Martha & Mary

I’ve been preaching through the Gospel according to Luke since sometime last year. With a few breaks in between for special Sundays, for short somewhat topical series flowing from the passages in Luke, I’m through chapter 10. Yesterday, I preached on the passage in 10.38-42, the famous account of Martha & Mary hosting Jesus in their home. I’d like to offer just a few reflections from that passage here:

I don’t believe the real problem with Martha is her serving. If serving versus sitting at the feet of Jesus was the true problem, Jesus would never have sent out the 12 in ch. 9 and the 72 earlier in ch. 10. No, I believe Martha’s problem was two-fold:

       1)   misplaced priorities: serving isn’t wrong, but when it takes precedence over that of sitting at Jesus’ feet, learning of Him, from Him and about Him, there are bound to be problems arising soon. Look at our modern evangelical church today: we’re far more focused on the pragmatic that we are on the doctrinal. There must be room for both, but methods have overtaken the message. The Gospel barely means anything anymore. The Bible has become a “manual”, an “instruction book”, Life’s Lesson book and very little more than that. Plus, we’re so busy. It’s easier and faster to just “do” something than it is to sit before our Lord in prayer and in reflection of His words in order to determine what we should be doing and whether we should even be doing what we’re currently doing. The first prong of Martha’s problem is, she’s placed her own serving above that of learning what Jesus wants her to do.

        2)  projection of her priorities on others, primarily because they’re hers. When Martha comes to complain to Jesus, she’s complaining against two people: a) her sister, Mary, who has been sitting at Jesus’ feet learning from Him (a remarkable occurrence, given the stature of women and the fact that no self-respecting rabbi would be caught dead teaching a woman); b) Jesus Himself. Don’t you hear Martha’s words to Jesus? “Don’t You care? Don’t You care that I’m working my fingers to the bone while she just sits there? Don’t You care that I’m really trying hard to serve You with all that I have, but it’s going unnoticed by You and by her? Don’t You care?” Martha has her own agenda. She’s not checked with Jesus to see if this is what He wants her to be doing right now. She’s just set out and gone about her ministry. And when it begins to go downhill, she has the audacity to complain to Jesus about it. Oh, how often all of us project what we want to be done upon others. And when we find that they are actively engaged in other pursuits, and probably more worthwhile pursuits (especially here, in the case of Mary), we get upset… with them and with God, Our pride shows up and we have our little pity party and hope that they’ll see the error of their ways and follow us (and we secretly hope that God will notice and say, “Well done, my faithful servant” before its ever time for Him to say those loving words).

            I’ll bring a few more thoughts later this week on how to overcome the same heart problem that Martha had (because I believe God’s grace worked in her to overcome it too).

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