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Every Mary Needs a Martha

Hostess with the mostest

Hostess with the Mostest, circa 1993

Today, I am awaiting the dreaded phone call: the results of the glucose test that will reveal if I have gestational diabetes.

I am 26 weeks pregnant with baby 3, a little girl named Lucy.

She is a kicker, and I am her home for the next 13 weeks.

Today, in addition to being the big diabetes reveal day, the Catholic Church is celebrating the feast of St. Martha, the sister of Lazarus and Mary of Bethany.

As I read the passages about Martha, in Luke 10:38-42 and John 11:17-27, I am struck with a new image of this beloved friend of Jesus. For a long time, I have longed to be like Mary of Bethany, sitting at Jesus’ feet and soaking up His presence. Indeed, doesn’t Jesus commend Mary for choosing ‘the good part’? I love Jesus so much and enjoy sitting in His presence that I am rarely wont to leave and get back to ‘the real world’ of running a home and caring for my 3-year-old and 20-month-old.

I have always seen Mary and Martha contrasted in this passage, and I read it like this: “Mary good, Martha bad.”

But today for the first time, I realized that is not what is happening.

Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house.

Martha welcomes Jesus into her home, this wandering teacher with dirty feet and a cadre of unkempt accomplices.

And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word.

That ‘also’ is important, because by her actions, we can see that Martha greatly values what Jesus is saying and doing. She values it so much that she opens up her home, the intimate details of her daily life, to this man Jesus.

Martha makes it possible for Mary to sit at Jesus’ feet. 

Martha runs the home; she fixes the meals; she coordinates the sleeping arrangements; she cleans up after everyone. I think I can hear the joking in her voice when she finally approaches Jesus after days of all of this.

Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me!

Martha knows that Mary doesn’t listen to her sister as eagerly as she will listen to the traveling rabbi. I hear Jesus answer her, not as a public rebuke, but with a laugh in His voice as well.

Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.

Busy? Sure. Being a hostess for any length of time requires attention and energy. But distracted? What was Martha distracted by? Maybe it wasn’t just all the serving. Maybe she was concerned about other things. Being a single woman in a man’s world?  Feelings of responsibility for her sister? The cost of perpetually opening her home to those in need? We don’t know specifically, but we do know that Jesus knew. And He caught her attention.

But one thing is needed…

She is a hostess. She runs her house well. She opens her doors to those in need. She creates a place for Mary to receive the one thing of which Jesus speaks.

Maybe I’m way off, but I hear Jesus saying this to Martha underneath the words on the page: “Martha, don’t take away the good thing Mary has right now. Let her soak in what she is needing. Take care of the details so that she can enjoy the necessary. You love her too much to take that away from her. Peace. Be still.”

And on this day, awaiting the diabetes test results, I hear Jesus saying this to me:

Amanda, peace. Be still. Fretting and worrying about so many things- – -like what you could have done differently to avoid an unwanted diagnosis- – -takes you away from the task at hand, to provide a home for your little girl where she can sit and soak up My presence as I knit her together in your womb. Like Martha, you have provided a home for Me and a home for this little Mary. I receive the gift of your hospitality, and I will bless you for it. Thank you for your willingness to host those in need of shelter. Don’t be afraid, and let not your heart be troubled.”

Will I receive those words today, as the anxiety builds and the dread of the unwanted diagnosis hangs over me?

Martha chose to receive Jesus’ words. We can see this clearly in her beauty and faith after she has lost Lazarus and she faces Jesus in the midst of her pain.

Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house.

She knows she has to be with Jesus, to see Him, to talk to Him.

Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.”

She is raw and open, but she affirms what she has learned in the secret place. Listen to those words! What a sound they must be to Jesus, who has been rejected and spat upon throughout Judea…”Whatever you ask of God, God will give you!” She has come to know Jesus in a deep way and has seen, somehow, the depths of intimacy that He has with the Father.

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

I am struck by the intimacy that Jesus uses with Martha in the next thing He says:

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

Her brother is dead. 3 days gone. And Jesus risks being a little pushy with this grieving woman.

But Martha, the hostess with the sense of humor and the willingness to open herself, her home, her life, to others in need, declares who Jesus is. She receives His words and proclaims the truth, in her broken estate.

She said to Him, “Yes, Lord. I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”(John 11:17-27 NKJV)

May we all provide a place for others to be loved by Jesus and to be safe to worship Him with authenticity and integrity. May we all have the faith and the joy of Martha today, no matter the circumstances we face. And most of all, may we all press deeply in to intimate relationship with Jesus, so that He can meet us and feed us where we are. He is the Christ, the Son of God, who has come into the world to save us and who is coming again.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus!


2 Comments

  1. This is so insightful! As a first-time momma to be who just went through a kinda stressful glucose test, this hits home for me so much! I so appreciate your fresh perspective on Martha’s role in that story- so, so good.

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