Thursday, July 23, 2015

Wearing blinders -- Martha, conclusion

Martha just has to see the big picture . . .

                      Martha,  Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset
                      about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only
                      one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away
                      from her.”  (Luke 10:41-42)

Martha and Mary had two distinctly different personalities. Martha was what we might call a "doer," a woman who was capable, efficient, and at this moment, wrestling with self pity.
Mary was a thinker, interested in ideas, and completely absorbed in learning all that Jesus had to teach her.

I just bet that when Jesus gently rebuked her, Martha probably felt embarrassed. It probably startled her, too. This was a wake-up call to let her think about what she had been missing. She was so focused on serving Jesus that she did not let herself for one moment truly enjoy Him. She was so distracted by what she felt were her responsibilities, that she could not listen and learn from Him.

I wonder, too, if she felt a little envy. Here she was, working as hard as she could, and there was Mary, ignoring the traditional role that Martha thought was uber important! Jesus was encouraging Mary to think and learn . . . He was upholding her right to develop her mind, by listening to His words and thinking about them. He was silently saying that she should not be limited to the tasks that society laid down for her, but she should be granted access to ideas and philosophies, just as Jewish men were. When Martha objected to the fact that she had to work while Mary listened, Jesus said that Mary had made the better choice.

Now, let's make sure we don't go down the wrong trail here . . . Jesus had already encouraged the idea of service among His followers, so He was not saying that Martha's role of service was unimportant. He was making the point that being a disciple, and learning about the ideas He was explaining, was even more important.  He wanted Martha to know that while it was important to tend to the household chores, it was also important to hear the Word of God.

Here is something really interesting that we see in Martha -- yes, she was distracted, and she seemed to believe at first that her frantic activity would produce something of lasting importance. But look at the way that she interacts with the Lord. She shows us what it's like to have a relationship with Jesus that is so solid, and so close, that there is no need for hiding her feelings. No need for "pulling her punches." She is free to be herself in His presence, and she brings her frustrations directly to Him, for Him to help her.

Do we always do that? Are we that close? Is the relationship that solid?

Back to our "blinders" . . . Martha seems to be someone who took ownership for her faith -- she asked questions, she challenged, she requested Jesus to "fix" what had gone wrong. One commentary I read noted that her faith was similar to that of Jacob, who wrestled with the angel, or that of Peter, who ran headlong into situations, but learned from his mistakes. She was being challenged to remove her blinders and see the "big picture."

Later, after Lazarus had died, we see Martha running from her house to meet Jesus. She greets Him with her blinders on:

                          Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother
                          would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give
                          you whatever you ask.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise
                          again.”  Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection
                         at the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.
                         The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and
                         whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

It's when she answers Him that she begins to reach up and pull those blinders off:

                                     27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son
                         of God, who is to come into the world.” (John 11)

I think she sees the big picture! But right after her awesome expression of her faith, she pauses, and she almost doesn't pull them off.  When Jesus tells the men to roll away the stone from Lazarus' grave, she blurts out:

                          “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

Oh, Martha, your common sense is over-riding your faith.  You need for Jesus to stretch your faith, and rebuke your small, narrow vision of the world -- and show you what the power of God can do!

I really feel like when she saw her brother Lazarus appear in the opening of that tomb, that Martha's "blinder days" were over. I think that she now knew and understood that her Friend was also the Resurrection and the Life. I think she realized that she'd placed too much importance in activity, and not enough in sitting quietly with Him. I believe we can say that now she saw that big picture, and would act out her love for Him not just in service, but in listening and learning, just as Mary did.  We can learn from her to be confident in His love for us, and to freely love Him in return.

Lastly, in our own lives, if there is someone who is causing us trouble? Are we frustrated with someone? Let's not tell our tale to anyone that might listen -- let's take our problem directly to the Lord. Let's tell Him everything that is bothering us about that person. And then let's ask Him to give us wisdom about how to respond to this person; and if it is ourselves that needs the changing, ask Him to give us grace to do just that.


Austin Towers said...

You know the word blinder means something completely different in the UK! To play a blinder means to perform excellently in something, like a sport or game! lol ;)

Anyway, many thanks for these thoughts on Martha. I think I had always thought of Mary as being a bit of a softy and a bit of a star struck Jesus groupie and Martha was having none of that! Of course these characters are much more rounded than that. We must try to listen as well as do! Hugs x

Cathy said...

We've been away on vacation for the past 2 1/2 weeks, with limited internet service. So, I just read the posts on Martha. I know I would have reacted exactly the same way as Martha, and been very upset that I was the one doing all the work, while Mary just sat there listening, but not doing anything. I'm certain that would have been my perception, and how very wrong I would have been. And yet, I often look at this passage and think to myself, "but someone had to do it."

Belinda said...

I absolutely identify with Martha. Like Cathy said, someone has to do it, and I'm the one that does. And I sometimes get a little upset that I am the one doing all the work and everyone else is enjoying themselves. So, I've always wondered what Martha could have done differently. I mean, this is JESUS and she wanted to serve him to the best of her ability. And in her mind, how could she do that sitting at His feet as Mary did? I wonder what would have happened if Martha had left all the work, and just welcomed Jesus and sat down to visit. Hmmmmm.... Needless to say, this passage has a lot to teach ME.