Martha: The Homemaker

My name is Martha. I live in Bethany, a village two miles east of Jerusalem, with my brother Lazarus and my younger sister Mary. Lazarus' good friend Jesus, a Galilean, often visited in our home when He was in Jerusalem. Ever since His first visit, Mary and I have felt as if we were His good friends, too.

It all started when one early spring day Lazarus returned from business in Jerusalem to say that he had seen Jesus and had invited Him to come to lunch the following day. Since I pride myself on being a good cook and homemaker, my mind immediately went to work on the next day's menu. For some time I had wanted to prepare a nourishing meal for Jesus, as I had remembered Lazarus telling me about the disciples urging Jesus to eat when He had not. Finally, my chance had come.

Of course, the house needed to be cleaned and the food bought before I could even begin. So I worked late into the night sweeping the floors and filling the olive oil lamps. It was well past midnight when I laid down in the comfort of my bed. The crowing of the rooster just before dawn startled me and I awoke. Then I jumped out of bed to prepare myself for my trip to the market. I hurried from shop to shop so I would be home in time to start the fire to slowly cook the mutton. A lunch could easily become a feast for such a special friend.

When I returned home, Mary had gone out into the countryside to gather wildflowers to place in vases to color and sweeten the rooms. So I spent most of the morning alone in the kitchen doing all the preparation. By this time my feet and back were aching. Out the window I could see the shortening shadows signifying noon. Just as Mary was coming through the back door with a handful of wildflowers, Lazarus called out, "Jesus is here!"

Quickly, I wiped off my hands and walked to the living area where Jesus was greeting Mary with a friendly hug. I interrupted by saying, "I'm so glad you were able to come. Please have a seat in the living room and visit while I finish getting the food ready. I think it is just about done. Will you please excuse me?"

Hurriedly I stepped into the kitchen to test the meat. The mutton was just right and the vegetables were ready to be dished up for serving. I needed someone to get the wine from storage and the dishes to the table. In my frustration, I walked into the living room and said, "Jesus, doesn't it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me!"

"Martha, my dear Martha, you are so upset over all these details. There is really only one thing worth being concerned about, and Mary has discovered it. I won't take it away from her."

I was a little taken back by Jesus' response, and I could feel my face flush as I returned to the kitchen. But despite my feelings, I hurried to get the mutton on the platter, the vegetables in the bowls, and the wine from storage.

Once we were all seated around the table, Lazarus kept asking Jesus questions like, "You said you must die and then return to life. How is such a thing possible?"

His only reply was, "You shall see."

I didn't break into the conversation because I was busy getting more bread and wine, or maybe I was pouting with a smile. As the bowls were emptied, I carried them into the kitchen. Standing alone cleaning the dishes, I wondered, "Does Jesus love Mary more than me? Maybe she is prettier." When I had asked my mother about it as a thirteen-year-old, she had told me, "Just because you are big boned like I am doesn't mean you aren't pretty. You have a sweet face, and besides, true beauty is from the heart." I felt good about myself then, but not now.

I was finished with the dishes and was wiping down the water basin when I sensed someone approach me from behind.

"Martha. Martha."

I continued looking out the window while slowly wiping my hands. My eyes welled up with tears until they were so full that they began to roll down my cheeks and drip silently into the basin. Because I am the strong one in the family, I didn't say a word. Then Jesus touched me on the shoulders and gently turned me around. I felt so ashamed that I covered my face with both hands, but Jesus' long arms reached around me and pulled me close. It was then that I really began to cry. He continued to hold me with His left hand and stroked my hair with His right. I moved my wet hands from my face and laid my head and the palms of both my hands on His chest. Then with a comforting sigh, Jesus said, "I love no one more than you, Martha. I want Mary to be Mary, and Martha to be Martha."

Based on Luke 10:38-42; John 4:31-34.

Copyright 1997 by John C. Westervelt

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