I LOVED TO SERVE (Luke 10:38-42; John 11:1-12:2)
I am Martha. I do not think that it was my real name. I was called Martha for who I was and what I did. Martha simply meant, “Lady” or “Mistress.” Indeed, I was the Lady or the Mistress of my household. Someone had to be in charge and I had to be it. My sister Mary and my brother Lazarus were just not inclined to keep our household in order. In fact, both of them required my help. Lazarus was sickly and needed attention himself. Mary loved to mingle with guests and listen to their tales. Both, Lazarus and Mary had a taste of the world and returned home after our parents died. I had stayed home and served my parents and they rewarded me with the ownership of their home. It was now my place and I continued offering my service to travelers, visitors, and strangers. I believed in being hospitable and kind. Also, my home was in Bethany, close to Jerusalem and very convenient for my friends and visitors to stay with us while they had business in the big city. I was proud of being a hostess and made those that stayed in my place feel welcome. For many, my home was for them a home away from home.
One day, I opened my home to group of people on their way to Jerusalem. Their leader was Jesus of Nazareth. We became instant friends and so did my brother Lazarus and my sister Mary. I liked the Nazarene so much that I could not do enough for Him. I worked twice as hard when He was around and made certain that everything was in top condition. Jesus and His followers fitted right in with us and they made my home their home while they stayed near Jerusalem. My home became Jesus’ headquarters for His final days on earth. I will say more about that later. Meanwhile, let me tell you about one incident that I think my friend Jesus was a bit harsh with me. On this occasion, He was teaching and everyone had gathered around Him and listened, including my sister Mary. Here I was trying to please and serve everyone and no one had sense enough to give me a hand. I felt exhausted and at my wits end. I went to Jesus and asked Him whether He cared enough for me? If He did, He should order my sister to assist me? I was in for a surprise.
Jesus had a completely different set of values. He regarded what Mary did as more important than what I did. He told me in a gentle way, “Martha, Martha, you are too worried and preoccupied with far too many things. You are missing out on the one thing you should take advantage of. Mary is taking advantage of what is better and I will not take it from her.” This was not what I wanted to hear nor did I grasp immediately what Jesus meant. But, when I too began to listen to what He was saying, it became very apparent that His stay with us was almost at an end. Jesus was soon to be removed from us by force and I had missed out on all the wonderful teaching He had done in my home. I could have been sitting at His feet and learn; yet, I had chosen to engulf myself with service. I could have postponed my service, but I could not postpone my being with the “One” whom God had sent to enlighten us. I hope that those of you that will hear and read about me will follow my sister Mary rather than me. I almost learned my lesson too late.
There was an even bigger lesson I had to learn. It was that Jesus would not do what we wanted Him to do. When our brother Lazarus turned critical, we send a message telling Him that His friend was sick. But He did not show up until our brother had died and was buried for four days. Mary and I complained and were disappointed that He did not avert the death of His friend. Instead, He went on telling us that He Himself was the new life and that He would bring our brother back from the dead. Against our unbelief, Jesus did give us back our brother. He had deliberately delayed His coming to us so that He could show us that He was the Lord over life and death. He had the power to give and take life and even the power to lay down His own life and take it back again. And we were the instruments by whom He proved who He really was. He was the resurrection and the life. We were also the instruments that hastened His being with us on earth. When Jesus restored our brother to life, He also signed His own death warrant and that of our brother. The religious authorities could no longer tolerate a man with such supernatural abilities. To them, Jesus had become an imposter of God and one that broke God’s laws.
One week before our friend Jesus was scheduled to die, we threw Him a party at my home in Bethany. My brother Lazarus reclined with Him and I kept on serving. Yes, I just could not help myself but make everyone comfortable, especially for Jesus. This time, He did not mind it and I no longer complained that I had to serve alone. But again, it was my sister Mary that stole the show. She had a nag of endearing herself to Jesus. She took the most costly ointment we had and poured it all over Jesus’ feet and dried them with her lovely hair. My home was filled with its fragrance and Jesus enjoyed every bit of my sister’s expression. One of Jesus’ followers objected and called it a wasteful act that could have helped some poor folk. Jesus reprimanded him that he would have ample time to help the poor when He was gone and what Mary had done was very noble. She had prepared His feet to carry the cross and posterity would remember her for it. It was allright to be wasteful, provided it made someone who was special very happy and when it served a proper function. Even though I was hospitable and thoughtful, I did lack what my sister Mary had. Once more, I learned that what we do to our loved ones is more valuable than the most costly ointment and the service we render.