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Posts Tagged ‘Martha and Lazarus’

Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were disciples with whom Jesus had a special bond of love and friendship. The Gospel According to Saint John records that “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus (11:5).”

On one occasion, Martha welcomed Jesus into their home for a meal. While she did all the work, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet listening to his Word and was commended by Jesus for choosing the “good portion, which will not be taken away from her (Luke 10:38-42).”

When their brother Lazarus died, Jesus spoke to Martha this beautiful Gospel promise: “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” We note that in this instance, it was Martha who made the wonderful confessions of faith in Christ (John 11:1-44).

Ironically, raising Lazarus from the dead made Jesus’ enemies among the Jewish leaders more determined than ever to kill Him (11:45-57).

Six days before Jesus was crucified, Mary anointed His feet with a very expensive fragrant oil and wiped them with her hair, not knowing at the time that she was doing it in preparation for her Lord’s burial (John 12:1-8). (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House) 

Reflection:  

Martha invited Jesus into her and her sister’s Mary house.  She welcomed Him.  She was hospitable.  Then there was a division in the house.  Martha went about serving.  Mary sat learning.  Martha did not like it that she had all the dinner chores. Martha sounded resentful.  She said to Jesus, Tell my sister to help me.  She commanded Jesus.  She commanded the Lord for Mary to help.  But Jesus loves the welcoming Martha as well as Mary, as He did their brother Lazarus, and chides Martha and she can not hide.  Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things   Many things is as vast a territory as in Luther’s explanation of the 1st commandment, we are to fear, love and trust in God above all things.  We live in age of anxiety and trouble. We live in a Martha world.  We are all Martha some time or another.  Things come crashing in us.  We are overwhelmed by all the demands of the day.  We wonder will there be enough?  Can we pay the mortgage?  Or if things are everything okay, the “what if’s” attack, What if I lose my job, What if I don’t go the college I want, What if I don’t do FILL-IN-THE BLANK, I’ll just die. I’ve left so many things undone, and done so many things I should not have.  IN the media age of increasing amounts of information,  feeds the Old Adam in his anxiety and trouble from the health scare of the week to terrorists all over and what if someone were to break into your home. Anxiety and trouble has already killed you. Jesus came not to kill but give life in His Word to the anxious and troubled. He came not to kill but be killed by the trouble and anxiety of the world in His sinless body to forgive and renew us by His death and His indestructible life.

 When I see a picture of a great cathedral, the feeling is I could serve there.  But how cold and bare that house would be if Jesus Christ was not all in all there.  In the probably humble home of the 2 sisters and Lazarus, was the greatest Church building ever constructed because Jesus and His Word was there.  And before that?  A stable in Bethlehem and the magi were wise to worship there and receive more than all their gold, frankincense and myrrh could ever give.  And before that?  The womb of the Virgin Mary.  Before that?  A tent pitched outside of Mamre, in the portable home of Abraham and Sarah came the Lord. IN all those cathedrals, not the word and advice of men and women, no promotion of yet another self-help book with Scripture wrongly quoted to sanctify busy-ness to save oneself. 10 steps to a better you.  No, the Savior was there and Martha was missing out. As Mr. Spock might say, ‘It is illogical to do more things to right the many debilitating things’.  Many things and Jesus said there is the one thing needful: The many and the one: Sabbath rest in His Word. This lesson illustrates the 3rd commandment, remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.  We are to fear and love God so that we do not despise His Word and the teaching of it. If the Sabbath rest in His Word is not there, then the heart cold and bare, frightened and scared runs to and fro for every wind of doctrine and spiritual ‘experience’.  Mary despised it not, she and Martha both needed the one thing needful, the good portion that will not be taken away. Martha welcomed Jesus.    The need for the one outweighs the needs of the many if the One is Jesus Christ.   If God’s Word of Law and Promise, the Law and the Prophets fulfilled in Jesus Christ and preached in all doctrinal purity and the Sacraments not administered according to Christ’s command, who cares?   All is darkness of busy-ness, shouting and screaming, look at all our good deeds, good feelings, good times. Not, look, behold:  the good Lord.

Many people think as Martha, It is what we offer to Jesus that matters.  Mary knew better:  it was what  Jesus offered her that mattered and changed her and Martha, and you and I.  For instance:  in the ELCA it was said many times, “The word liturgy means “work of the people”.  I heard this many times in 20 plus years, ad nauseam.  Then I reread The Apology of the Augsburg Confession, the word liturgy is given it’s right meaning.  Yes, ourgia, as in ergonomics, work, and the first syllable public, the public works of God in His Sacraments for us all.

