In preparation to serve on The Walk to Emmaus this week, I’ve been studying Martha from Luke 10:38-42. This is my lay person’s understanding of her story:
Martha is probably best known for her appearance in Luke 10. Being overwhelmed with the details of preparing a large dinner party, she complained to Jesus to make her sister, Mary, help her. Mary is the star of the scripture as Jesus commends her for sitting at his feet. Being a “Martha” myself, this always seemed unfair to me. If Martha didn’t cook the meal, who would? And who would set out all the dishes and clean up everything after? It feels to me like Martha was not understood or appreciated.
More of Martha’s character is revealed in John 11 where Martha plays a supporting role in the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Martha and Mary had sent word to Jesus that their brother, Lazarus, was very sick. Meanwhile, Lazarus had died and many of the neighbors had come to console the sisters. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she left her sister and the mourners at their home and went to meet Jesus and have private time with him. She professed that her brother would not have died if Jesus had been there, that God would give anything he asked and that she had always believed Jesus is the Messiah. I feel better that in this scripture Martha is shown to be a true believer who left her houseful of company to run to her Lord.
Martha had a great line when Jesus was about to perform his miracle. In the midst of her grief and anticipation of what Jesus would do, she pointed out that if they rolled the stone away from the cave the stench would be horrible because her brother had been dead in the tomb for four days. Martha must have been an exceptional housekeeper, and she surely didn’t want anyone to be offended by a foul smell. In spite of her focus on a minor detail, she then got to personally witness a miracle as Jesus raised her brother from the dead.
So back to Luke 10. This story opens by telling that Martha welcomed Jesus into her home or Martha opened her home to Jesus. I love that God recorded Martha’s hospitality in the bible. We are called to extend hospitality* so this affirms us “Marthas” who love to make family and guests comfortable in our homes. Jesus was fully man as well as fully God, and I don’t read where that man told the-hostess-with-the-mostest to not finish cooking dinner for him and his buddies. He did scold Martha to not get in Mary’s business about it. Fair point. We “Marthas” need to not judge and not hold everyone to the ridiculously high standards we tend to set for ourselves.
Jesus taught that the only thing of value is time spent with him. I think Martha knew this and could have spent more time with Jesus if she’d had some help in the kitchen. She loved her friend, teacher and Lord and was showing her love by throwing a big dinner party in his honor. Brava, Martha!
*Hebrews 13:2, Romans 12:13, 1Peter 4:9.