Growing up, whenever I heard the story of Mary and Martha I was so confused and judgmental towards Martha. I heard the story and was confused by why Martha wouldn’t stop doing the dishes (I always pictured her emptying a dishwasher) when she had invited Christ over and He was sitting in her living room.
A few months ago, when K-state cancelled classes, I read this passage once again, but this time I saw it in a new light. I had heard it many times before to the point of knowing it by heart, but I had never let it touch my heart. This time it did.
I am Martha. It hurts to acknowledge, but over time, I have shifted to be more like Martha than Mary. I think we all have a bit more of Martha’s attitude in this story than we would like to admit.
Once I realized how similar I was to Martha, I sat with the story and placed myself in Martha’s shoes. I pictured the whole scene, which taught me so much about the posture of my heart. Like Martha, I eagerly invite Christ into my life, but get busy when he shows up. I don’t set up time to simply sit with him and listen. I stay busy, and even though the things I stay busy with are good, they still get between me sitting at the feet of Christ. What a relief it is that Christ speaks into my struggle at the end of this passage.
But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her." Luke 10:41-42
It was such a comfort to hear Christ speak those words. I think we all need to hear them more often and insert our own name to hear Christ speak those same words to us.
“___, ____, you are worried and distracted by many things;” With this phrase, Jesus is calling us out in the most kind way possible. He presses pause and comes to us where we are. In March, many of our lives felt like they were put on hold. I know mine did. A flood of worries and distractions entered into this vacuum. Did we drown in this flood of stress? Did we get busy, or did we use the space to sit at Christ’s feet? We need to listen to the rest of Christ’s reminder: “There is need of only one thing.” As we get back to being out and about in the world, it is key that we remember His words: “Mary has chosen the better part which will not be taken away from her.” When we choose to rest in Christ, “the better part” will not be taken from us.
I’m gonna be honest, I am still a lot like Martha. That is a good thing. Martha’s story doesn’t end here.
The next time Martha is mentioned, she and Mary have sent word that their brother Lazarus is ill. Jesus arrives when Lazarus is already dead. Mary and Martha are surrounded by their community and being comforted in their mourning. But this time, Martha doesn’t busy herself when Christ arrives.
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home. John 11:20
It is clear she heard and heeded Christ’s reminder. Martha has changed; instead of trying to busy herself after inviting Christ to her house, she goes out the moment she hears He is coming.
At the end of their conversation outside the village, Martha shows the transformation that occurred in her heart. She says, “Yes, Lord I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”
If Martha had been embarrassed after that first encounter with Christ and let that affect her beautiful friendship with God, the story of Mary and Martha would be heartbreaking. That was not the end, it was a new beginning. It is hope-filled.
I am still like Martha. I mess up, and there are times when I invite Christ into my life and then get completely distracted and fail to sit at his feet.
Like Martha, I will keep inviting Christ back. I will keep choosing the better part. I will choose to rest in Him and accept his gentle correction when I fail to do so. Sitting with Christ is preparation for eternity, and there is nothing more important I could be doing.
Bridget May is a sophomore studying human development and family sciences at K-State. She loves random chats at coffee shops, dogs, hammocks, mountains, swing dancing, and going on bike rides around town.