For years I have chafed at the flak Martha gets whenever the Mary and Martha story from Luke 10 is told. I have always identified with Martha. Someone had to prepare the meal, right? Someone had to extend hospitality! Yet the story is often presented as Jesus rebuking Martha, and then holding Mary up as the quintessential Christian woman.
But there is another Mary and Martha story. It is found John’s gospel, and I like it much better!
You may remember that Mary and Martha had a brother named Lazarus, and they lived in Bethany. Now Lazarus died, and when Jesus got word of his death he took his time getting to Bethany, though it was only a couple of miles from Jerusalem. The professional mourners were there, as well as friends who came to console Mary and Martha. This might well have been another opportunity for Martha to slip into her super-hostess role.
But when Martha heard Jesus was coming, she ran out to meet him, leaving her houseguests. Mary stayed inside, too. Martha’s conversation with Jesus is as revealing as it is lovely. She professes faith in the resurrection, and belief that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.
So, who gets it this time?!!! Mary is sitting at home wailing, and who is running out to greet Jesus, professing Him as the Christ? That’s right…it’s Martha!
(OK, I know my reaction is a just a bit over the top, but surely you see the justification, right?)
Seriously…something came of Martha’s encounter with Jesus back in Luke 10. The truth of the matter is that Jesus blessed Martha because he told her the truth about herself…
Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things…
In essence, Jesus was revealing to Martha her false self–the identity she had established for herself that was rooted in appearances and propriety.
Somewhere between that first visit and the death of her brother, Martha came to understand her true identity as one lovingly created by God to be in communion with him forever. This is evident in her profession of faith in the resurrection—that time when the dead would be raised to an eternal life with God, herself included. In that moment of truth with Jesus, I think Martha encountered the Living God who revealed to her her true self, freeing Martha from the false self–the woman whose worth was rooted in her performance.
We are all like Martha in one way or another. Like Martha, we have created our own identity, often completely de-centered from God. And Jesus is just waiting for us to allow him to speak to that identity, to reveal our false self, so that we can shed it like the dead weight it is!
Will you allow Jesus to address your false self? He is not anxious to give a sharp rebuke, but rather a gentle and loving invitation to release that which is not of Christ so that your true self–your Christ-self–can emerge.
You might begin by praying, “Come, gentle Jesus…”