Martha knew Jesus was on his way and she was expecting others, but not this many.
“Where was all the food coming from, where would we put them all. Look at all these people, there has to be at least 20, maybe more!”
Martha’s in a tizzy. She’s faced with the reality of having invited Jesus to stop. It seemed like a good idea at the time she invited him, but now? Gracious hospitality was expected, but what wasn’t was the crowd and Mary abandoning her to sit with Jesus. The reality of what’s happened sets in. She’s too focused on the pressing obligation to offer refreshment and shelter to many people. Can you imagine what’s going through her mind? “This seemed like a good idea at the time;” “I wished I’d kept my mouth shut;” “Why’s Mary sitting with Jesus.Why do I have to do all the work?”
Martha was uptight and being torn apart by the “inner conversation” and the responsibilities at hand. She was angry, upset and in no mood to “serve with a smile.” Can you relate? Before the fact it seems like a good idea to get involved in programs and outreach, but when the day comes, when the rubber meets the road, how many wished they hadn’t raised their hand to volunteer? Your plans had changed, other things more pressing came up, you weren’t in the mood. It happens. Sometimes we push through, but our hearts aren’t in it; other times it’s a bother and our hearts really aren’t in it and our attitudes show through the smiling veneer.
To top things off were Martha’s expectations of Mary. Mary had blatantly chosen to sit at the feet of Jesus and have nothing to do with food prep or seeing to the needs of the guests. Martha thought, “how does it look for Mary to sit in the position of a disciple and not work in the kitchen with me? What will others think?” Martha’s head-talk is fueling her attitude and revealing her expectations. Can anyone relate?
So Martha goes to Jesus to enlist his help to sway Mary back to the “needs” at hand thinking that he’ll set Mary straight. He turns to Martha and says that the worries she has with all the preparations, all the negative self talk that’s running through her mind, was distracting her from the most important thing she could be doing to get through the day, sit and listen to what he was saying, like Mary. Martha needed to get her priorities in order so that she could accomplish what needed to be done: serve with a gracious heart and to “see” the needs of others.
The point is this: sitting and listening and the nitty-gritty of service aren’t mutually exclusive. Sitting at the feet of Jesus in prayer, listening to, or meditating on his word, enables us to serve and minister in Jesus name, not our own. It sets our priorities straight and tempers our attitudes and expectations.
The Rev. Norm Hooven can be reached at revnorm@ juno.com.