By Sarah Christmyer
Mary “sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to [Jesus’s] teaching. But Martha was distracted …” ~Luke 10:39-40
Visiting ancient ruins by the Sea of Galilee, I was struck by the size of the houses. Most would fit into some of our living rooms! If Martha’s home in Bethany was similar, she wasn’t serving a huge crowd the day she invited Jesus into her house (Luke 10:38–42). And she wasn’t way off in a kitchen somewhere; she was right there with her guests. I assume that she could have heard everything, even without sitting at Jesus’s feet as her sister was doing.
“But Martha was distracted.”
In Greek, that’s perispao: to be pulled in different ways at the same time. Martha’s head is swimming with things that need to be done or that she wants to do, and she can’t attend to the Lord. But is that what she wants? “Lord, do you not care…?” she blurts out. Not “Mary, give me a hand so I can listen too.” Martha is hurt that Jesus doesn’t seem to notice all her effort.
Martha feels unappreciated. Perhaps her frenzy of activity is an attempt to be noticed. Her mind is torn between the work to be done and her desire to be seen. Do you really care? she asks the Lord. “Tell her then to help me.” Is this about getting Mary to help, or is it about getting Jesus to prove he cares? I have to wonder: if he did ask Mary to get up, would Martha’s problem be solved?
Do you see Jesus?
I love how Jesus answers. “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things.” Martha may feel invisible, but Jesus sees right into her heart and knows the trouble there. Maybe he also sees that although Martha doesn’t think he sees her, it is she who doesn’t see him. Maybe Jesus has just been waiting for her to turn and come to him.
Years ago, I struggled to spin on ice skates without falling. “Don’t let your head spin!” my teacher said. “Pick one spot on the wall—and don’t take your eyes off it.” I learned to let my body turn under my neck, then snap my head around as I turned too far. And it worked! I think of that when I think of Martha: her eyes are everywhere but on the Lord, and it’s making her dizzy and anxious. It isn’t always possible to do what Mary did and stop serving to sit at Jesus’s feet. But we can get up in the morning and set our eyes on him … then check back again and again as our duties turn us away. Just like with skating, it’s all about where you put your eyes.
Lord, when serving overwhelms me, help me to keep my eyes on you!
Call to Action
Is something causing you to be anxious and troubled? Prayerfully read Luke 10:38–42. What can you do today to refocus on Jesus?
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