Jesus had an advance team.
He sent a couple people to villages and towns he was going to visit. They would go to the town, stop at a house, say, “Peace to this house.” In some houses, no one would respond to this statement. And they would move on. But in some houses, there was a person of peace. The greeting would be returned. They would find hospitality. A seat. A meal. A place to stay. “Don’t move from house to house,” Jesus said. “Stay there.”
I heard that story last week. I started to write to a friend, talking with her about a recent experience with that kind of person. A person who offered hospitality, who offered connections in her town, who offered peace. The person had been nicknamed “Martha.”
As I wrote, I started thinking about Martha in the Bible. The Martha no one wants to be like. The Martha scolded by Jesus.
- I thought about the last week of Jesus’ life, when he spent each evening in Bethany, a little town outside Jerusalem. The town where Lazarus and Mary and Martha lived.
- I thought about the party Martha hosted for Lazarus, after he had been raised from the dead.
- I thought about her visit with Jesus after Lazarus’ death, about her calmness in conversation, about her clarity in directing Mary, about her willingness to accept Jesus’ statements about the resurrection.
- I thought about the teaching that Jesus gave Martha about the importance of listening to him as well as offering hospitality. And his ongoing acceptance of her hospitality.
I realized that when Jesus gave instructions to his followers, he was merely describing his own way of living, at least as illustrated in the story of Martha.
Martha, the one we allege was cranky, was really a person of peace.