Jesus Loves Martha (And blesses her on this Thanksgiving day)

Today I wish to bestow a blessing on Martha.
Because, if there is now no condemnation in Jesus Christ,
then we all owe Martha a huge apology.
Martha was a real woman.
A Jesus lover who welcomed Him and His followers into her home.
She took care of her household – her brother, Lazarus and her sister, Mary.
She cooked, cleaned, washed, tended, fed
And when someone died, she prepared the body as she mourned.
I imagine Martha had seen death up close
And mourned often in her life – since there’s no mention of living parents
Or spouses
Or children.
Who knows?
But in ancient Israel, three siblings don’t just choose to share a home unless other options haven’t worked out for them.
I imagine Martha was a serious, no-nonsense woman.
And on one busy day in her household
When the demands of caring for everyone got to her, she asked Jesus to nudge Mary into helping her
And Jesus redirected Martha from her attention to fussing over everything
To paying attention to Him.
It was an important moment in Martha’s life
But it was just a moment.
It was an important lesson for all of us
But it was just one lesson we must learn.
And now, due to the branding machine of modern life
Poor Martha has become a watchword for everything a Christian woman shouldn’t be
As we all strive to be like Mary.
Which, on one level is okay because we should pay attention to Jesus like Mary did
And we shouldn’t fuss around about earthly matters like Martha did
But Martha wasn’t a character in a story designed to be the Biblical equivalent of Goofus to Mary’s Gallant.
Martha was a woman like me and other woman I know,
Trying to do those things that please God and serve those she loves even when she’s tired and life is hard.
She was a woman trying to get it right and loving those around her the best way she knew how.
Jesus wasn’t trying to condemn Martha with His redirection
He was trying to free her.

Because He loved her.

And He didn’t want her to become Mary;
He just wanted her to be a Martha who paid attention to Him.

A lot of women I know condemn the “Martha” in them and so condemn themselves.
They work hard caring for those around them, preparing delicious food and delightful tables but then
Scold themselves and think themselves displeasing to God because they get irritable or tired in the process.
That’s not what the whole Mary and Martha thing was about.
In her whole life, Martha probably had only seen her own worth in what she could do and provide for others.
It’s why she was seeing Mary’s contribution to the day as useless.
Jesus was telling her, not that He condemned her efforts, but that He saw HER.
He valued her, not for her roasted lamb dish and her perfect lentil stew
But because He saw her heart and He wanted her to see His.
John 11:5 says, “Now Jesus loved Martha”
And He did.
It’s funny that I don’t see a lot of books written about the conversation they had when Lazarus had died.
“So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house.  Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”
(Do you hear Martha’s complete faith in Jesus? Do you see how she went out to Him even in her sorrow?)
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
(Here, Jesus speaks the words to Martha that reveal who He is and why He came. They are friends and He tells her what He is about in this world.)
She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” John 11:20-27
(and Martha believed Jesus and put her faith in Him.)
There is much to do when the head of your household dies.
Details to attend to.
Lots and lots of details.
But Martha left all those to go out to meet Jesus.
She took His redirection and moved on into a deeper relationship with Him.
I want to be like Martha and Mary. They were real woman, with real life stories, complex and amazing
Who had real friendships with Jesus.
They loved Him, served Him, worshiped Him, and challenged Him. He enjoyed them, corrected them, and loved them.
He never condemned them
Or made them feel they were worthless.
Today it’s Thanksgiving and there are loving, diligent hands in hundreds of homes preparing tables that are beautiful and bear delicious offerings
And these meals are prepared in love by women who pay attention to Jesus.
Don’t listen if Satan tries to mumble some Martha condemnation into your ear when you’ve gotten tired and a little grumpy and everyone’s watching football.
Just turn to Jesus and give Him your attention
He’ll remind you that you are loved, noticed, valued, cherished, redeemed.
He blesses you, Martha.
And He loves you.
Run to Jesus – He doesn’t condemn you, He’s set you free!


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13 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Martha gets a load of bad PR. Thanks for telling us the rest of the story.

  2. tina hunt says:

    To wish to be one or the other leaves us one dimensional, flat, and not as God designed.

    I have often wondered about the snapshots we have of people in the Bible and what it would be like to only be remembered for our worst moments or behaviors. Like Thomas, or Martha here…or Peter denying Jesus. Makes me more thank-full for grace and forgiveness and the fact that God sees the entire picture of our lives.

  3. Good point, Tina. One of the dangers of being a cop is you only see people at their worst moments. It breeds cynicism. We need frequent correctives like this.

  4. Probably why I wrote this blog for Martha. My work with families in crisis is to write their stories in context so there’s less opportunity for them to be judged by a single moment of crisis.

  5. What a relief to see a broader view of Martha. Thank you.
    I will now revel a little more fully in the way the Father made me AND bow a little more deeply to the words the Savior sent me.

  6. Anonymous says:

    As we sat at our Thanksgiving table, 10 of us in the immediate family, my youngest grandson asked, “Are we going to pray like Jesus did before He ate?” What a blessing to hear the question and know his heart was learning about Jesus. So we did pray. And the dinner was full of laughter, fun, and love. We had much to be thankful for as a new generation begins their journey in the Way.

  7. Thank you for opening my eyes, Lori. Our women’s ministry did a study about Mary/Martha and I came away feeling “less than.” This post helped me see the flip side of the Mary/Martha coin and lifted some unnecessary guilt from my shoulders. You have great insight, Lori. I appreciate your blog sooooo much!

  8. The BearPair says:

    Good comments Lori! And, due to ou oft-inability to think withOUT stereotypes, Martha does get the bad rap, tho’ undeserved. As you made crystal clear, Jesus was just reminding her that all service & no worship is a bad (often destructive) combination. March on, Marthas, and sing praises while you work! 🙂

  9. Thank you so much. That has always been a hard balance for me. Nice to know I’m not alone. 🙂

  10. Sharon Lea says:

    THANK YOU FOR THIS!!! I always felt that Martha’s name was made mud, but I soooo sympathized with her! I know what it’s like to be a busy-body, secretly take pride in being a “do-er” while at the same time feeling irritable over “doing it all”, then feeling guilty for “doing it all” and taking pride in it because I felt like I was “missing Jesus”. (But Lord, what about the laundry and we DO need to eat!) I’m so happy that Jesus SAW her and LOVED her enough to tell her that her “business” was okay, but her love and attention to Him was more important. I love that her “do-er” attitude wasn’t something He condemned, but something He re-directed.

    Thank youuuuu for acknowledging that!