“Faith is that worship which receives God’s offered blessings; the righteousness of the law is that worship which offers God our own merits. It is by faith that God wants to worshiped, namely, that we receive from Him what He promises and offers.”

Our “ourgia” does not save us. Mary knew that.  Martha did not…just not at that time.  Martha would.  In John’s Gospel, Martha is the first person to confess Jesus is the Christ, chapter 11, after the death of her brother.   This is the good portion, one thing that is needed, they both heard.  Mary meets Jesus on the road and again falls at His feet and cries out that my brother would not have died if you had been here.  She knew whom to turn to as did Martha.  At the whole tangled mess of anxiety and trouble, the sisters  turned not to themselves but Him, His Word. Our spirituality is God’s Word, every Word in the Bible, every Word sung and prayed, every Word faithfully taught and preached, the one thing needful, daily repentance turning toward Him our Sabbath Lord.  Sabbath teaches we can not save ourselves.  So we are not to be pure and loving?  Yes.  The one thing needful is His Word of grace, mercy and peace to do the one thing needed:  help and serve our neighbor in our various vocation. We so serve not to be saved but because we are saved by grace, grace alone.

Heavenly Father, Your beloved Son befriended frail humans like us to make us Your own. Teach us to be like Jesus’ dear friends from Bethany, that we might serve Him faithfully like Martha, learn from Him earnestly like Mary, and ultimately be raised by Him like Lazarus. Through their Lord and ours, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever

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Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were disciples with whom Jesus had a special bond of love and friendship. The Gospel According to Saint John records that “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus (11:5).”

On one occasion, Martha welcomed Jesus into their home for a meal. While she did all the work, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet listening to his Word and was commended by Jesus for choosing the “good portion, which will not be taken away from her (Luke 10:38-42).”

When their brother Lazarus died, Jesus spoke to Martha this beautiful Gospel promise: “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” We note that in this instance, it was Martha who made the wonderful confessions of faith in Christ (John 11:1-44).

Ironically, raising Lazarus from the dead made Jesus’ enemies among the Jewish leaders more determined than ever to kill Him (11:45-57).

Six days before Jesus was crucified, Mary anointed His feet with a very expensive fragrant oil and wiped them with her hair, not knowing at the time that she was doing it in preparation for her Lord’s burial (John 12:1-8). (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House) 

Reflection:  The old theologians rightly commented that Mary and Martha represent two essential aspects of our life in Christ:  respectively, the via contemplativa and the via activa, the way of contemplation  and the way of action/service.  Martha was busy with much serving.  Mary was seated at the feet of the Lord listening to Him teach. Both are essential.  Contemplation without service leads to mere mysticism and the tendency to look inward and not outward to the Lord in His Word.  Service, action without the Word and the contemplation of it,  results in mere activism and busy-ness and as evidenced in Martha:  resentment.  And I think the order of contemplation and service is reflected in the 7 days of the week:  The Lords’ Day for His Word and then week of work.  See  Luther’s teaching of the 3rd Commandment.  In fact, every day should begin with prayer and contemplation  of His Scriptures for our daily bread.  First, contemplation/prayer then service, the first is the root of faith and faith  grows the fruit of love. 

The Lord chided Martha for her busy-ness and rightly so, but preachers have a tendency to overly chide Martha in their sermons and extol Mary’s faithfulness in listening to Jesus’ sermon.  When Martha and Mary’s brother died, Mary was so distraught she could not go with Martha to meet the Lord.  Martha did and the Lord said to her:   “Your brother will rise again.”   Martha responded:   “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”  Martha knew her catechism!  Then the Lord said, “I am the Resurrection and the life”.  Martha was tough, pragmatic and knew her stuff!  And she loved her sister and brother. So it is not so easy for us to pigeon-hole a person.  Martha contemplated as well and learned as well from the Lord, while Mary in her hour of grief forgot.  Yes, we are all Mary and Martha and knew both the via contemplative  and via activa around the Lord in His Word and Sacraments to us, for us, in us and for the life of the world. Let us pray…

Heavenly Father, Your beloved Son befriended frail humans like us to make us Your own. Teach us to be like Jesus’ dear friends from Bethany, that we might serve Him faithfully like Martha, learn from Him earnestly like Mary, and ultimately be raised by Him like Lazarus. Through their Lord and ours, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever

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