I wonder if Martha gets a bit of bum rap. She’s the calculating one, knows what needs to be done and does it herself if necessary. The list-maker, the bean counter. Martha was the chief cook and bottle washer when Jesus came to visit her and her siblings. She alone was the one who received a gentle rebuke from the Lord when she demanded that her sister, Mary, come and help her in the kitchen instead of sitting with the Master, listening and absorbing.
I bet Martha as the older one, the one who helped her little sister growing up to put on her clothes and lace up her sandals. You know how older sibs are called upon in a family. Insert all of that on Martha’s shoulders.
Now Mary, it’s possible that Mary is same woman mentioned in another of the Gospels as the “unclean” prostitute who broke the jar and anointed Jesus in an act of repentance for her now-former lifestyle. The jury is out on that one, but for argument’s sake…
In this context, I can perceive Martha’s frustration, helping to sacrificially raise her younger sister only to have her go off and ruin the family name. Perhaps this is why no spouse is mentioned for Martha— in that culture once the family is disgraced, who wanted to marry into that? If this is case, like the older brother in the parable of the prodigal, I get it.
Then their beloved brother dies.
Interestingly, when Jesus finally decides to make an entrance, Mary is the one who stays behind, but it’s good ole’ practical Martha who goes out to faithfully meet the Master. Of course, the first words out of her mouth are, guess what, cause and effect:
Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.”
Problem defined, problem solved. That’s Martha. If Plan A didn’t transpire, she always had a Plan B. It wasn’t, however, quite what she expected:
“Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them.
But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.”
How often do I ask God for a miracle, only with the proviso that He does it my way. Good grief, don’t open the tomb! Don’t expose the decay and don’t make the smell of death public. No, I like to keep things private.
I forget there was nothing private about Jesus dying on a cross—for me.
There is something about the things we keep hidden which allows them to fester and multiply. I’ll try to deal with it on my own. If my first plan is tanked, then I’ll think of the next step, but by all means, let’s keep stench under control.
Except life doesn’t actually work that way. The only way Lazarus was going to walk out of that tomb was to roll away the stone and let him breathe God’s fresh air.
How’s your air quality today?
John 11:21,21,39 Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.