When you hear the name Martha in the context of the Bible, what comes to mind? I know for me I think of the time Martha welcomed Jesus into her home and became “distracted with much serving.” All the while her sister Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to his teaching. Martha became upset with Mary because she wasn’t lending a hand. In fact, she wasn’t contributing toward showing Jesus hospitality in any way other than listening to what he had to say.
Martha said to Jesus: Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all the work of serving alone? Tell her to help me.
But Jesus said to her, Martha, Martha, you’re anxious about many things but only one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which won’t be taken away from her. (Luke 10:38-42)
So we see that Martha received correction from Jesus. But I think for me, and maybe for you too, there’s a tendency to make Martha into some kind of one dimensional frenetic female based solely on this short passage.
I think that’s a mistake.
You may have noticed that immediately before we find Jesus in Martha’s home, we see a man stripped and beaten half dead on the side of the road. A priest crossed the road to the other side and walked on by. Then a Levite did the same. Finally a Samaritan had compassion on him and he put that compassion into action. He dressed his wounds, he loaded him onto his animal, took him to an inn, and he paid the innkeeper whatever was necessary to take care of him. (Luke 10:25-37)
The priest and the Levite are chastised in this story for not taking action.
The Samaritan took action.
Martha took action too.
Jesus’ last words at the end of the story of the good Samaritan are: “You go, and do likewise.”
I would submit to you that Jesus loves people who take action, people who are doers for his kingdom. Martha was one of those people. I was reading John chapter 11 today and I came across this verse, in John 11:5 I read that “Jesus loved Martha . . .”
So there it is.
In plain language.
Jesus loved Martha.
If you know me and my family, you know I’m married to a doer. I thank God that I am. If I weren’t married to Kathy I don’t know how anything would get done around here. God loves people like Kathy, and the Samaritan, and Martha.
And I don’t think Jesus would have corrected Martha at all had Martha not complained to Jesus about Mary.
The message from the passage about Martha and Mary isn’t for us to forgo doing for God’s kingdom. Jesus loves doers. The message from that story is for us to forgo a critical spirit toward those Christ followers who are contemplative, like Mary, and to value contemplating Jesus, being a student of Jesus’ words, and sitting at Jesus’ feet. Jesus loved Mary, and:
Jesus loved Martha.
If you’re a doer, Jesus loves you too.
[Jesus Loves You image via Elton Harding – Creative Commons]