Luke 10:40 – 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!" (NIV)
John 12:1-2 – Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus' honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. (NIV)
Every Wednesday during Lent, the church where I attend offers a soup lunch and Bible study. Last week was my turn to provide and serve the soup. Although not a huge task, making soup from scratch can take a bit of time and preparation. I started with raw chicken boiled in stock, deboned, and diced, then cooked with veggies and noodles until the broth became savoury. The task of serving less than a dozen bowls of soup with crackers on the side was easy. Once everyone was served, we sat and chatted a bit, and then the minister started our study on Jesus' "I AM" sayings. After a closing prayer, cleanup wasn't hard.
The whole effort wasn't as much trouble for us as it had been for Martha when she served Jesus, His twelve disciples, and who knows how many others at a dinner given in His honour. In the Luke chapter 10 account, Martha worked hard all day to lay out a meal. She was likely very hot, not only from the heat of roasting the lamb, but also from the incessantly blowing Judean desert winds. Likely, she was cranky and tired. Is it any wonder that she gave in to her crankiness?
Nevertheless, Jesus' gentle reprimand in the following verses — "You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed" — resulted in Martha learning the lesson, as is implied in John chapter 12.
In that reading, we usually focus either on greedy Judas or on generous Mary. But for me, the two words about Martha put her in the spotlight. Just as she'd done during Jesus' last visit, she likely selected, oversaw, and cooked everything that was to be consumed, then served the food, quietly, unobtrusively, carefully. She kept the wine glasses full, the food dishes replenished, and the spills wiped up.
Those two little — yet very important — words tell the story in John chapter 12. She'd taken the Lord's earlier words to heart. She'd grown in faith to become a humble servant. In spite of her fatigue, this time, when Jesus ate dinner at Lazarus' home, Martha didn't complain. She simply served.
Like Martha, don't we tend to become cranky when we're overburdened with work and feel underappreciated for what we've done? Honestly, don't we? Like Martha, let's learn to simply serve. It's a very rewarding thing to do.
Simply serve. It's our guide through life.
Prayer: Lord God, we confess our crankiness when things don't go our way. Forgive us and enable us to serve You and others as You have called us to serve, for we pray in Jesus' name. Amen.
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Listen while you read: "Fairest Lord Jesus" (Lyrics)