Martha and Mary

23 11 2014

I have been MIA in this blog lately, but I wanted to share with you something that I’ve been taught very recently.  I don’t think I have many words to say on this subject, but I digress.

I don’t have the scripture references, so forgive me for that.

I am currently working through a chronological study of the life and ministry of Jesus.  The first time that we encounter Martha and Mary, they were opening up their home to Jesus, hosting him as he was teaching.  Mary sat at his feet, listening to his teachings.  Martha busied herself with the chores that needed to be done, so that she could be a good hostess.  Martha got exasperated with Mary, and tried to get the Lord to tell Mary to get up and get things done.  And Jesus essentially told Martha to leave Mary alone, she was doing some important stuff.

Then, we fast-forward to the death of Lazarus.  Jesus hears Lazarus is sick, and instead of leaving immediately, he waits around for a few days.  And then begins the journey.  Well, Lazarus dies.  When Martha realizes that Jesus is coming, she immediately gets up, and goes out to meet with Jesus.  And she tells him that she believes that Jesus is the Christ.  A little while later, Mary leaves the house to go meet Jesus, followed by all of the other mourners. And you know the rest of the story from there…Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead and he goes and walks out…yada yada yada.

I mean no disrespect for the miracle, but that is not the focus I want to make on this post.  But I’d rather focus on the two women.  First, the fact that these women are mentioned in the scriptures, and respected by Jesus, tells us a significant amount about how much Jesus loved and respected these women, and thus, so did the disciples and the writers of these gospels.  Feminism and all that jazz.

But really, Mary and Martha have been the focus of several discussions and books.  And so often, I’ve heard the preachers use the first story to encourage us to take the time to listen to God and not be so busy with the rest of the activities of the world.  I get that, I do.  I’m not saying that activity is not useful or appropriate.  We are so busy to condemn Martha for not taking the time out, but we forget the second part of the story, the follow-up to that story in their lives.

If we look at these two stories, we see that there is more to Martha than just that initial story.  When she hears about Jesus, she runs and meets him, immediately, no questions asked.  Maybe the reason that she’s so impatient with Mary in story #1 is because she knows who he is and what he is and wants everything to be perfect for Jesus.  Maybe she wants to provide an opportunity for other people to hear Jesus’ message, that she busies herself for those people and is concentrating on being a good hostess.  She already knows who Jesus is, she demonstrates that later in story #2.  She knows the value of Jesus and his power already, she demonstrates that in story 2.  She follows Jesus with her head, logically and rationally.

Just as we see there is more to Mary than just story 1, and we love to paint her as the better Christian.  We see the trend of her being emotionally pulled and tied to Jesus.  It is her emotions, and not her head, that tie her to pursue Jesus.  She’s kneeling at his feet.  She’s mourning, and when she hears Jesus is coming near, she does not go to him immediately.  She probably wants him to come to her…but when he doesn’t do so fast enough, (I suppose!) she goes to meet him.  She allows her emotions to control her approach to Jesus.

The problem of being Martha to the extreme, is that your heart is never touched.  But being Mary to the extreme, and you always chase after emotional experiences, and the routine is not enough.  I think we are so easy to put Mary on a pedestal, but recognize that Jesus does not devalue Martha in story 1.  He simply tells her that her value is misplaced.  At that moment, he tells her that her efforts to please him and be perfect for him, it doesn’t matter anymore.  Later, he talks to her privately and comforts her.  When we put Mary on a pedestal, we neglect to recognize that she hesitates before heading to Jesus, and those emotions hold her back from experiencing Jesus’ comfort over the death of her brother.

We learn a lesson from both of these women.  Both approaches are valued, and both have their flaws.

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