Christianity 201

September 20, 2020

Jesus Changes Everything: Four Days in the Life of Martha

An imaginative reading based on Luke 10:38 – 42; John 11:1 – 44; John 12: 1-8;

by Ruth Wilkinson

Scene 1

One night, after she’d laid down to sleep, Martha lay awake for a while thinking that today, something had changed.

Jesus and all of his students, had stopped for a visit.

Martha loved Jesus—the way he talked, the things he said. If his followers became men like him… what a world that would be.

So she welcomed them to her home.

She was a practical person. She made sure things got done. She was trying to teach that to Mary.

Everybody loved Mary, but she needed to be…. shepherded from time to time.

Like today…

Daydreaming was one thing, but sitting down when there was work to do, and in front of Jesus with his students…. like she was one!

He was kind to women, but he was a rabbi. There were rules. Women were not students of rabbis. They just weren’t. Women had a place and men had a place. Mary’s place was serving, not sitting and asking questions.

But he didn’t seem to agree. When Martha complained, he said that Mary had chosen better. Better? Better than serving?

Sitting with Jesus was better?

Sitting with Jesus was an option?

Martha couldn’t just sit. There was too much to do. She kept working, but she slowed down. She listened. She thought of a question she wanted to ask when she had the chance.

She would always be practical. She would die with her boots on.

But… Martha had started listening.

Scene 2

One night, after she’d laid down to sleep, Martha lay awake for a while thinking that today everything had changed.

Lazarus had been dead. Dead dead. Now he wasn’t.

She’d welcomed into her home dozens of mourners but they’d all left. Because there was nothing to mourn.

Martha had learned a lot since she’d started listening to Jesus. She understood now that he was the One who would free her people. Who would mark the new beginning for humanity and creation.

She understood he had power from God that he used for people. He was her friend, her teacher.

She’d believed, when Lazarus died, that someday her brother, a righteous man, would be resurrected to a never-ending life.

When Jesus had finally arrived, they’d talked about that. He’d smiled at what she’d said. Though in hindsight, maybe that smile had been one for a child who almost understood.

Oh, that one time when she’d actually told him what to do! Told him what to say…

Good thing she didn’t do that today.

Because anything she could have asked would have been so much less than what he chose to do.

He listened to their pain, he wept for his own, and then he turned it all upside down and Lazarus was alive.

Not a someday future resurrection. Today. This afternoon. Just a few hours ago.

How could anything be better than today?

On one hand, it absolutely couldn’t. On the other hand… this is Jesus,,.

Scene 3

One night, after she’d laid down to sleep, Martha lay awake for a while thinking that something was changing.

The smell still filled the house—that perfume. She cringed just a bit. Her practical mind remembering the value of what had been in that jar (soaked into the floor, now)—a year’s wages for someone like Lazarus. A life savings.

Life savings. Life saving. Jesus. Lazarus. Life saving.

She took a deep breath and it smelled so good. Mary’s love. Lazarus’ gratitude. Everything Martha was learning.

She hadn’t known beforehand what Mary was going to do. But seeing her come into the room, carrying that jar, with that look on her face…

Martha was working, of course. Serving the guests in her home.

But when Mary’s eyes met hers and she realized what was about to happen…

She just thought, “Yes.”

She stepped back. Leaned against the wall. Said nothing.

Again, it wasn’t something she ever would have done herself. She couldn’t be Mary.

But neither was she Judas. Sure, they were both practical people. They were both doers.

So when Judas criticized “the waste,” she heard in his words her old voice. It shook her. Could she have ever been that person? Telling Jesus what to do?

There was something in the air, in the dark. Besides the perfume. Something not nice. She’d learned so much but she was worried, too. He’d been saying some things that she didn’t understand.

All she could do now was step back and lean.

Scene 4

One night, after she’d laid down to sleep, Martha woke up somewhere else, knowing that she was changed.

And Jesus was there, welcoming her to his home.


December 8, 2012

I Am “Again-Rising”

I Am The Resurrection

NIV John 11: 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

Carley Evans has a very focused blog, and although she has been featured here twice already, her writing very much suits the kind of thing we were speaking of here yesterday.

Here she notes that in the ministry of Jesus, miracle-working time is not a time for parables. In those moments Jesus is very forthright and makes one of the signature statements about his ministry.

Before we jump in to this, I also want to note Carley’s choice of the Wycliffe Bible for this, as it gets us closer to a literal rendering of what Jesus actually said.  Young’s literal translation echoes this:

25 Jesus said to her, `I am the rising again, and the life; he who is believing in me, even if he may die, shall live;

26 and every one who is living and believing in me shall not die — to the age…

Years ago a pastor shared with me, “Let the translators do the work for you.” I have greatly valued this advice, and if you read today’s thoughts at their source, and then browse older posts, you’ll see that Carley does this. (This one is making me considering getting a print copy of the Wycliffe translation.)

Jesus speaks in analogy or parable quite often, but before asking Lazarus to wake up from death and come out of the tomb, He tells Martha, Lazarus’ sister: “I am again rising and life; he that believeth in me, yea, though he be dead, he shall live.” Jesus does not tell Martha a story meant to represent something else; rather, He tells her the truth – that He is eternal; that, despite death, He lives forever; that, belief in Him results in this same eternal life.

Don’t you wonder how Jesus stays out of the pits where the lepers live? How is it no one throws Him in with those society hates? Well, yes, His neighbors do attempt toss Him over a cliff; but in general, especially today, Jesus is called “a great teacher.” A great teacher? Jesus is not a great teacher if He is not God. He claims to be God, the One and Only God. Jesus either tells us the truth – that He is God – or He’s crazy. Why does anyone listen to an insane man?

Jesus gains the ears of modern theologians – who may or may not believe in His divinity –  because He demonstrates God’s glory and displays God’s power of “again-rising and life.”

I also appreciate the notation here that to refer to Jesus as “a good moral teacher” is dangerous because of what it is not saying about him. When interacting with people in the broader culture about Jesus, those types of statements should set off all types of warning lights. He is not simply that. He is the resurrection and the life.