Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Enter (02/27/06)
- TITLE: The Tale of Martha
By Debora Dyess
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A crowd had gathered on the road outside the house. Martha noticed them as she shut the door. It occurred to her that things had changed; Jesus was no longer just a family friend. He’d become more—a curiosity to some, rabbi to others, and…more.
She realized that things had changed for her, too. She would be judged by how well she entertained this group. The visit of the teacher and his men
would be scrutinized by everyone in Bethany, as would her home, her family and…her. Martha felt a sudden, unexpected rush of nerves and hurried to make sure everyone was seated and comfortable.
“Help me,” she whispered to Mary as she passed. Mary obediently joined her. They went into the kitchen, listening as they worked; Lazarus catching up with Jesus and the twelve. Laughter periodically accompanied the conversation. Jesus’ laugh was the strongest, low and melodic. Lazarus, Mary often said, laughed like a goat, and his chortles joined in often, showing his love for his teacher and old friend.
The din in the other part of the house quieted. Martha knew the teaching had begun. She hurried about her tasks, anxious to join the men but acutely aware of the needs she had to meet.
“Mary would you…” she turned to address her sister and found the room empty. “Mary?” Martha walked to the doorway between the rooms and looked at the crowded living room. She frowned.
Mary had joined the men long before the food was prepared. She sat on the floor next to Jesus, her youthful face raised up to watch her beloved teacher speak. She didn’t even glance in Martha’s direction.
Martha returned to the kitchen. She arched an eyebrow, trying to control the irritation she felt for her younger sister. Mary knew there was still work to do before they could join Jesus and the others. Why would she simply leave Martha to finish alone?
Jesus’ gentle, strong voice drifted into the kitchen, recounting for Lazarus and Mary recent events. Martha could hear snatches of the tale. “…were gathered on the hillside. The crowd … night was falling…worried about food, but there was no need…baskets of food left over, even with everyone full…”
It wasn’t like she didn’t want to hear Jesus, too, she thought. Maybe she should just abandon her responsibilities and plop herself down in the middle of the floor. Martha slammed a platter down on the table harder than she intended. The noise of it surprised and embarrassed her. She examined the dish for cracks. Finding it whole she began to place pieces of fruit, cheese and bread on it, her irritation turning to anger. She could hear people from the town entering the house and knew the crowd in the living room would grow. Neighbors would come in to see the visitors, to watch and listen to Jesus…to see what kind of hostess she would be to this important man.
How dare Mary just leave her to do it all? And how dare Lazarus let her!
And then she heard Mary’s voice, high pitched and soft, asking the teacher a question. It was more than she could bear!
She stormed into the adjoining room, trying to control her emotions.
“Lord,” she said, barely able to contain herself, “don’t you care that Mary left me to do all the work alone? Tell her to come and help me!”
Jesus looked up. “Martha, Martha,” he said quietly, “you’re worried and upset by so many things. But only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better. It won’t be taken away from her.”
Martha stood stunned, looking at Jesus. She was aware of people looking at her. “I was trying to serve you, Lord.”
Jesus smiled softly. “Yes, you were. You have a beautiful servant’s heart. But when resentment entered your heart instead of love the service became meaningless. While you were becoming angry we were talking about the kingdom of Heaven. The eternal is always more important than the needs of the day.”
Even in chastisement his voice was gentle.
Martha examined his face, searching for the answer. “I have a platter of cheese, fruit and bread prepared, and a pitcher of fresh water.”
“That will be wonderful,” Jesus smiled.
And it was.
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