Consider This: Martha of Bethany
She busies herself with the task at hand, soaking strips of cloth in the water basin. Martha’s hands and mind swirl like a tornado as she works to drown her fears. She hurries to finish, so her sister can reapply the fresh clothes to their ailing brother’s forehead.
Where is He?
They sent for Jesus days ago, alerting Him to Lazarus’ grave condition. But He has not yet arrived.
Martha wills Lazarus’ fever to subside. To her dismay, it appears she is losing the battle, with the illness that is threatening her brother’s life.
Jesus. Jesus, don’t you care?
A familiar ache surfaces as Martha recounts a conversation that took place in her home, between she and her dear friend—the one taking His sweet time when they need Him most.
He spoke her name so tenderly that night, even though she was a bundle of impatience and irritability.
She had started with good intentions, of course, trying to make sure everything was just right for her friend and his companions, but even Miss Dependability had limits. Martha was downright weary from all her preparations—tired of carrying the weight of the world on her tense shoulders. It seemed like no one cared as deeply as she did, that no one else saw all that was undone.
Don’t you care that I’m left to do all the serving alone?
There in her kitchen, she had felt orphaned again, overlooked and left to do what others didn’t notice or weren’t willing to do. Couldn’t they see, that although she was the oldest and most responsible sibling, she still needed assurance that everything would be okay…that she would be okay.
Martha, you are worried about so many things…
Exhibiting great strength day in and day out, managing a myriad of details, caring for her siblings in the wake of their parents’ absence, Martha secretly longed for someone else be strong for her, so she didn’t always have to be the one on whom everyone relied.
Where was her rock to lean on?
…only a few things are necessary, really only one…
A groan of agony from the other room snapped Martha back to the present.
Holding back salty tears, she forces herself to focus on the task before her. No time to dwell on what was, she is needed now—more than ever.
Jesus. Where are you?
Martha fights a surge of bitterness, trying to believe the best of her friend, yet struggling with the reality of abandonment in their time of need.
Waiting is not Martha’s forte in the slightest, she is a woman of action. She solves problems by doing.
She calls for Mary to retrieve the cool cloths before the dry air warms them.
The methodical yet unsettling cycle of waiting, washing, and worrying occupies the next several hours, until its abrupt end.
Like her parents, Lazarus has slipped through her fingers like a vapor, even though Martha did everything she knew to do, to rewrite the grim outcome.
Four days have now passed, yet it feels like time stands still as Martha watches her younger sister stare blankly at the bed that once occupied their beloved brother.
Martha tries to tend to the mourners that have gathered to comfort them, but deep loss cripples her energy as she struggles to order her tasks and untangle her thoughts.
Abruptly, a neighbor, panting for breath, appears in the entryway of the sisters’ home. He leans over, bracing himself, trying to recover his breath, “He’s….he’s here. He’s arrived, at last.”
Mary blinks back free-falling tears, then buries her face in her hands. Martha grabs her head covering and wastes no time as she hurries to meet Jesus.
Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.
Despite her utter confusion at Jesus’ delay, His presence provides a measure of comfort to her aching heart.
He explains what Martha already knows…her brother will rise again—one day.
While this is indeed good news, it doesn’t remove the untimely loss that is Martha’s current reality.
It quickly becomes apparent that the reunited friends are speaking of two different things regarding Lazarus’ future resurrection.
True to form, Jesus, pivots the conversation, turning it in a different direction than expected.
I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die.
Do you believe this?
This short exchange—in the small town of Bethany, with the Mount of Olives nearby—provides an eternal promise to Martha and all who choose to believe.
Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.
In that moment of profession, Martha moves from panic to peace, from orphan to debloded daughter, from a slave of her circumstance to an heir of eternal life.
Martha hones in on the one thing that will allow her to rest, even when her hands are busy caring for others. It is not all up to her. She is not alone.In that moment of profession, Martha moves from panic to peace, from orphan to debloded daughter, from a slave of her circumstance to an heir of eternal life. Click To Tweet
I AM, the One sent by God, is for her…even when it feels like He delays His appearing. Jesus does not withhold goodness, He elevates that goodness beyond the passing moment, into that which will never end.
Decades later, wisps of gray frame Martha’s brow. While washing dishes after a meal, she fondly recounts the miraculous events that transpired shortly after her brief, life-altering exchange with Jesus.
Lazarus was raised as a result of Jesus’ beckoning!
In the tomb four days, he was unbound and freed…and many believed.
Martha smiles, turning the cup over in her hand at the wash basin. In a small town, an ordinary woman experienced the unbinding and freeing of her try-hard soul, not because she worked for it, but because by faith she believed the One who could provide what she could never earn: lasting love, undeserved grace, eternal salvation.
And the rest is history.
Martha was like you and me.
She was a hard-working woman who wanted her people to be cared for and wanted to be loved for who she was, not what she did—although, let’s be honest, her deeds were definitely impressive and important.
For centuries, Martha has gotten a bad rap based on Jesus’ correction, in Luke 10:38-42. But let’s not confuse correction with direction. Jesus disciplines those He loves…accepting them as sons and daughters (see Hebrews 12:4-6-13). What comfort these verses bring to Martha, and those of us like her.
Many of us have looked past verses like John 11:5 that assure us of Jesus’ love for Martha. And John 11:20-27, where Jesus reveals His true identity to Martha and she, with great faith, declares her belief in Him.
I am such a fan of Martha, that with Jami’s encouragement, I wrote a pardon of sorts for this beloved daughter of God, Made Like Martha: Good News for the Woman Who Gets Things Done. Learn more here, then pick up a copy wherever books are sold.
I wonder, if like me, you have missed the ways Jesus displays His lavish affection for you. Whether at the sink, in the boardroom, or at the bedside of a sick loved one, Jesus sings of His delight in you…through His Word, Creation, and His Presence.
His banner over you is unabashed love.
Martha has gone before us, as an example of faith…will you too profess your belief and come forth…unbound and freed?
Katie M. Reid is a modern-day Martha who usually has numerous projects going at the same time (maybe that’s why she and Jami get along so well). A pastor’s wife and mother of five loud and wonderful children, ranging in ages 3-15, Katie is not bored. A national speaker, author, singer/songwriter, and co-host of the quirky marriage show, “Stop! Hammock Time” on Facebook Live, Katie delights in encouraging others to walk in freedom and live out their God-given purpose. Receive on-going resources from Katie, by texting the word MARTHA to 345345.
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