One of the most misunderstood and unappreciated people in the Bible is Martha. We often hear, “Don’t be like Martha.” I would like to focus on Martha today.
We should thank people like Martha. Because there are people like Martha, our life becomes so easy. They know how to take care of you. They are hard working people. They are very detail minded and action-oriented people. They have a gift of hospitality. Serving is what they do. And they are very good at it.
That’s why Jesus went to Martha’s house so often. That was the place where Jesus was able to rest after many days of stressful life.
Jesus lived a stressful life. Demand from people, confrontation with those who hated him, hearing all the unfounded criticisms, false rumours. All these things, Jesus had to deal with almost on a daily basis. So, he needed a place where he could simply rest, not having to think about these things. That place was Martha’s house. And it was Martha who took care of Jesus and his disciples.
Martha was the eldest among three siblings. Mary and Lazarus were her younger sister and younger brother. Their father probably died early and left a good fortune. They had a big house to accommodate many people. Mary: Perfume – tens of thousand dollars. As the eldest, she took care of the household. She used her wealth to serve others. She blessed her community with her wealth.
She was good at what she did. She was a very capable person. She was generous and giving.
An Open Book
In terms of her personality, she was direct and to the point. She didn’t like to beat around the bush. She was like Peter. Direct – even to the point of being blunt.
When her brother Lazarus died, Jesus was delayed. He didn’t come on time. When she saw Jesus, this was what she said.
Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. (John 11:21)
She was direct. She was basically rebuking Jesus, “Why were you so late?”
“If you came earlier, my brother would have lived.”
Even in today’s passage, Martha was very direct to Jesus.
‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’ (Luke 10:40)
She might have been direct and blunt but she had no hidden agenda.
She was an open book.
Jesus and Martha
Jesus knew Martha very well. That’s why he did not get offended. Jesus didn’t mind at all. Jesus called her, “Martha, Martha,…” That is a very affectionate way of calling Martha.
Jesus loved Martha and her family.
Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus… (John 11:5)
John didn’t say “Mary and her sister.” He said “Martha and her sister. John knew that Martha was the central figure. Martha had a very intimate relationship with Jesus where she could talk to Jesus in that way. Martha was just being Martha in front of Jesus. She didn’t have to be somebody else. Jesus let her be.
It is not that Martha treated Jesus in a rude way. Not at all. She had deep respect for him and had great faith in him.
When Jesus said that he was the resurrection and life, this was what she said.
Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’(John 11:25-27)
Martha was a wonderful disciple of Jesus. She was a very capable disciple. Jesus trusted her and depended on her and found good rest whenever he needed it.
BUT THERE WAS ONE THING SHE OVERLOOKED. She was able to take care of many things and she did very well but she overlooked one thing. That was to UNDERSTAND WHAT JESUS WENT THROUGH. When Jesus visited Martha and Mary this time, Jesus wanted to talk to Martha and Mary. He wasn’t interested in eating. He wanted to talk to them. Mary knew that. So she sat at the feet of Jesus and listened.
Mary had a keen sense of knowing what others are going through. Do you remember? When Jesus had raised Lazarus, they all gathered together to celebrate the rising of Lazarus. No one was thinking about death, especially, Jesus’ death.
But somehow Mary knew that something serious, something dark was coming. So she wanted to prepare for that. That’s why she broke her perfume and anointed Jesus’ feet. And Jesus was surprised too. He knew that she was preparing for his burial. Jesus too wondered how she knew.
Mary had this keen sense of knowing when others had no idea. In today’s story too, Mary knew exactly what Jesus needed. Jesus wanted them to listen to him.
Martha missed that. But don’t ever think that Jesus disapproved Martha in any way. Jesus loved Martha. Jesus appreciated Martha. If you are like Martha, don’t ever try to change yourself.
Come and Listen
Martha was like a rock on whom people can depend. Even Jesus. Martha held her family and the community together with her leadership. She was honest, direct, capable, hard-working, open, and transparent. She had all the beautiful qualities as a disciple of Jesus Christ.
But even strong people like Martha can break. They can be tired and drained. They can be exhausted and feel unappreciated. They can be also burned out.
They don’t need to stop being Martha. They just need to come to Jesus and listen.
Jesus knew what Martha was going through. All this time, Martha served Jesus and gave him a place where he could rest. NOW JESUS IS SAYING TO MARTHA, IT IS YOUR TURN TO REST. Come and listen. I will give you rest.
‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)
We all need that time of rest. We also live a very busy life. We get a lot of stresses. Sometimes we feel tired and exhausted.
That is when we should stop doing what we do for a while. And just come to Jesus and enjoy his presence. Enjoy listening to him.
We don’t always have to be productive. We don’t always have to be capable. We don’t always have to be in charge. We don’t always have to take care of others.
We need time to just let go and enjoy things in life. Instead of always worrying about what we have to do, we need to be taken care of. And God will take care of us.
I read a book called, “Rest”, by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang. He is a visiting Scholar at Stanford University.
He said this.
Work and rest are not polar opposites…Rest is not work’s adversary. Rest is work’s partner. They complement and complete each other. Further, you cannot work well without resting well.
I think he saw it right. Work and rest work together, not against each other. We think about how to do well in our work but we don’t think about how to rest well. Learn how to rest well and that will help you work.
Resting well does not mean just playing. Resting well is finding confidence that you will be all right.
Find rest my soul
In Christ alone
Know His power
In quietness and trust
That is true rest. Martha needed that. We all need that.