another culinary Martha, the New Testament sister of Mary and Lazarus. Why as Christians do we so consistently remember folks for their weaknesses, failings, or rebukes instead of remembering their strengths and victories?

The watchword of today is "Be like Mary," the Queen of Worship. I'm sure you are familiar with the account in Luke 10:38-42 where Martha is distracted by all the preparations to be made when Jesus comes to visit. When she complains to Jesus that Mary is slacking off and not helping her, Jesus reminds her to refocus her priorities.

It is interesting to me that He doesn't actually rebuke her for her service, only her worry and distraction over it. In fact, later in Scripture we see Martha again serving the Lord.

But as we are apt to do, we have seized on this story and oh, how often we ladies say with self-reproach, "I'm a Martha and I need to be a Mary."

We focus on Martha's failings and not her triumphs.

In the account of Lazarus' illness, death, and subsequent raising from the dead, which is found in John 11, Martha absolutely shines. It is Martha who runs to meet Jesus upon His return, while Mary remains in the home (v. 20). And listen to her statement of faith in v. 27: "Yes, Lord," she told him, "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world."

You don't see too many of those declarations in Scripture. Peter's similar one comes to mind in Matthew 16:15-19, upon which Jesus blesses him for receiving such a revelation from the Father in heaven.

Why don't we remember Martha for that?

But my favorite part of this whole story is a tender verse that many skip right over to get to what they consider the "main" miracle of Lazarus' resurrection. Look at verse 5.

"Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus."


How many of us have written that verse this way in our minds: "Jesus loved Mary and Lazarus and He really wished Martha would get her act together. Why can't she be more like Mary? Mary certainly knew how to worship and sat in rapt attention listening to everything Jesus said. If anyone was a model spiritual woman, that would be Mary. She has it figured out."

No, Jesus loved Martha.

Enough to be sure that HER name was mentioned this time, rather than Mary's, who usually got noticed for her extravagant acts of worship while Martha was content to serve in the background.

Because He created Martha with special gifts. And once her heart's focus was on Him instead of the to-do list, she was able to serve Him with a heart that recognized Him for Who He was: the long-awaited Messiah.

God never wanted her to be Mary. He just wanted her to be the Martha He created her to be.

Sold out, surrendered, and serving Him.

So next time someone asks me if I'm a Martha or a Mary, I'm going to hold my head up, smile, and say, "I'm a Martha, and God made me to serve Him!"

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Amy L Brooke said...

Great perspective. God made Martha's because we all need them! I am glad you are one.

Linda said...

I never noticed the verse about Martha's faith declaration in reference to the Mary/Martha saga! You are amazing! (I've only been in church 45 years. Slow learner.) I identify most closely with Martha, too, only not so much in a domestic diva sense, just in a busy-ness sense. And please quit saying, "Ted Koppel," because every single time I read it, I bust out laughing, which is not good when you're having coffee right over your keyboard. :)

Xandra said...

Thank you so much for this perspective! I never thought about Mary and Martha like that, but I did have misconceptions about the whole story!

One of my spiritual gifts is service, and that story always made me a little uncomfortable. But your words give me encouragement! I can't wait to go read that scripture again for myself!


Susanne said...

Came over from 2nd Cup of Coffee. What a great post! How encourageing for us Martha's.

Chris @ Come to the Table said...

This was awesome!

One time I heard a similar teaching about Martha and had your exact thoughts. And do you suppose that maybe the reason Jesus stopped and spoke to Martha about her being distracted at the time, was because he knew she loved him and because of His love for her he didn't want her to miss this opportunity?
I am currently doing the study "Jesus the One and Only", and the one thing that keeps coming up over and over is how compassionate Jesus was towards those he spent time with.

I am going to read through these scriptures.

Again, this was an excellent post!

Lisa writes... said...

Great post! May we be Martha's and Mary's and Linda's and Lisa's who are "Sold out, surrendered, and serving Him"!

Lisa Brown - Vintage Sweet Peas said...

Wow, what a beautiful post! It touched me in a unexpected way! Thank you for your perspective!

Xandra said...

BTW...I have something for you on my blog!