First published December 7, 2014
They ate in Bethany that day, Jesus and the disciples. I am sure of it. They all ate a meal prepared by Martha. Perhaps it was the best meal she ever fixed. Certainly it was the most peace-filled meal.
You may know the first part of the story. Jesus and the disciples come to Bethany, where Mary lives with Martha. Martha invites them in for a meal. Jesus says, “Peace to this house.” Mary sits down to listen to Jesus. Martha was distracted from what he was saying because she was busy with serving. Eventually, Martha accuses Jesus of not caring about how much work she has. She tells Jesus to tell Mary to help her.
Jesus calls her by name, twice. “Martha, Martha.” He tells her that she is worried by many things. He tells her that only one thing matters. And he tells her that Mary has chosen that one thing.
And every time many people I know hear that story, they feel guilty. “I need to be more like Mary,” they say. “I should sit and listen more and practice hospitality less.”
But I think that the disciples ate a meal that day, and that Martha prepared it. Because the biggest risk to Martha’s heart that day wasn’t cooking or cleaning. It was ignoring the peace that Jesus brought to the table.
A few weeks earlier, Jesus had sent the disciples out on an internship. He told them to go to a house and say, “Peace to this house.” Then he said, “If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you.”
Martha, in her distracted activity, was blaming the peace-giver for contributing to her own anxiety. She was risking losing that blessing of peace. And he pointed out her struggle.
It must have made a difference. She doesn’t quit cooking for Jesus. She fixed a meal to celebrate her brother Lazarus’ resurrection several months later. And before that, just after Lazarus died, she affirmed her belief in Jesus’ power when all Mary could do was weep.