Editor’s note: Today we continue our Lenten series of reflections by Nancy Jo Sullivan and Jane Kise. With “We Can Only Imagine: Inspiration for Your Lenten Journey”, we hope you will be inspired, moved and uplifted as you journey towards Holy Week and Easter. LMH
Martha and Mary
Martha and Mary were keenly aware of two things; the sacred responsibility of hosting guests in their culture and the gracious, life-giving way Jesus treated women. Like all Jewish women, Mary and Martha were used to sitting at the rear of the synagogue. They deferred to men in all matters concerning Religion-and most other aspects of life.
But Jesus welcomed women, listened to them, spoke with them, and healed them. A group of women even traveled with Jesus and his disciples; Mary Magdalene, Joanna and many others, according to Luke.
Jesus stopped more than once in Bethany, the little town where Mary and Martha lived. The sisters may have heard of the crowds that gathered to hear him teach. Perhaps Mary Magdelene invited Mary and Martha to join the other women so they could hear better—not at the rear of the crowd, but in the midst of all the disciples. Imagine how excited the sisters must have been to have Jesus dine with them.
The fragrant aroma of roasting meat and simmering vegetables wafted through Mary and Martha’s home. Outside, the evening sun was just beginning to set, its orange rays casting a warm glow over the small town of Bethany.
“Mary!” Martha called from the front room, “They’ve come home with me. Jesus is here!”
Martha bustled into the kitchen, fussing over a basket filled with figs.
“Everything must be perfect,” she added.
Mary pulled the last loaf of bread out of the stone oven, rubbed the flour from her hands, and then brushed off the front of her robe as she hurried out of the kitchen to meet Jesus. The meal could wait a bit, she thought as she clapped her hands in applause of his arrival.
“Jesus,” she said. “I’m so glad you’re here.”
Just then Martha flashed past again.
Jesus said, “Martha, I’ve so looked forward to this evening. Come sit with us.”
Martha didn’t even make eye contact with her guest as she headed out the door.
“I need to borrow some trays from the neighbor,” she said over her shoulder.
Jesus gazed after her for a moment, then pulled up a small stool and sat down as his friends and disciples gathered around him, some of them leaning against the wall, others sitting cross-legged on the floor. After Mary passed around glasses of water, she knelt at Jesus feet.
“Tell us a story” she begged. Both she and Martha had learned so much about the greatness of God from his stories. An hour flew by as she listened.
“What shall I compare the kingdom of God to?” Jesus asked as he smiled at Mary. But suddenly Jesus stopped and looked across the room. Martha was holding a plate of freshly baked bread in her hands, sparks in her eyes.
“Lord, Martha said, “Don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself?” Tell her to help me!”
Mary’s face was hot as she immediately stood up. Her sister was right, how could she have been so selfish as to just sit here?”
But Jesus motioned for Martha to come close. He took a piece of bread from the plate.
“Martha, to what shall I compare the kingdom of God?”
Martha looked confused. Jesus raised the bread as a welcoming smile spread across his face. “It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour, until it is worked through the whole dough. But then the dough rests.”
He gestured her to sit down, then began passing the tray of bread around the room as he added, “Martha, Martha, you’ve spent so much time preparing food that perishes. I am the Bread of Life…Take time for me…”
Do you have a quiet place in your life where you can rest in the presence of God?
For me, it’s my kitchen table in the moments just before the sun rises. There, with my open Bible, I give the Lord all my cares for the upcoming day; issues at work, problems in my family, worries and cares about the future. Even though I’m sometimes distracted, I know that the Lord’s nourishing presence fills me with warmth and peace; My Bread of Life.
It’s not all that difficult to rest in Christ. Simply make a commitment to spend some time each day quieting your heart. Cease from your work, even if it’s only for a few moments. Close your eyes and turn your ear to him. Imagine yourself resting at his feet. Listen closely to the stories he tells and receive the lessons he longs to impart.
It will be worth your time.
Jane Kise, Ed.D, is a consultant and free-lance writer, with extensive experience in the fields of team building and school staff development. In addition to consulting, she teaches seminars and speaks across North America on prayer, constructive use of differences, and unlocking our lives for God. Her books include LifeKeys: Discover Who You Are and Differentiated Coaching: A Framework for Helping Teachers Change.
Copyright 2012 Nancy Jo Sullivan and Jane Kise