At the Home of Martha and Mary

Pastor Cari Fydirchuk

Luke 10:38-42

It’s a privilege to be able to share God’s Word with you today and in a moment, we’re going to look at a bible passage from the gospel of Luke that shares with us the story of two sisters who were very dear friends to Jesus. 

Growing up, both my husband Jason and I, were the oldest siblings of brothers. It wasn’t until we had our own family that we got to experience the joys and struggles between sisters. Right now, at 9 and 12 years old, my daughters, Jazlyn, and Cayla, are the best of friends! Which amazes me because they couldn’t be more different from one another. 

One is an introvert, who loves quiet spaces to do her art, read, knit, and connect with her close’s friends. The other is an extrovert who is friends with everyone and loves to talk, sing, dance and play the piano J

They make a beautiful team but sometimes these differences do cause tension as both struggle to have their needs met. And of course, as their parents, we get to hear all about it – how the other isn’t pulling her weight, or how one gets something the other doesn’t have and how unfair and hard it can be to have a sister J

We see something similar play out in our first passage today from the gospel of Luke, chapter 10, we’ll read verses 38-42 together now. 

At the Home of Martha and Mary 

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[f] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Ouch…I wonder how Martha responded to this? Did she turn back to the kitchen, rolling her eyes with a heavy sigh, mumbling under her breath, it’s so unfair and so hard to have a sister! J

Like Jazlyn and Cayla, Martha and Mary are the best of friends, yet they couldn’t be more different, and these differences are shown to us, quite plainly, throughout Scripture.

Martha has a servant’s heart; she is a leader and a faithful follower of Jesus. She cares not only for her sister Mary but also her brother, Lazarus. She’s hospitable and often welcomes people into her home, including Jesus and his disciples. Yet, even among all these people – Martha feels alone and easily stressed out about all the responsibilities she carries. 

Mary, often, sits with her thoughts, in her own world, despite what else may be going on around her. Like Martha, she deeply loves Jesus and would do anything for him. The three times, we read about these sisters in Scripture, Mary is always sitting next to Jesus, soaking in each moment she is given with him. 

Although Martha tolerates this for the most part – today she’s hit her limits and can no longer watch Mary ‘just’ sit with Jesus while she serves everyone. And in her frustration, she cries out to Jesus for help but doesn’t get the answer she’s expecting. 

Jesus basically tells Martha that she should be doing what Mary is doing – even uses the word ‘better’ to describe Mary’s choice to sit with Jesus rather than help her sister. Leaving Martha, hurt, disappointed, frustrated, and very anxious about the logistics right in front of her – like feeding a group of hungry men. 

I don’t think you have to be a sister to recognize and resonate with these feelings around having our own needs met, while also caring for the needs of others – as we all carry a great deal of responsibility in our lives. 

And we all know the struggle of asking for help – whether we’re asking others or Jesus, Himself – and not getting the answer we expect (or the help we think we need). Leaving us wondering, like Martha if anyone, even Jesus cares.

This is the everyday, real ache, of ‘How long, O LORD?!’ 

And if left unchecked – over time, what is frustrating and disappointing can lead to feelings and emotions far more detrimental – that harden our hearts and close us off from the relationships we are made for. 

Although Martha, in very practical ways, is seeking help with the work that needs to be done around the house, there is a deeper motivation being revealed that Martha may or may not be aware of – and it’s this deeper motivation that Jesus is pointing her to.

Make no mistake – Jesus loves Martha and Mary – equally – in our passage today – he is not saying Mary is better than Martha. Just as when my daughters taunt each other about which one I love more – competing to be my favourite daughter J

Jesus is not playing games here – they are both two of his dearest friends – the very few people who he can be both human and divine with. 

Martha and Mary are the people Jesus wept with…

Martha and Mary are the sisters to Lazarus the man Jesus raises from the dead… 

And it’s with this family and in this home that Jesus spends his last days as a free man – where Mary, not only communes with Jesus but also anoints him with a jar of luxurious perfume – in a very prophetic way, preparing Jesus for burial, before his own death and resurrection. 

Their relationship with Jesus is intimate and real – no need for small talk – Jesus wants to get to the heart of the matter – because he loves Martha and sees she is struggling.  

In the first part of verse 40, we read, But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. In the Greek, this is literally translated to mean, she is distracted with “much serving.” Jesus isn’t condemning her service – he sees how she is nurturing his people and extending God’s love in many beautiful ways. 

