Defending Martha

I can’t read one more devotional, article, blog post or sermon about the whole “Mary and Martha thing.”

You ladies know exactly what I’m talking about. You’ve heard the whole “how to live like Mary in a Martha world” thing.

To make a short story shorter, Jesus and his disciples come to Mary and Martha’s house. Suddenly, Martha’s trying to make dinner for a minimum of 15 people (Jesus, 12 disciples and the two sisters). Martha hustles around trying to make it happen while Mary sits at the feet of Jesus. In the end, an exasperated Martha tries to elicit some sympathy from Jesus, but only to hear that “Mary has chosen what is better.”

The problem isn’t with what Jesus said.

It’s what we’ve done with it.

It’s time to defend Martha.

We leave Martha hanging there in the middle of her story. We leave her in a moment of frustration. I have never heard a message or read a single post that looked at what Martha did after Jesus spoke those words to her.

Look at Martha’s actions in a later encounter. Again, she had asked Jesus for help and again she was disappointed. Rather than coming immediately to heal her sick brother, Jesus waited a few days before coming to Bethany.

Lazarus died in the waiting.

When she heard Jesus was coming, Martha went out to meet him. During the course of their conversation, she makes three statements:

  • “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
  • “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
  • “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God who is come into the world.”

I know.

God will.

You are.

Can you see how her faith has matured?

Her statements reveal a profound faith in the power of God to do as Jesus asks, a foundational understanding of the resurrection and, most significantly, a recognition of the divinity of Jesus. She alone of the two sisters declares him to be the promised one of God, the Messiah.

See how similar her declaration is to Peter’s celebrated confession in Matthew 16:16?

 “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Martha didn’t stomp off in anger after Jesus rebuked her. She took those words and came to know him better. In some way unrecorded in the Scriptures, she must have – at least figuratively – spent some time at the feet of Jesus to come to the faith we see expressed during her darkest hour.

That’s her whole story as we know it.

It’s a story of faith triumphing over frustration.

It makes Martha someone we should emulate just as much as we do her sister, Mary. Not for that moment when her frantic anger led to an accusatory exchange with Jesus, but for the way she turned that moment into a catalyst for her faith to grow.

May I have the same determination to turn my disappointments into a deeper walk with Christ …

2 thoughts on “Defending Martha”

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