Monday, November 26, 2012

Two Sisters

""And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha,
thou art careful and troubled about many things:
But one thing is needful:
and Mary hath chosen that good part,
which shall not be taken away from her."
Luke 10:41,42
(KJV)

It's amazing how each person can be so different
from all of the other people in the world.
Even siblings.
How they can have the same set of parents,
have spent nine months in the same mother's womb,
yet be so unique...
so specially created....
sometimes even as opposite as daylight and dark.

I am always fascinated to think about a fingerprint.
How could it be possible that
of the over 7,046,381,485 people currently living on the earth,
there are no two fingerprints alike?
It is hard for me to imagine that every single set of fingerprints is different
enough to verify the unique identity of its owner.
And how about DNA?
The Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid found in the nucleus of
 your body cells is entirely different from the ones in mine.
What about our hair?
Yours and mine might happen to be the same exact color and texture,
but the composition of the individual strands are different...
enough so that a single strand can identify 
a person with 99.999 percent accuracy, 
according to the DNA Testing Aid website.

Each time a new baby is born,
he or she brings a whole new, unique specimen 
to the population of humanity.

God, our loving, powerful Creator
designed it this way.

He wanted it to be so.
And while we can admire others and
long to replicate their qualities and dispositions,
we can never be another person.
Nor should we aspire to be.
Because God wants us to be who we are.
He instilled in each of us the attributes
that would make us special...
and unique.

I love to study about two of the most famous sisters
in the New Testament.
Remember Mary and Martha?
They lived in a village near Jerusalem, called Bethany.
Their brother was Lazarus,
one of the three people mentioned in the New Testament
whom Jesus raised from the dead.

No two sisters could have been more different.
As far as we know,
they had the same mother and father,
yet, they were complete opposites.



It is the assumption among Bible scholars
that Lazarus was the eldest of the three siblings,
Martha was the middle child,
and Mary was the youngest.

We have only three specific incidents that mention
the two sisters,
but we can learn much information regarding
their unique, individual personalities and dispositions.
I would like to dedicate the next few devotionals
to the study of Martha and Mary and their interactions
with our dear Lord.

First a few questions....

Based on the knowledge you have of the two sisters before this study,
to which of the two sisters would you say you most relate...
on a personal level?
What is your opinion of each woman?
Who do you most admire, of the two?
Which, of the two, possessed and most demonstrated
your individual personality?

The first incident I would like to discuss is found in Luke 10:38-42
and contains the account of a visit by Jesus
to the home of Martha, the presumed elder sister.

Verse 38...
"Now it came to pass, as they went, that He entered into a certain village:
and a certain woman named Martha received Him into her house."

Jesus was human.
He walked everywhere He went.
He became tired from the journey.
He grew hungry.
His body required rest.

Wouldn't you have loved being there...
in the right place at the right time...
to minister to Jesus and His needs?
Wouldn't you have loved to have lived in Bethany
when He passed through that day?

I wonder if the full impact of this honor
was apparent to Martha?
Did she understand....
did she comprehend...
that later that day she would serve bread....
to the Bread of Life?
Did she realize how much any woman among millions
would have given just to have been granted this privilege...
this honor?

I can only imagine how it would have felt to be Martha that day!

I can just picture her hearing the news...
perhaps while shopping for vegetables at the local market
or as she drew water from the local well
or in the midst of watering flowers outside her front door....
somewhere, at some point,
Martha found out...
"Jesus is coming!
He'll be here today!"

I can see her dropping whatever it was that she was doing...
when she heard the news,
and calling to her sister.
"Mary, Jesus is coming!
We need to get ready for Him.
The house must be clean.
We must present the best meal.
He will be tired...
and need rest.
He will need to feel welcome here...
and loved.
Come, Mary, help me!
We must hurry.
I do not know what time He will arrive."

I can feel her anxiety level rise....
her heart rate increase.

Perhaps she searched through recipes
trying to remember what foods Jesus liked most.
After all, He frequented their home often.
Martha loved details,
so I feel sure she had taken careful note of His preferences...
when He had visited her in the past.
Today, I am certain she made sure she had everything she needed
to make this meal special...
for Him.

