Monday, July 20, 2015
Wearing blinders -- a study on Martha
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “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.”
We also studied Martha in our studies in John's gospel. Remember in the 11th chapter, when Lazarus was raised from the dead? Just before that happened, we hear Martha and Jesus talking:
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
21 “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.”
24 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?”
27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
But then, when Jesus asks for the stone to be rolled away, we hear this:
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.”
40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
Remember what "blinders" are? You might never have seen them used, but maybe you have heard of them, or seen them in a movie? Pieces of leather attached to the horse's bridle, they block out the sight of what is behind (and in some cases, beside) the horse. They allow the horse to focus on where he is going, and not be frightened by something that suddenly looms up beside or behind him.
In human terms, blinders could be good or bad. Of course, we're speaking figuratively, since we don't wear leather bridles with bits and reins. But looking at the analogy, we could say that blinders could be a positive thing, if they allow us to focus on what's at hand -- the task before us -- and block out things that would cause us worry or harm. If we look at them another way, blinders could be something that we should actually remove -- so that we can see the "big picture" and not be accused of having a narrow field of vision, missing out on some important things.
Martha is a good study for us; we're going to learn a lot from her!
Let's dive in!
Martha watched her serving girls scurry about, tugging on the grass mats under the tables, fluffing up the cushions on the divans where the guests would recline to eat. Suddenly rolling up the sleeves of her outer garment, she said, "Miriam, no, no, that's not right! It needs to be like this!" and instructed the girl on how the table utensils should be arranged. Place the bowls there, and the small jugs for olive oil and other condiments here on the side, and Oh! Don't forget to check the screens in the decanters . . . how embarrassing it would be to begin to pour the wine and find debris in the screen! Oy.
Stepping back, she caught a whiff of the aromas from the kitchen, and remembered the stew. Rushing into the melee of cooks and assistants, her imposing figure commanded respect. They gave way to her, to let her come closest to the cooking vessel. Handing his mistress a wooden ladle, the cook watched her face intently. Was the stew flavorful enough? Was the broth hearty? Would she smile and nod approval, or frown, and say to add an ingredient? Only occasions such as this, or perhaps a festival, would find the use of meat at a meal . . . usually the evening meal was vegetables, bread, platters of figs and dates . . . to have Jesus come to the house meant that special hospitality would be extended, and special things offered at the meal!
The cook had nothing to fear. Martha handed the ladle back to him with a smile, and patted his shoulder, "Excellent!" An audible sigh of relief was heard from all those assembled, and as Martha looked around, she told them all how important it was for this meal to be "just right." As she walked back toward the banquet and reception room, she caught a glimpse of two girls giggling and wiping down the pottery to be used. A jug slipped from one girl's fingers and shattered on the tile floor! The girl glanced furtively about and then began to gather up the pieces. She was startled to find her mistress bending beside her, picking up shards of pottery. Biting her lip, she murmured an apology for her clumsiness. She was expecting to be punished, but Martha, tight-lipped, simply told her to make certain it did not happen again.
As she straightened up, Martha caught a glimpse through the archway, of Jesus and the disciples in the courtyard of the house. Seated at Jesus' feet was her sister, Mary. Her gaze never left His face as she drank in all that He said.
Exasperated, Martha entered the courtyard and approached the group. "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"
We are probably all familiar with His answer, but hopefully the next time we study, we will glean some new insights and apply them to our own lives.
See you next time!