Why was Martha so stressed?
Martha was trapped by expectations — what society and culture expected from her as a woman and as a host; what was considered appropriate; what guests expected; and what she thought Jesus wanted. She no doubt placed high expectations on herself, too. And it bothered her that her sister Mary didn’t seem to feel the same way.
Can you relate to Martha?
Modern society has its own norms, doesn’t it? Of course, rules and expectations can be good; they help us get along and function as a society. But it can be too much sometimes. Many people today feel pressure from the expectations placed on them by family, workplace, society, and if they don’t measure up they feel shame.
Sometimes, of course, the problem is the expectations we place on ourselves; we tend to look for meaning, value, and identity in the things we DO. This just adds to our sense of pressure, and when we fail we take it personally.
But Jesus offers a better way.
As we talked about in our previous blog post, in this story Jesus sided with Mary!
Jesus speaks kindly to Martha and says,
“My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Martha was not doing something wrong in this story — she was trying to do the right thing — for Jesus, in fact. But Jesus wants us more than the stuff we can do for him.
That’s the “one thing” Jesus speaks of here:
Being his disciple.
As Jesus says elsewhere:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30)
Jesus offers you rest.
But this is more than just rest from work; practically speaking, there’s still work to be done. But he offers a radically new way of living, one that’s open to everyone, and one that frees us from the pressure to perform.
Martha was pulled in multiple directions; Mary chose ONE — following Jesus.
And following Jesus puts everything else in its right place.
Following Jesus frees us from social pressure and reframes the expectations we have placed on us. Of course, we still have responsibilities, but we don’t get our value or meaning from how well we fulfill them. Instead, we accept and live in God’s acceptance through Jesus.
Martha was pulled in multiple directions; Mary chose ONE.