She heard the Teacher speak the first time on a trip to Jerusalem; the man can teach! His knowledge of the Torah and the way he related it to everyday life was in her opinion legendary. She had never been so touched by God’s Word in a long time. When she got home, she shared everything she had learnt from that one teaching with her sister Mary and her brother Lazarus. Both of them were intrigued by everything she shared, and Lazarus decided he was going to Jerusalem to hear this teacher for himself.
On that day, Martha set out with Lazarus and true to her word, the Teacher was teaching again at the Synagogue. After his teaching, Lazarus struck a conversation with the Teacher and introduced Martha to him.
Now, Martha knows her strength; her dream has always been to run a guest house. She loves hospitality and loves the opportunity to host a company regardless of the number.
Before the conversation with Jesus; the Teacher even got any further, Martha invited him to their home anytime he was in their vicinity. Jesus promised to stop by soon, and they left for home. Lazarus had found a new friend and Martha had even more to share with Mary when she got home.
Not too long after, Jesus received a reminder invitation from Lazarus, who had told all his friends in their village of this awesome teacher he was going to host in his home for them to hear him speak. Jesus obliged, and a date was set for his visit.
Martha could not sleep through the night! Two very special events were holding on the same day at her house.
She couldn’t even tell which was more exciting; the fact that Jesus was actually coming to visit or the fact that he was bringing his disciples with him and Lazarus was bringing his friends too, all which translate to a great party. Something Martha loved to do. Like I said she barely slept. Three times during the night, she woke Mary up, who in her own way was looking forward to the day as well.
The difference is,
Mary was excited for a different reason; she had not had the opportunity to hear Jesus teach, and she had made up her mind to make the best use of that opportunity.
She had a lot of questions she wanted to ask, and if this Jesus is as deep as they have said, she would definitely receive answers to her questions. As Mary turned again to go to sleep for the third time after Martha woke her up, the last thing on her mind was a pot or a plate. Mary knew exactly how she was going to spend the day. She would spend it at the feet of Jesus.
Before the crack of dawn, Martha was up and had started to prepare an elaborate three-course meal for her guests. She had a lot of people coming, yet she couldn’t bear to keep the meals simple… “This must have the Martha signature of excellence all over it”; she muttered to herself. “After all, it is the teacher visiting; only the best is good enough for the teacher.” Martha’s heart was in a good place.
Five hours after Martha woke up, Jesus finally arrived. He got in with his twelve disciples. Martha could still handle the crowd- I mean Lazarus didn’t have too many friends. What Martha didn’t realise was the fact that others have also heard Jesus teach and just has she had been blown away by His ability to divide the Word, they have been too. The numbers quickly got out of control- more than Martha could handle alone.
She had thought that she would quickly entertain them and by the time the teaching started everyone would have been fed so she could join in and listen to some more amazing teaching from Jesus. But what do you do when everyone knows you are the hostess and just as you sat down to listen, new guests arrive? Maybe, if Martha wasn’t so enamoured with hospitality, she might have sat down to learn from the teaching and even maybe enjoy Jesus’ company. However, can we blame Martha? Hospitality is in her DNA.
But Martha enjoys taking care of people, so she went back to the kitchen to make some more meals for those who just joined the meeting. Where she was slaving over the stove, Martha remembered her sister Mary; “where is Mary?” she wondered. “Yes, where is Mary?”
She told herself she was not going to miss anything Jesus said, and she meant it. Mary also had questions she wanted Jesus to answer, so she definitely wasn’t going anywhere until Jesus was all done.
While she was having the time of her life, Martha walked by one more time with a tray laden with food. Mary was too engrossed to notice that her sister was toiling to feed the guests. Jesus, however, did notice and stopped to thank Martha for her efforts.
This was Martha’s opportunity. She asked Jesus if he didn’t think it was needful for Mary to help her. Jesus’ famous response is known to all; “…Mary has chosen the best part which cannot be taken from her”.
The question is: how did Martha feel about this response? The Bible doesn’t tell, but I know how I would feel. I would be angry – angry at the uninvited guests who showed up, angry at Mary for refusing to learn that hospitality is a gift and that people have entertained angels without knowing.
I will even be angry at Lazarus for going into town to broadcast the fact that Jesus was visiting. Then, I may even be angry that Jesus doesn’t even commend the fact that this is really hard work I have been doing all day. I will be angry, that I didn’t get the chance to receive spiritual nourishment for myself then I will regret why I even set out to host in the first place. I will be all the things above, but I will not voice them out to anyone. Instead, I will just bang my pots and pans together.
The next time we hear about Martha, her brother Lazarus was ill, after that time Jesus visited. They had become close to Jesus and his disciples. So naturally, Martha and Mary sent a messenger to Jesus to tell him that his dear friend, Lazarus was very ill- after all, Jesus was also the Healer. Jesus responded to their message that the illness was not going to end in death, so they relaxed.
However, Lazarus died! It took Jesus another four days before he showed up. When Jesus finally came to their house, Martha met him and told him that if he had been there, Lazarus would not have died.
Jesus responds that Lazarus would rise again, and Martha agreed; she said, “he will rise on the last day”. Jesus responds, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live even after dying, do you believe this?” He asked Martha. “Yes, Lord, I have always believed that you are the Messiah, the Son of God”.
Then she turned and went back inside to join her sister, Mary. How did Martha miss such a very important moment? How did she not see that Jesus was trying to tell her something big?
Well, Martha is the practical and logical one. She knows the right thing to do, and she does it. Maybe, that made it a little difficult for Martha to hear God beyond doing something. Whatever the reason, it seems like Martha missed a moment here.
Jesus insists on seeing where he was buried. Upon getting there, he asked that the stone be rolled away from the mouth of the tomb. Martha again, the practical one, points out that four days was a long time in a tomb. “Lazarus must be decomposing by now”, she added… Martha, ever practical, Martha, another moment missed!
Jesus went on to restore Lazarus to life four days after he was buried, and the whole village was agog with the news. This was a miracle like no other, and even for Martha this was huge.
The third time we hear about Martha, Jesus came to visit after Lazarus had risen from the dead. Dinner was prepared in his honour and this time, Martha served! What is the difference between Martha served and Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing like we first saw in Luke 10, the first time we met Martha?
My answer will be that Martha matured; she grew through the process. Martha realised that with God everything cannot be taken at face level. Her interactions with Jesus, these three times must have taught her that God’s ways are not our ways nor His plans our plans. Martha must have learnt that with God activity isn’t necessarily a relationship. Martha must have learnt that God doesn’t need an announcement when we worship him. Martha must have learnt instinctively and by experience that the God of heaven does not dwell in houses built by the hands of man. She must have learnt that the greatest sacrifice we can make is to serve God; so Martha served.
Martha must have learnt that whether we cook or clean, or we simply sit at the feet of Jesus, the attitude is more important than the activity.
I am pretty sure Martha learnt a few more things that I may not have caught, but the important point is that Martha is bound to learn something and that life is a process.
Maybe you are like me and Martha, maybe you have a strong mind that is able to explain everything, it is also my learning as I have matured that as we grow, we all realise that not all things can and must be explained. We all ought to grow to the place where when we come in contact with divinity, we know to prepare dinner yet to serve because in the end, whether I cook or clean, whatever has been deposited in my DNA, God expects that one day I will serve Him and the world with it.
Service is our highest form of worship and even though it took Martha a while, she got it eventually and one day, it is my prayer that I will also get it and that you will get it as well.
One day, I pray it is said; “and Bidemi served”. It is my prayer for you too.