Friday, February 6, 2015

Visit at Martha's House, part 6: The One in Charge

But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me." (Luke 10:40 NASB)

When Jesus arrived, along with His disciples, Martha immediately welcomed Him into her home and went to work, making preparations for the meal and for His stay. Mary sat down at Jesus' feet and stayed there. The longer Martha worked, the more frustrated she became. She could be at Jesus' feet, too, if Mary would only help her, she must have thought. The more she fumed, the worse it got. 

Finally, Martha's irritation bubbled over into an outburst. "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me," she demanded. Martha had made a serious error in judgment. She assumed that Jesus would, of course, have the same priorities that she had, and that He would see her desire to work, as well as her assessment of the work that needed to be done, in the same way she saw them. We will soon see that nothing could have been farther than the truth. 

There was another little problem that Martha had, and it is one from which we also likely suffer. Martha assumed that, because it was "her" house, she was the one who would decide the agenda and the service that was done. It turned out that Martha was sadly mistaken. 

God is not in the business of asking us for advice. He has it all figured out, and has been doing a fine job of keeping the planets orbiting the sun without a bit of help from us. He has a plan, and it is better than ours. The thing we often forget is that God has a plan for everything, including what happens in our house, what acts of service we do, how we spend time with Him. (See Jeremiah 29:11 - "I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord...") 

We would do well to relinquish our need to control every situation of life and allow our Lord free reign. Let Him direct us in everything from the major decisions of life (job, spouse, location) to those decisions we might consider "ours" like where we spend our time, what we do in our free time, with whom we spend our time.

Martha wondered if Jesus cared. The truth was that He did, but the question He could well have asked was, "Doesn't Martha care about Me?" Our actions will demonstrate our love for our Lord. Let's be sure they say exactly what we mean for them to say. 

"Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness..." Matthew 6:33 NASB

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Vist at Martha's House, part 5: When the service is too much

But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me." (Luke 10:40 NASB)

Jesus had invited Himself and his disciples to visit at Martha's home. She and Mary were delighted to see them, and Martha immediately began to prepare a meal for them. The word here translated as "preparations" is diakonia and indicates the "work of service". Martha began by serving the Savior. It was when the work of service became more important than the Savior she intended to serve that the trouble started. Anger and resentment quickly bubbled over. 

This is an important principle and one we would do well to understand. When our service becomes more important than our Savior, nothing good can come of it. That shift in priority will immediately bring a weariness in the work, and a resentment for the lack of assistance. There is a great need for works of service, but the greatest need of all is for those who do the work of service to spend time at the feet of Jesus, learning from Him. 

As we begin our day and the service we will give, let's pause to consider which takes priority for us, our service or our Savior. Let's be sure our first work of service is at His feet, seeking Him first, and doing our work of service simply as a gift to our Lord.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A Visit at Martha's House, part 4

But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me." (Luke 10:40 NASB)

Jesus was a welcome visitor in Martha's home, but Mary was the one sitting at His feet, soaking in every word He spoke. Martha was busy with meal preparation and, in her busyness, had grown frustrated with the amount of work she was doing without assistance. Of course, the work would have gone faster with an extra set of hands, but Martha had not stopped to consider whether all her work and preparations were necessary or whether they were what the Lord desired. In fact, as we will soon see, they were not.

The word translated as "distracted" is perispaƍ and literally means to be "over-occupied", to "drag around", "to be driven about mentally". In essence, Martha was so busy with the work she had decided to do that it was like a weight, dragging her around. It was heavy and burdensome. The weight of her burden of busy had robbed her of the joy of service and, as a result, she had become resentful of her sister and the time she spent at the feet of Jesus. 

In fact, the time Jesus had left on earth was short. If time was to be spent at the feet of Jesus, it needed to be done, for further opportunities to do so would be scarce. Martha, had she known, might not have spent that limited time with meal preparations. Perhaps she, too, would have been at the feet of Jesus. 

There is, of course, no way to know how much time we, or our loved ones, have left on this earth, but it is imperative that we spend whatever time we have wisely. Although the tasks we accomplish in our busyness may be useful, are they what Jesus would most desire? Is the outcome a closer relationship with Him, or frustration and irritation with those around us who love Him more?

As we plan the activities of our day, let's be sure that we make time with Christ our priority, and that our activities are ones that would most please Him. Live well and love well, for time is short. May we live so that, no matter what comes, there will be no cause for regret. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A Visit at Martha's House, part 3

Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord's feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me." (Luke 10:38-40 NASB)  

There is a tendency for us to think that Mary had a wonderful response to Jesus' visit and that Martha had a totally poor response. In fact, Martha began by welcoming Jesus warmly and sincerely. She was delighted to see Him and His disciples. She welcomed Him in, found Him a place to sit, and made Him comfortable, then began preparations for a meal for her guests. It was her home and, she felt, her responsibility. The problem was that Martha let preparations for the meal and her idea of service override spending time with her Lord. She began well, but she didn't stay the course.

Mary, on the other hand, was also delighted to see Jesus. She responded to His presence by sitting at His feet, just as a student would with their teacher, and listening to Him talk. She hung on every word because she wanted those words to be alive in her life. She was soaking in His presence and nothing else mattered. It was His words, not His dinner, that mattered most to Mary.

We live in a society that is consumed with doing, with a constant barrage of activities that threaten to overwhelm us completely. In the midst of busyness, our tendency is to soldier on, never stopping to make a change. Are you overwhelmed by busy? Is every minute of your day scheduled, every day of your week too full? How much of that time is spent worshipping and learning at the feet of Jesus? 

