This post is a part of my Lenten series called “The Women of Lent”. For an explanation of the series and to see the past posts, check out the posts in the category “Women of Lent“.
Sorry for the silence on the blog this week. I battled a pretty epic stomach bug Thursday and Friday and took a break from just about everything except terrible TV and sleep during that time. I also watched Frozen more than once. Today I’m finally feeling back to normal, so I’m continuing with my (late) regular programming.
According to all of the personality test things, I am a doer. I’m a three on the enneagram and an ENTJ on Myers-Briggs, and according to BuzzFeed I’m a Pumpernickel bagel. I like to get things done, sometimes at the expense of relationships, really sometimes at the expense of everything else. Sometimes it’s a great thing; I think it often makes me seem really capable and smart and put together. Sometimes it’s a really awful thing; I think it often makes me seem like I don’t care about other people and value productivity over relationship.
I think Martha would have scored as a pumpernickel bagel as well (I mean really: “You might not be anyone’s favorite, necessarily, but you’re an ol’ standby. You get the job done, and people really appreciate your hard work. Kudos to you!”). The first mention of Martha in the Bible is in Luke 10, where she “opened her home to [Jesus].”
Martha’s most famous story, where she cleans instead of listens, is exactly 4 verses long. She gets frustrated with her sister and with her circumstances and finally in frustration cries out to Jesus (I’m sure I’ve never gotten frustrated and called out to Jesus like this…):
“Lord, don’t you care tha tmy sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
Amen, sister. If I had a nickle for every time I prayed that Jesus would tell someone else to help me out, I’d be able to pay someone to help me full time.
Jesus’ response is honest and gentle. “Martha, Martha…” I love that he says her name twice. Like he’s shaking his head at a stupid student or gently taking her hand as he says it, or both. “You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed- or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Few things are needed, or indeed only one.
Jesus asks Martha to give up everything, everything except Him. He asks a woman who He knows is a worrier, a doer, and tells her that He is all that she needs.
And it appears that she believes Him, because the next (and only other) time that we see Martha, she is acting in faith. She sends for Jesus as her brother is dying, and he arrives too late. When Jesus tells her that her brother will rise again, she tries to make logical sense of His words, tries to connect them with reality.
“I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Martha, the logical thinker, the dot-connecter and the newly faithful, she needs to make Jesus’ words fit inside what she can understand, what she can control.
But she cannot control or understand Jesus.
Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone, ” he said.
“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
Oh, ever practical Martha. She believes, she has said she believes, she has given up so much to follow, has grown so much. Does Jesus even realize how long Lazarus has been dead? She should tell him, he should not see the body. He can grieve outside the tomb, and Lazarus will rise in the end times. Jesus did not come in time to save him, and still she will follow Him. Is this not faith?
Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
Martha’s last bit of control, of order, is brought to the light and she must trust that the glory of God is bigger than the small world inside her control.
Jesus asked Martha to give up her control of her own home, her faith, her life. To open her eyes and look for the glory of God instead of the next task. Jesus didn’t say, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see God accomplish your to-do list?”
The glory of God is never about us.
By giving up control, Martha gained the glory of God.
I imagine after that, the control was all but forgotten. May we, with Martha, believe that the glory of God is worth seeking at the expense of our own doing.