(Keys to kingdom living, continued)
In this article we will consider two friends of Jesus, Mary and Martha. Contrary to the case with James and John, more of the character and personality is written about these two sisters who lived at Bethany with their brother Lazarus.
It is Martha who teaches us that there is an outlet, an expression for all that her sister Mary imbibes at the feet of Jesus. She was devoted to Jesus, but she expressed her devotion in another way: By taking care of household tasks such as the meal preparation for visitors. Certainly these things needed to be done. On one occasion Martha complained to Jesus that Mary was leaving all the wok to her. But Jesus gently chided her and said, “Mary has chosen the better part.” One writer said, Martha is a good woman who pursues worthy and necessary tasks. Nevertheless, these cannot compare in importance with the eternal truths that claimed Mary’s total attention.
John Wright Follette wrote, Jesus had to correct Martha, not for serving, but for too much serving and lack of vision.” He was dealing with her choice – not a bad choice – but rather a poor, limited choice. The first choice must be of spiritual value, and then, the outworking of that choice, made at Jesus’ feet and manifested in the service rendered. In a general sense Martha represents the necessary out-working and service manifestation of what Mary discovers at Jesus’ feet.”
Examples of Christian service in the Harrisburg area are numerous. We have food pantry ministries, such as the one at Life Point Church in West Hanover Township. Recently we presented a review of the feeding program for the homeless that takes place weekly in downtown Harrisburg. There are Senior Citizen programs, children and youth ministries, and so on. Each of these are making meaningful contributions to our communities. We might well refer to them as “Martha Ministries”.
Most of the messages that we hear about Martha of the Bible, have a negative connotation. Jesus did bring correction, not to her activities, but rather to her priorities. This is the important lesson for us to learn. He did not rebuke her industriousness, but rather brought correction to her outlook. Remember too, that He did not view Mary’s dedication to Him as laziness, but as a sign of her holy desire to learn of Him.
We tend to remember the negative things, the faults about people and forget the good traits. Just as Thomas is remembered as the doubter, rather than that one disciple who urged the disciples to accompany Jesus to Bethany even if it cost them their lives, Martha also is thought of as the sister who complained to Jesus.
Key to kingdom living: Expression
Jesus did love Martha, and it is apparent that His teachings had reached her; for it is from the lips of Martha that came one of the most profound confessions of faith recorded in the gospel narrative. It occurred when Jesus arrived in Bethany after the death of Lazarus. Martha ran to meet him, distraught that he had not gotten there in time – so she thought. Lazarus had been dead for four days. She declared that had Jesus been there her brother would not have died.
It is recorded in John 11:25 (KJV) that Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?”
Without hesitation Martha replied, “Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world” (verse 26).
So Martha also gives us an important key to kingdom living, that we need not only the kind of devotion that we will see in her sister’s experience, but also the expression of our hearts through acts of service in practical ways .
Jesus did not expect Martha to be Mary. He taught her that everything we do must have a meaning that reaches beyond this life to the kingdom of heaven. He works with each of us where we are, for we truly are His workmanship. As we bring to Him our devotion, we will become his expression to a world that desperately needs Him.
In Part 2 of this series we will examine Mary’s role in the Bethany household and how it is designed to instruct us in living a balanced Christian life for the kingdom of God.
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