Our Lord comes to us every day with opportunities to spend time with Him. He desires our service, and there is no doubt about that, but the first service He desires is our attentive presence at His feet. No matter what else we do to serve our Lord, we must begin at His feet, eager, listening, and willing to learn from our Master and to worship Him. Let's be sure we have the heart of Mary, seeking His kingdom and His righteousness before all else. When we do, everything else will fall in place. 

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33 NASB)

Monday, February 2, 2015

A Visit at Martha's House, part 2

Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. (Luke 10:38 NASB)

The word translated here as "welcomed" is hypodechomai. It literally means to "admit under one's roof, to entertain hospitably". We have to chase this a bit to get the full impact, so bear with me. "Hospitality" is the cordial, generous reception of guests. "Cordial" is a word we seldom use in everyday speech, so a quick look at its meaning might be helpful. "Cordial" means "warm, sincere, hearty." If we put all that together, it means that Martha received Jesus and His disciples as her guests in a warm, sincere, and hearty manner. She was delighted to have Him there!

Martha made an excellent start in entertaining Jesus. The problem quickly became one of focus. Martha turned her attention from her welcome visitor to the details of the visit, where her focus remained. In her excitement to have Jesus in her home, she became so focused on the food and the preparations for service that she, in a way, abandoned Jesus. She left Him out completely as she bustled about the kitchen, preparing the meal. 

Imagine being that busy for a moment. 

The Son of God comes to your house and, instead of sitting down to talk to Him, you leave Him in the living room and go straight to the kitchen to start cooking. He is eager to share truth with you, to enjoy your company because you are one of His favorite friends, yet you spend the entire visit working hard to cook a big meal for Him. By the time the visit is over, you are exhausted and haven't spent even a minute visiting with your Guest. The meal was lovely, but did Jesus care about the meal? Did He come for the meal? No, He came for you.

That scenario seems unlikely, doesn't it, yet every day our Lord longs to spend time with us and we are so distracted by the details of life that we rush about, compromising our time with Him by our incessant "busyness". We serve diligently, and likely do a lovely job of it, but neglect the greater work of sitting quietly at the feet of Jesus.

Does your service, your bustling busyness crowd out your time at the feet of Jesus? Do you spend more time working for the Kingdom or worshipping the King? It is a question of priority and one that matters greatly to Jesus. Let's make a conscious choice to  be still at the feet of Jesus, worship before Him, learn from Him, and serve Him with our presence. Those details of physically serving cannot be left completely undone, but perhaps less would be more if we began at the feet of Jesus. Let us choose the greater part and begin by worshipping our King.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

A Visit at Martha's House

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 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!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42 NIV)

This is one of my favorite passages because it speaks to me on so many levels. Frankly, some days I'm Mary, but more often, I'm Martha. Perhaps you can find yourself in this story, too.

To fill in the details of the story, we need to look at John 11: 1-2 where we find that Mary and Martha were the sisters of Lazarus, of Bethany, who later would be raised from the dead. Mary was the woman who anointed Jesus' feet with ointment and wiped His feet with her hair. Jesus knew this family well and there was much love between them. 

Matthew Henry (my favorite theologian from the 1600-1700's) says that Martha was likely a widow who kept the home where she had lived with her husband (or possibly was housekeeper in Lazarus' home), and that Mary lived with her. Since Jesus was not rich in money, he was dependent upon the hospitality of His friends. Matthew Henry says that "Jesus often invited Himself to them" because He knew he was always welcome at the home of Martha and Mary. "Though it was expensive to entertain Christ for He did not come alone, but brought His disciples with Him, yet she would not regard the cost of it. How can we spend what we have better than in Christ's service?" 

Perhaps the reason for Martha's fretting and worrying was not that everything be perfect but that she be able to serve her Lord at all. For a widow of limited means, entertaining thirteen hearty men was no small undertaking. The food alone would have been a considerable effort and expense. 

Until today, when I thought of Martha and Mary, I have generally thought of them in a 1st century version of my house. If Martha wanted to cook something, she would just go to my pantry or out to the freezer, get it and cook it right up. Nothing could have been further from the truth! The typical meal was likely bread, olive oil, dried fruit, and dried legumes of some sort, either beans or lentils. Bread was likely cooked fresh every day. If Martha wanted to make bread, she had to grind the grain. If Martha wanted to cook beans, she soaked them and likely cooked them for hours. The arrival of Jesus and his disciples meant that, if Martha was going to feed them, she had to get to work and to get busy about it. (Of course, Jesus could have just done a miracle and fed them with the little she had on hand, but it appears that she wanted to provide for Him from her own resources.)

In 1st century Israel, there were no telephones, cell phones, fax machines, or postal service home mail delivery. Without a runner going ahead to say He was coming, Jesus had no way to notify Martha that He was en route. The willing generosity of Martha toward the Lord and His disciples should be an example for us. There is no indication that Martha served grudgingly or under compulsion. Instead, it is clear that she was eager to serve well and to do it on the spur of the moment. There is no greater honor than to have the Lord of Heaven and Earth present in our homes and, in recognizing that, Martha longed to give honor back to Him with her service.

What about us? Are we willing to serve Christ on the spur of the moment, without regard to the amount of effort or expense required? Would we, like Martha, welcome Jesus and all the people who journeyed with Him into our home? Would we be ready to entertain at a moment's notice? 

Jesus visited often in the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus and felt free to bring His friends along, because He knew He would always be welcome. Can He say the same of us? of our homes? Let's be sure that we are as welcoming to our Lord and those He sends our way as Martha, who willing shared the little she had with all who came her way.
Please be in prayer for Congressman Alan Nunnelee, who is seriously ill and in desperate need of miraculous intervention, as well as his family and friends.