Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Question (05/24/12)
- TITLE: Greatest Gift
By Janice Cartwright
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ADD TO MY FAVORITES
For the past several months I’ve been engaged in a gift quest: I search for and write about gifts to thank God for: birds’ nests in branches, answered prayers, a carpentry project my husband has worked very hard at, just to please me.
In the instance of my new gift awareness I’ve felt constrained to ask a similar question as that scribe, though hopefully from a better motive. It is, “What is the greatest gift?
In the gospel of Luke God shares a story I feel may shed some light on this issue. In a few brief paragraphs much is laid open for our instruction.
The story begins with Jesus and His disciples stopping in at the Bethany home of Martha, Mary, and their brother Lazarus. I picture them as tired and dusty, especially about the feet. Several Bible passages involving the Bethany home clearly reveal it had been a place of restful resort for our Lord.
But for one of the sisters, Martha, her Lord’s coming feels like anything but relaxation. She becomes harried and hurried, hustling and bustling. with much rustling of her skirts.
With all her being Martha adored Jesus and aspired to serve Him well, and have not we all been in her place one time or other, her “it’s impossible I’ll never get it all done in time” frame of mind? The harder we push for perfection, the more frustration fires and fumes. And with frustration, resentment builds, with resentment, the need of an object in the form of a person to fix upon.
In Martha’s case the person of objection becomes her sister Mary, primarily, but also a tinge of an implication toward the very One she is supposed to be serving comes through.
Mary had to be mindful arriving guests required more than a single pair of hands. But her heart regions over-ruled as they burned with questions of life and truth and secrets long puzzled over. Here living, breathing Truth sat in her house, and when would this opportunity pass her way again? Mary’s concerns were the eternal things, deep things, core of life things. Bed making, bread baking, pot scrubbing could wait.
At any rate, as the thread spins out, Martha’s frustration takes root and comes to full weed. Loosely translated, she says, “Lord, don’t you even care my sister has abandoned me, left me to serve all by myself? Why don’t you tell her to come and help me?”
Don't you just love the way Jesus cuts to the chase, opens us up with the precision of a skillful but caring surgeon? Though he chides Martha a bit, still we hear the love tone in His voice, and note how He seizes opportunity to head her in the right direction.
“Martha, Martha, you are full to the brim with busy, anxious thoughts, and troubled about many things: but only one is truly needful: and Mary has chosen that one, (the better part, some versions say) and I’m not about to take it away from her.”
Here we have it: let’s not let go of it.
The lawyer had come to Jesus in a debatable mood. He heard Jesus was pretty good at that. And even though his intentions weren’t the greatest, Jesus answered him truly and graciously.
Martha marched up in a whirl of emotion, desiring to invoke Jesus’ authority in her favor. She needed to un-stick Mary and get her moving. In spite of her dubious outburst, Jesus answered her truly and graciously, also.
But only Mary truly honored Jesus with her questions. Whether verbalized or not, nothing changes. They must have been there or she wouldn't have fastened on Her Lord with such intensity. And Jesus who sees through all our facades we hide behind, wouldn't have defended her so thoroughly. He saw Mary’s singularity of heart.
Jesus, wise and wonderful: He settles the problem once and for all with His responses. For even centuries after, His words continue to breathe understanding into those who seek for answers. Any desire to get at the heart of a matter, if we really mean it, will be satisfied in Him. Jesus Himself is the greatest gift.
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