Jesus Wants ‘Marthas’

Jesus Wants ‘Marthas’

by Too Lorna Verlinden on May 11, 2020
There are only two short passages referring to Martha in the New Testament, and one where she is just named. The first one is in Luke 10: 38-42:
“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.’”

I’ve always felt a little sorry for Martha - like Jesus wasn’t being totally fair to her - she was doing all the work, but who else was going to? And it was Jesus, after all, who was the guest of honor so only the best would do, and there would be loads of people to feed. How could she not be flustered and needing help? It doesn’t say how she felt at Jesus’ rebuke, but she could easily have thought, what does He know about what I have to do? And why is He favoring Mary?

But when we go to the next passage, John 11:1-44, we see something of a reversal in the roles of Mary, the ‘perfect’ Christian, who sat at Jesus’ feet hanging on to his every word, and Martha, the flustered housewife. Lazarus was very ill, and the sisters had called for Jesus to come, but he delayed until it was too late.

“When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. ‘Lord,’ Martha said to Jesus, ‘if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.’ 23 Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha answered, ‘I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ she replied, ‘I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.’” (John 11:20-27)

When Jesus finally arrived it wasn’t Mary who ran out to meet Him and declare her trust in Him - it was Martha who went before He’d even arrived (v 30) and it was Martha who was totally confident, whatever the circumstances, that Jesus was in control and could do anything. No sign of any resentment at His rebuke the previous time, simply absolute trust. We are not told much of what passed between Jesus and Mary when she finally came out to see Him, but I think it might be because this is Martha’s moment, the busy housewife who hasn’t so much spare time to sit down and listen.

In the very next chapter John 12:1-2 we read just one sentence about Martha – she was serving at a dinner given in Jesus’ honor. This is the last mention of Martha in the Bible. So, what can we learn from this not-so-remarkable and yet very special woman? No doubt about it, Martha was a real servant. She also was humble for she could take a rebuke and not go off in an offended huff, and she had a deep, unshakeable trust in Jesus. What an example to us. I believe Jesus wants Marthas as well as Marys.