If you've been around the church long enough, you're sure to have run into these two (in)famous women from Bethany – Mary and Martha. And, probably, you've heard that Martha is the perfect example of burn-out, somebody so consumed that she neglects immersing in and enjoying the Lord's presence. This is partly true and partly helpful; but it's also too simple of a view. Martha wanted Jesus present in her home – it says it right there in Luke 10:38; she welcomed the Lord. She wasn't callous or apathetic towards Him at all.
We have that same desire. We want to see Jesus welcomed into our lives – we don't want to be bound up in apathy towards Him. But, just like Martha there's often a parade of voices, distractions, and responsibilities rushing about inside us that crowd out and overwhelm our true enjoyment of His Presence; we've invited Him in but we aren't resting at His feet.
Let's get something clear right out of the gate – the Lord did not confront Martha because of the activities she was engaged in but confronted the state of her heart. Likewise, the Lord was not encouraging Mary towards sloth or laziness, but was pointing towards the peace of heart which Mary was resting in. The key phrase of this text comes from verse 41, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things.”
There's the problem. Right here is the exact thing that is keeping her from enjoying what Mary has found to be so delightful; peace in the accepting love of Jesus. You see Martha, like all the rest of us, was whirring and striving in a vast effort to make things perfect for the Lord. The logic of it all seems so poignant and clear – the Lord is here to visit. He is worthy immense honor, therefore, I need to work my hardest to get everything set and perfect for Him. To put it more succinctly: I need to perform for Jesus.
Which is where we all naturally go, right?
If we peel back the layers in our lives and in our hearts, we're going to quickly find that all of our anxieties stem from feeling like we will miss out on something, possibly the greatest thing we will ever get to experience, if we don't keep all the plates spinning. We're frantic in believing that if we don't keep pushing, striving, grinding away – it's all going to fall apart.
The story of Mary and Martha is about a far grander and wilder story. It's a scaled-down picture of the most vital and vibrant story every told – the Gospel. Through Jesus's perfect life and substitutionary death, we're invited into a life of peace and rest; we're invited into a place of sweet, contemplative sureness. And, in an astounding and vastly unexpected twist, instead of our welcoming the Lord we find Him welcoming us – welcoming us into all the gifts, rewards, treasures, and wonders that are His by right.
Here's the promise that the Lord made to Martha, and it's the exact same promise He's extending to us: “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28