The “much serving” indicates, she’s taken on more than she needs to – not all her serving is necessary – and rather than serve from a place of love – Jesus is wondering if her service is starting to feel more like a burden, or a way to control (the uncertainties of life), or motivated by guilt, obligation, or perceived expectations from others (her culture). 

Jesus is asking her to assess what is truly necessary. Jesus isn’t scolding Martha or asking her to be something she’s not (clearly, she’s been created in these beautiful welcoming and hospitable ways). Rather Jesus is giving her permission – to focus on and prioritize her life around what is healing and leads to flourishing – for herself as well as others. 

He’s assuring her that in all things she can turn to him, catch her breath, and sit with Jesus, where she’ll find rest and be refreshed in mind, body, and spirit. 

Two and a half years ago, Jesus and I had a similar interaction, to this one with him and Martha. And I identify deeply with Martha’s servant heart, as I believe God has also created me in similar ways. However, (as a wise counsellor once told me) sometimes, the good things we were made to do – get distorted…

As a helper and pastor, I’ve always found it very challenging to say no to those in need. I’ve also found it very challenging to set boundaries and see my own needs – to be just as valuable as those I’ve been called to care for. 

Over time, this way of life revealed my anxiety – which would come up in the form of negative thoughts about myself (often telling myself, I’m not enough…). As a caregiver, I started to over-worry – that the well-being of those I was caring for depended on me. And more and more my self-worth came from doing – so I kept myself busier and busier – which kept the anxiety at bay. 

Needless to say, this way of life, has had its costs. It has not only taken its toll mentally, emotionally, and spiritually but also physically. Although I honestly, learned to function with my anxiety – and would have kept going this way until…

In July of 2020, when (for me) everything stopped. This was the month my doctor told me and my husband that I had stage 2 breast cancer. And as you can imagine, this sent my anxiety to its climax, and I could no longer ignore my own needs.

Although I was crying out to God for health, healing, space to breathe, and more energy to carry all the responsibilities of life and vocation… the answer I was getting, although not surprising, was not what I wanted to hear.

Like, Martha, Jesus kept nudging me while gently teaching me a very hard truth… that caring for others does not include negating our own well-being – in mind, body, and soul. And that if I wanted a fitting chance at survival, I could not go back and continue life as I had been living it. 

This journal entry is pictured in the book, Atlas of the Heart, by Brene Brown and I don’t think it’s too far off from what Jesus is gently reminding Martha of (and perhaps all of us) in our Luke passage today. 

Along with anxiety, the interaction with Jesus and two of his closest friends involves some really tough emotions that most of us prefer to keep concealed and under wraps. They also show up front and center as we journey with Jesus to the cross during the season of Lent and they have huge impacts on our choices, relationships, how we are in the world and who we perceive God to be. 

The big emotions, we don’t really want to talk about, that we see playing out in our passage this morning, are the emotions of envy and resentment. 

Envy starts with the desire for something someone else has…

Envy says – I want what you have

I want to be sitting at the feet of Jesus, instead of running around trying to meet everyone else’s needs.

Resentment is envy’s companion and is a gnawing emotion that asks why? 

Why don’t we have this thing that we want and why do they? 

Why does Mary get to rest and relax at the feet of Jesus and why don’t I? 

Martha’s anxiety also points to these feelings of envy and resentment toward her sister – because her deepest need is to be with Jesus – listening to his teaching and being in the presence of love, compassion, healing, and grace. 

Innately, whether we know it or not, the everyday, real ache, of ‘How long, O LORD?!’ is the yearning within the deepest, truest parts of who we are, to be sitting at the feet of Jesus. 

Louise Altman, writes, being in a state of envy, jealousy and resentment is the polar opposite of feeling safety, tranquility, and equanimity. These emotions enable a state of expansiveness. On the other hand, when we are experiencing envy, jealousy, and resentment, we feel a state of contraction – physically, emotionally, and mentally. When we experience these emotions, our needs are not being met.

Envy and Resentment can close us off and as relational creatures, created by a relational God, this is detrimental to our well-being, individually and collectively.

In this season of Lent – these two emotions of envy and resentment are front and centre as we journey with Jesus to the cross. And it’s at the tomb of Lazarus, with Martha and Mary standing next to him that Jesus seals his fate with the Jewish leaders – whose anxiety, envy and resentment turn to anger, hatred, rage and ultimately, murder.  

The Jewish leaders, like Martha, like us, yearn to be in constant communion with God, experiencing his presence, love, compassion, healing, and grace. Yet, they are so distracted by ‘much serving’ that they miss the One who is right in front of them – inviting them to experience the very communion they’re trying to achieve. 

