Tuesday of the First Week of Lent. Martha Actually Set a Great Example
She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world.” John 11:27 (Gospel on the Saturday of Lazarus)
Most of us are familiar with the story of Mary and Martha, told in Luke 10:38-42. Jesus visited their home. Mary was sitting and listening to Jesus’ teaching, while Martha was running around serving. Martha got frustrated and went to Jesus and said “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” Jesus answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.”
From this, Martha gets a bad rap, as if she does not have her priorities in order. One might go so far as to question whether Martha was so consumed with material things, whether she had any faith at all. It turns out that nothing could be farther from the truth.
When Jesus came to Bethany, her brother Lazarus had been dead and buried for four days. We read in John 11:20 that when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, it was she, and not Mary, who ran to meet Him. Mary remained in the house. Martha said to Jesus: ”Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21). This in itself was a statement of faith, that the Lord would have had power to heal her brother. “And even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you” (11:22). This is an even greater statement of faith, recognizing that even in this dire circumstance, Jesus could still make a miracle.
We read in 11:19 that “many of the Jews” had come to see Mary and Martha and to console them concerning the death of their brother. In 11:31 we read that when the Jews who were with her (Mary) in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. Presumably, some of them were with Martha when she went to see Jesus, so the conversation that Martha was having with Jesus was more than likely in the presence of others. When Jesus asked Martha if she believed that He is “the Resurrection and the Life” and that whoever believed in Him even if they died, yet they would live, Martha made the boldest, most public confession that could be: “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Imagine the consequences that this could have had! In the presence of Jews and even Jewish leaders, she confessed Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of God!
Before we give Martha too bad of a rap, we should remember that her pronouncement was a profound example of both faith and courage. As we begin our Lenten journey this week, the first thing we must set about working on is our sense of faith: Do I believe? What do I believe? How strong do I feel about what I believe in? The second thing we must work on is how we witness that faith to others. Do we love others? Do we speak about the faith with others? In a world chat seems to be demeaning Christianity at almost every turn, do we stand up for Christ? Do we stand up with Christ?
Indeed, it wasn’t only Mary that focused on the needful things. Martha, too, had chosen the most needful things: faith, and the courage to live out that faith. May we do the same.
Martha cried aloud to Mary: “Come, far the Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And she went quickly to the place where her Lord was. And when she saw You, she cried; she knelt; she worshipped. As she covered Your immaculate feet with kisses, she said, ”Lord, if You had been here, our brother would not have died.” (From the Praises of the Orthros of Saturday of Lazarus, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Be courageous today!
~Father Stavros N. Akrotirianakis, THE ROAD BACK TO CHRIST: REFLECTIONS on LENT, HOLY WEEK and the RESURRECTION