"As Jesus and His disciples were on their way, He came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her door 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." (Luke 10:38, NIV)
The noise from the kitchen grew louder as cupboard doors were slammed and pots were banged together. The crowd, gathered in Martha's house to hear Jesus speak, had to press in closely. The outer ring closest to the kitchen tried their best to block out the muttering they heard as Martha spat out hateful words. Several times, Martha left the kitchen to peek into the room where Jesus sat teaching. She tried to catch Mary's eye, but it was impossible because she was sitting right at the feet of Jesus as she listened intently.
Martha couldn't stand it any longer. She marched into the room. She kicked everyone in her path and pushed her way right up to the oblivious Mary. She stood behind Jesus and glared. Mary didn't even look her way. Miffed, Martha moved to the front of Jesus and hovered over Him where He sat.
She wiped the sweat from her forehead and massaged her back. She hoped to get a little sympathy without having to say anything, but since this didn't work, she spoke up. She was unable to keep her words from sounding like a reprimand, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"
Jesus looked at Martha, not unkindly, but with concern and love. He was never quick to speak. He always prayed about each word that came from His mouth. Martha grew uncomfortable and regretted the words that had just fallen out of hers.
It seemed like hours to Martha, but in only a few seconds, Jesus said, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will be not taken away from her."
Martha was shocked by His words. She felt bad that she had spoken to Jesus so harshly, but what right did He have to speak to her like this? Her cheeks burned with embarrassment. She whipped her body around to face her sister. Clearly, justice was on her side. It's no small job to cook for such a big crowd. Did Jesus really expect her to do all the work while everyone just sat around and listened to Him while waiting for supper to be served?
The crowd's eyes shifted from the red-faced Martha back to Jesus, some having to crane their necks to look around her all but Mary. Martha's sister had tears in her eyes. Mary knew what hard work it was to prepare supper. She also knew deep in her heart that Jesus would only be with them for a short time. She had to spend as much time with Him as she could, even if it meant experiencing her sister's wrath. Tears streaming down her face, Mary sat, torn between the love for her sister and the love for her Lord.
Martha saw Mary's tears, Mary, so sweet, and always so helpful. Being the oldest, Martha's heart melted. If only she could sit at Jesus' feet. She felt it wrong to be idle though. There was always something to be done. But Jesus had said that Mary chose what was better. Mary was always the first to run down the road to meet Jesus when He called out. She would drop whatever she was doing, and leave Martha with the mess. Nothing Martha ever said to her would stop her behavior, and over time, Martha grew more jealous each time Jesus came to visit. She ached to be able to have that kind of relationship with Him but couldn't fit it into her busy schedule.
Martha stood, unaware of the crowd that eagerly sat waiting for Jesus to speak. All embarrassment gone, she felt only Jesus and Mary's presence in the room. Tears coursed down her cheeks. That aching, burning sensation that she had pressed down for so long in her Lord's presence was now in the forefront of her mind and body. She couldn't ignore it any longer.
She feared she would lose what little relationship she had left with Jesus and Mary if she ignored the calling this time. The dishes, the food, the preparations they all left her mind. The only thing that mattered now was Jesus' touch. She dropped to her knees and the tears flowed. Martha, the strong dependable one, who seemed detached from emotion, wept at the feet of Jesus. Mary scooted in closer and flung her arm over Martha's shoulder, and together they wept tears of joy. Time stood still as Jesus got down on His knees. He put one hand on Martha's shoulder and one on Mary's and wept right along with them.
The crowd pressed in even closer. They were eager to have this relationship with Jesus, their Teacher, also. That very day, the weak were made strong. The sick were healed. Relationships were mended. No one left that house unchanged.
Jesus got up first, and He helped Martha and Mary to their feet. The three side-stepped over the people, most of whom now lay prostrate on the floor, and they made their way into the kitchen. He wiped away the women's tears and hugged them as a brother hugs his sisters. Jesus then picked up a knife and started to finish working on the supper that Martha had been preparing. Refreshed and happy, they all three worked together.
It was now a pleasure to serve the hungry crowd. They laid out the food and waited on the people as they ate. It wasn't a chore any longer. It was a ministry because Jesus was right there with them. Jesus taught Martha how to be a servant. She now understood that her relationship with Jesus was the most important thing and that everything else would fall into place as she made Him the love of her life. Ever after, when they heard Jesus calling out to them, Martha was the first to drop everything and answer.
Once again, a day came when Martha was drawn to Jesus' feet as she wept. Time stood still as Jesus ministered to her when He hung there in agony. When He was taken down from the cross, dead, she was sad, but something in her heart reminded her that she would see Him again. He had shared some things with them that day in her house that gave her hope. Because she was ministered to and encouraged by her Lord, she was able to get busy and start ministering to His hurting family as they mourned the loss of dear Jesus. She whispered, "He will be back three days." She didn't quite understand it herself, but she believed with all her heart that in three days everything was going to change. As she washed dishes and prepared food, she held on to that hope.
Three days later, she woke up, expectant and anxious. She knew she needed to stay and prepare everything for the grieving family, so she shook Mary awake. She sent her off running to the tomb to confirm what Martha knew all along. Mary found the tomb empty of course! Jesus was alive, just like He had said! He was forever alive in their hearts, even as He had been seen by the disciples to return to His Father in Heaven.
Martha was able to minister as a servant the rest of her days because Jesus had loved her enough to take the time to speak words of correction to her. From then on, at the slightest tug at her heart, or the gentle whisper from the Holy Spirit, she would stop and speak words of worship to her dear Jesus, ever after.
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