She probably scoured and scrubbed and cleaned...
every inch of her home...
from top to bottom.
I imagine she kept it that way,
so careful was she...
in covering all bases.
But today!
Oh, today!
Everything had to be perfect...
in every, single way.

When Martha opened her front door,
to let Jesus in,
I imagine the scene before Him was one of
"welcome home"
and peace
and perfect order.
There were probably wonderful smells wafting through the air,
mixed aromas that blended into the finest meal
Martha was capable of creating.
She had such talent...
as a homemaker.
She went to such extremes...
to make it all right...
for all of her family and guests.

But, this was no ordinary guest.

This was her Lord...
and Master...
her God...
whom she loved above all others.

"Welcome, Jesus!
Come, sit down.
You have traveled long.
You are tired.
Come and rest!"

I can see her taking Him by the hand,
leading Him to a comfortable spot...
where He could best feel the afternoon breeze.

After He is seated,
she immediately returns to the kitchen.
There are others with Him!
His disciples...
she is acquainted with them all.
They are hungry, too.
My, how she hurries...
and scurries....
and flitters...
she is like a blur...
rushing from one duty to the next.

Suddenly, a look of complete frustration
clouds her kindly face.
"Where is Mary?"
she mumbles...
murmurs...
under her breath.
"Why is she not in here...
with me...
helping me?
How will I do everything...alone?"

She peers into the other room.
She sees them all seated...
strong, masculine faces...
some of their eyes closed...
as they lean back...
thankful for a few moments' repose.

They are tired.
They are so loyal....
to Him...
to follow Him...
and stay close to His side.

Her heart is warmed...
knowing they feel safe here...
in her comfortable home.

She inches closer...
she wants to see Him.
She hears His voice.
He is talking softly....
to someone.
Uttering profound words...
of wisdom...
of hope...
of life.
So important was each one...
 that fell from His lips...
none of them trifling...
or unnecessary...
or idle talk fodder.

She wished she could listen closer...
but, how could she?
There was no time.
There was just too much to do!
She sure could use some help.
Again she wondered,
"Where is that sister of mine?
She should be in here...
doing her part.
Where is she when I need her most?"

Just before she turned away...
from watching Jesus...
from catching one of His words...
here and there....
she spotted her.

Verse 39...
"And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard His word."

There was Mary!
Right there.
At His feet.
As if there were no meal to prepare.
As if there wasn't a crowd of hungry mouths to feed...
resting nearby...
in the same room.
As if her sister wasn't in the next room...
hustling, bustling, running around like a headless chicken!
As if she didn't have a care in the world.
As if she had the luxury....
of dropping everything...
and just sitting there!
As if she were literally hanging...
on His every word.
As if sitting at the feet of Jesus 
was the most important thing in all the world.

Hmmmph!

The nerve of Mary!
The audacity!
This was too much.
Frustration reached the point of boiling resentment.

She walked into the other room....
fully taking in the whole scene...
in front of her.
Her temper rose....
with every step....
until she reached Jesus...
and the calm peace that emitted from His being.

His face was full of love...
as usual.
His words were kind...
and gentle...
full of passion and zeal.

How he loved to speak of His Father!
And His mission...
His reason for being here...
with them.

As she heard His words...
as she watched His face....
she approached Him...
and interrupted....
the gentle flow of His conversation.

She didn't scold Mary.
There were no harsh words of rebuke...
directed at her.
She turned to Jesus instead.

Verse 40...
"But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to Him,
and said, Lord, dost Thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone?
bid her therefore that she help me."

"Lord, don't you care?
Mary is sitting here....
while I am doing all the work!
This is not right.
This is not fair.
There is much to do.
Tell her to get up and help me!"

Martha barked orders....
to the One Who orders the universe.

So outspoken was she!
So comfortable in her retort!

Jesus heard her words.
He looked past her tone.
He saw her heart....
her giving, loving, serving heart.
And He set it all right....
like He always does.

