Words of Wisdom

Mary and Martha- Mary’s side

From Scripture Comes to Life: Luke 10:38-42–by Rene Tyson–


The Teacher is coming to our house!!  Everyone has heard of the great things he has said and done and since my brother Lazarus is a respected man, he was sitting at the city gates when Jesus’s party arrived.  Lazarus saw the Teacher a little ways off and walked out to greet him. Ha! Lazarus had the wits to immediately invite him to stay with us so our sister, Martha, and I have been hustling like the wind to prepare rooms and food.  It isn’t only the Teacher, but his entourage–at least 13 of them, maybe more! Lazarus sent a messenger to us right away. Jesus is spending the day discussing important matters at the city gate, but evening is fast approaching and we have to get cooking!

I am so glad that Martha is here. Seriously. She is so talented at organizing big parties and it’s a good thing!  We don’t want to slaughter too many animals for the meal because then the meat would go to waste, but we don’t want to lack meat either. She has an eye for knowing just how many lambs to prepare. Then all the side dishes: fig salad (check each fig for bugs), lentil soup, special herb-stuffed bread (my fave!), pomegranate dessert.  Of course we have servants to help, but it takes a special gift to orchestrate it all: scrub the rooms (can you imagine if the Teacher found cockroaches or mice in his room? How embarrassing!), bring plenty of fresh water for everyone to wash their feet at the front door, have clean linens lined up for both feet and faces, fresh basins of water in bedrooms, and SWEEP the whole house! You can’t imagine how much dust accumulates over everything.

Martha tells me to re-arrange the furniture in the living room to accommodate at least 40 people. There will be the teacher and his disciples, but we expect a good number of locals to join the party too. No wonder she cooked so much food!  I have to run to the neighbor’s house to borrow some more cushions –we don’t have enough places for people to sit! I grab a couple of servant girls to help me carry everything and on our way back to the house, arms loaded, I see the party headed our direction…about 5 minutes away. “Hurry up ladies!” We all three run to the house.

“Martha! They are almost here!” I shout through the house, “Where are you?!” “Where do you think I am?!” I hear. The kitchen. I race to the kitchen, swing in the door and there she stands. Hands deep in a salad, flour on her forehead. And many bustling servants putting the final touches on the food. I skip over to Martha, kiss her cheek and say, “He’s almost here! Let’s go greet them!” “You go ahead. I’m right behind you.” I race out the kitchen and skid to a stop just inside the front door. Smooth my hair. Smooth my frock. Smile. EEEE!  So Excited! Lazarus opens the door. I move aside and motion the servants to help the men with their sandals.

“Sister, may I introduce to you Jesus of Nazareth. Teacher, this is Mary, my sister.” I beam. I can’t help myself. I have been waiting for this moment for a long time! Jesus greets me and looks up just as Martha turns the corner into the front hall. Dish rag in hand. “And this is my other sister, Martha.” “Hello Teacher, we are honored to have you stay with us. As soon as your men are ready, Mary will escort you into the living room.” “Thank you Martha,” He replies with a smile, then, “I hope you will join us soon as well.”

We retire into the living room where food is already laid out on the low table in the center of the room. Jesus sits at the head and as many as can fit are reclining around the table. The rest of us are reclining on the extra cushions along all the walls. (I am so glad I went to the neighbors for extra seats!) There are at least 30 people here and more keep trickling in. We eat and there is so much fun! Laughter and stories! I wish Martha would hurry up and join us. She’s missing all the good stuff. I sneak out and find her cleaning the kitchen. “Martha, you are missing everything! Come sit by me.” She glances up, lips pinched, eyes narrowed. Shoot. I know that look. “Mary, if I had the luxury of time, like some people think they have, then I’d be happy to join you.” Ug. there is no reasoning with her when she gets like this. “Ok…see you later then,” I jet out of there and get back to my seat. “What did I miss?” I whisper to my neighbor who is sitting next to me (of course I had to invite her!).  

Jesus was now talking. The mood of the room has shifted. Everyone is listening so intently you could hear a pin drop. He is telling us about the Kingdom of Heaven and it sounds beautiful! It sounds like more than just a place. It sounds like…almost like it is made up of people..and not just anyone but the best sort of people. The way he describes how gentle the Lord is towards us is so different than how the priests talk. He actually calls the Lord, “Daddy,” like a child! Martha walks into the room carrying a tray of food. Jesus pauses mid-sentence as she picks up an empty plate and sets the new one down. She turns to head back to the kitchen and our eyes meet. Poor Martha. She looks so tired. I smile. Martha whips around, looks at the teacher and says in a low voice, “Teacher, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me!” Uh…I look around the room at the other startled faces. This isn’t the calm, collected Martha that we all know.

“Martha, Martha,” Jesus replies softly, “You are anxious and troubled about many things, but there is one thing that is more important than all this business. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken from her.” Martha’s shoulders drop and I hear her sniff. Sweet sister. I hop up, put one arm around her and with the other I grab the dirty plate from her hand. I motion a servant to grab the plate and lead Martha to where I’m sitting. “Look, I saved a spot for you,” Arm still around Martha, we listen as Jesus starts his story from the beginning. He doesn’t want Martha to miss anything else.

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