Instead, they hold on tight to their own ways of doing things, feeling threatened by Jesus, leaving their emotions unchecked. 

In a very real and deeply troubling way – this (pic of Jesus on the cross) is the picture of unchecked envy and resentment. It’s closed – it constricts – in tries to control and ultimately it destroys. 

This is not what God wants for you…this is not what Jesus wants for Martha. 

And thankfully on the cross, Jesus embodies these painful emotions and reveals the better way! Thankfully, for us, this is a picture of forgiveness – in the most real and deepest sense – that moves us to life eternal – assuring us that our future is secure. Praise God!

Yet, even if we know this truth and trust this truth – the reality is – it doesn’t ‘magically’ take away the negative emotions and painful feelings that make up our stories and human experience.

Aundi Kolber writes, in her book Try Softer…a fresh approach to move us out of anxiety, stress and survival mode and into a life of connection and joy… “You are not weak for having feelings. You are not less than because you react to the world around you. Your grief, joy, anger, disgust, or fear does not define you, but it is a clue to what’s going on inside you – and this is where the beauty happens. As we honour our experiences, we gain more freedom to move through our emotions rather than become stuck in them.”

Jesus wants you to sit with him – allowing him to join you in all your emotions and places where you are crying out…How long, O Lord?! 

And we don’t have to look to Mary to see how this is lived out – we can look at Jesus himself. Who went to his father time and time again – in the midst of a very busy life – surrounded by people who put huge demands on his time and energy.

Yet, he never missed an opportunity to sit with God – allowing God to join his Son in his suffering – assuring him that his Father in heaven has got this – has got him and all that needs to be taken care of for each day…each moment.  

In Luke chapter 5, verses 15 and 16, just after Jesus has healed a man with leprosy, we read, the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

Did Jesus heal every sick person in the multitudes that came to hear him and be healed by him? No

Did he provide for the practical needs of every person in the multitudes of people that would follow him? No

Did Jesus meet every person’s expectation and demand of him? No

Did Jesus’ ministry suffer because he took time to be with God above everything else? No 

Jesus did exactly what he was called to do for the short time he had on this earth – nothing less – nothing more.

Just as each of us – who have been called to do some things – but not all things – although we often live as though we can do it all – but at what cost? 

As we turn to Jesus, even if ever so slowly, as we begin our journey with him to the cross this Lenten season, prayerfully we will start to recognize his leadership, we’ll begin to know his voice (over and above the voice of anxiety, fear, envy, and resentment). 

We’ll start to find comfort, even in the real ache of How long, O Lord, as he shapes what is internal as well as external into something less constrictive and more expansive. 

As you know, in my own story, I couldn’t go back to the life I once knew, nor was that what God wanted for me. Instead, God has led myself and my family to make a life out of creating these safe spaces of connection (for us as well as others) through the ministry work of Reclaim. 

If you’re struggling to find time to sit with Jesus, I’d like to encourage you that this way of life is cultivated in the smallest of choices. Spending even 1 minute a day, sitting with Jesus, being in the presence of love, compassion, healing, and grace begins to transform and heal our hearts and minds. 

In closing, I’d like to share one more quote, from Brene Brown and her work in Atlas of the Heart. She writes, Calm is an intention. Do we want to infect people with more anxiety or heal ourselves and the people around us with calm? 

This calm is what Jesus wants for Martha, for Mary, for each of us…his world and his church. This is what we hope we’re cultivating through the work of Reclaim. And I invite you to check out these spaces of calm for yourself this week by going to our YouTube channel. 

One of the ways we can share God’s love (as seen on the cross) to all beings everywhere, is by hitting the subscribe button on our YouTube channel. This is not about shameful self-promotion J It’s about our partnership and participation to reveal the ‘better way’ and the way to Jesus. By hitting the subscribe button you help the YouTube algorithm stretch past our own boundaries as we are on mission to the ends of the earth. 

Thank you, many prayers, and blessings as you sit with Jesus this Lenten season. 

And now, I will close the reading of God’s Word, in prayer…

Lord Jesus Christ, we thank you that you are with us now. We thank you that you want to sit with us – exactly as it is – exactly as we are – with all the emotions and feelings we carry in us each day. As we cry out, How long, O Lord, continue to draw close to us – as you draw us closer to you. And we pray for calmer moments, where we can clearly hear you call us your beloved and start to sense the depth of your great love. Meet us in this place and refresh our souls. By your grace, increase our faith as you reveal more of your character, your voice, and your presence during this Lenten season. May your light shine into this space and fill our hearts with your glory. We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, our Saviour and Redeemer. Amen.

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