He adjusted her perspective...
with a few more words...
fallen from the lips of The Word...
Who became flesh and dwelled among them...
Who stopped on His journey...
and took the time to grace her home.

Verse 41, 42....
"And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha,
thou art careful and troubled about many things:
But one thing is needful:
and Mary hath chosen that good part,
which shall not be taken away from her."

Can't you just picture His face?
As He looked up from speaking directly to Mary?

Somehow, I can picture Jesus shaking His head
as He repeated Martha's name for emphasis!
Yet, I imagine His tone was unchanged...
from the gentle one He used while teaching Mary....
only a moment before.

"Martha, Martha!
You are so careful.
Every detail has to be just right.
You bear such weight!
You put so much of yourself...
into every, single thing you do.
You are troubled about so many things, Martha!
You care so much.
But, Martha!
There is only one thing that matters.
Only one!
And the one thing that matters is
the thing Mary has chosen.
She could have been there.
She could have helped.
How can I bid her to do so?
When her heart is so hungry...
for My words?
The choice she has made today was the right one.
There will be many meals.
There will be unending chores.
But, this...
this, Martha!
This will never be taken away from her.
My time here is limited.
Opportunity is precious.
I won't always grace your home....
with my physical presence.
Soon, it will take absolute faith...
for you to know that I am here...
at all...
for you will see My face no more.
Mary won't always have this privilege.
Only one thing, Martha!
Only one thing is needful.
This is Mary's choice.
Can't you see, Martha?
This....
this, Martha!
This is most important."

How His words must have pierced her heart!
She tried so hard!
She was so detail-oriented.
She "was cumbered about much serving..."
Wasn't that important?
After all, everyone had to eat.

Much serving....
it was her nature to serve....
the ones she loved....
those who came into her home.

But, as much as Jesus was hungry,
as much as He appreciated her service....
and the meal she so carefully prepared for Him....
there was something more important...
that she was overlooking.

In her desire to please Him,
she neglected to stop and listen...
to what was in His heart.

In her passion to minister,
she failed to be ministered to...
and she fizzled under the load of stress
created by trying to do it all.

In her zeal for perfection,
she overlooked the Perfect One...
seated in the next room.

I think it is important to notice that
Mary spoke no words in this exchange.
What was her reaction...
to her sister's outburst?
We do not know.
To me, her silence spoke profound volumes.

She didn't defend herself.
She didn't ask Jesus to make her sister understand.
She didn't ask Him to rebuke Martha for
trying to pull her away from Him.

Perhaps she was used to being scolded...
by her older sister?

At any rate,
I sense a deep yearning in her heart...
for Jesus.
I discern a deep love...
an unselfish sense of worship...
that is rare and hard to find.

Obviously, Mary loved to be near Jesus.
She loved to worship Him...
to sit at His feet...
to absorb His words....
to take it all in.
She didn't seem to care much about what was going on around her.
She seemed unruffled by the things that needed to be done.
She didn't appear interested in getting caught up in the busyness.

In her defense,
I don't think Mary was lazy.
I don't believe she was unconcerned
about the meal...
and all of the work that needed to be done.
I don't imagine that she was purposely trying to inflict frustration
or added burden upon her sister.

I believe with all my heart,
that Mary craved Jesus.
Her desire to be near Him....
to be like Him...
 was a deep-seated need...
in the inmost part of the core of her being.
It was an all-consuming yearning
that overpowered and took precedence over
everything else.

I imagine He had forgiven her of much;
therefore her love for Him was great.
I believe she felt very unworthy.
That in Him she found fulfillment for the deepest yearnings for love
in her heart.
That in Him she found what she had sought...
in so many of the wrong places...
 throughout her whole life.

Perhaps Martha had been more devout...
more adherent to Mosaic law....
more of a "good girl"...
who always felt that her works were of utmost importance.

Maybe Mary never could quite measure up...
to her older sister...
and her feelings of inadequacy...
her desire to achieve....
 had led her down the wrong road...
time after time.

I do not know much of the history...
of the two sisters.

I can only speculate...
and imagine...
what their lives had been to this point.

What we can conclude is that Martha was the busy one.
Always doing.
Always moving.
Never still for very long.
She was ambitious, energetic, a self-starter.
Someone had to prepare the meal.
Somebody had to get things done.
She had a hard time understanding the opposites in Mary's personality.

Mary was a worshiper....
worship consumed every part of her.
She was humble.
She loved to sit at Jesus' feet.
She wasn't quick to argue or lash back.
She'd rather take the low road and allow Martha to have the last word...
if it was that important to her.
She wasn't quick to defend herself
or try to justify her actions in Martha's eyes.
She cared more about what Jesus thought of her
than what Martha thought of her.
His opinion was really all that mattered to her....at all.
So, she took the risk..
of a tongue-lashing,
possible embarrassment,
even scorn....
from her sister and others...
and she did what her heart longed to do...
she spent time with Jesus.
In spite of being misunderstood,
regardless of her fear of rebuke,
she made a choice.
She probably knew Martha would complain.
She made the right choice anyway,
in spite of the retribution she knew would ensue.
She chose what Jesus called
"that good part".

We can look at these two sisters,
with all of their differences and opposites,
and we can pass judgment...
on both of them.

Martha for being too busy...
too caught up in the cares of life...
too focused on what is temporal...
too unconcerned over spiritual things...
too critical of her sister...
too self-centered.

Mary for not showing initiative to help...
for being too nonchalant....
too heavenly minded to be of any earthy good....
too quiet....
too careless of her obligations.

We could go on and on finding things to judge....
saying what we would or wouldn't have done...
had we been in either Martha's or Mary's shoes that day.

To be honest,
I admire them both.
I admire Mary most.

I believe they both loved Jesus with all of the love each of their hearts could hold.
I believe they had very different personalities
and that each of them was doing the best they knew how.

Martha expressed her love for Jesus through service.
Mary expressed her love for Him through worship...
spending quality time with Him...
being as near Him as she possibly could.

Both are important.
Mary made the best choice.

And while there is great joy that comes from serving food to others,
she chose "that good part" of feeding her own soul.
She realized that nothing on earth was more important...
than those moments....
at His feet.

I believe Jesus loved them both....
even though they were vastly different...
in every way.

He created them with the differences they possessed.
He appreciated the goodness in both of their natures.
He cared enough about Martha to appreciate her service,
and to adjust her focus and realign her priorities.
He loved Mary enough to commend her worship....
to take the time and energy to fill her soul...
with what she so deeply and desperately craved.

I think maybe there is a little Martha and a little Mary
in all of us, don't you?

So willing to serve,
so eager to do,
so busy trying to please....
yet, so yearning to worship...
to be near Him...
to sense His presence....
to hear His words....
to feel His approval.

Sometimes, we all get off-balance...
out-of-skelter.
We go too far one way or the other.
Too much Martha, too little Mary.
Too much Mary...or wait!
Is there really such a thing?
If I have to err,
I choose to err on the side of "too much Mary".
I know there are things I need to do.
There are people I need to serve.
There are obligations that cannot be ignored.
But, if I have to let it all go,
even at the risk of falling behind,
I am determined to choose that good part...
that one thing that is absolutely needful...
every, single day.

Remember, Jesus gently chided Martha,
but He commended Mary.
There was absolutely nothing about her behavior
that caused Him alarm.
Rather, He was very pleased with her
and the choice she made.

I want Him to be pleased with me, too.
Don't you?

In the midst of my serving,
I want to take every possible moment to sit at His feet.
I want to come aside as often as I possibly can...
 to pray...
to listen to Him...
to be near Him.
To hear His witness deep in my soul,
"Cheryl, you've chosen that good part.
You have done the one thing that is needful.
This is what matters.
This is what is most important.
You have made the wise choice...
of how to spend your time."

I have found in my Martha/Mary personality...
in my Martha/Mary mindset...
that the thing that matters most...
is sensing His smile...
knowing He is pleased with me.

Making the choice to do what makes Him happy
ultimately makes me happy.

The Master's approval is absolutely the servant's best wages.


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