My Girl Martha
Two Sundays ago, the Gospel reading was the Lazarus story from John 11. It’s only glancingly about Lazarus. He died. They buried him.
It’s more about Martha, who came running out to meet Jesus and speak some truth right at Him: If you had been here, he would not have died, which is a conversation we’ll be having later. Right now, you can fix this.
She barely waits for an answer before she gets Mary up and sends her out. She readies the folk. This is Martha. She’s a doer. This is her Messiah and she knows he’s going to do something to make them all feel better. She trusts him.
Because the next thing Jesus says is “Open the tomb” and that is one step farther than poor Martha is prepared to trust.
She points out the obvious, in front of a crowd no less: “Lord, by now there will be a stench. He has been dead four days.”
Or in the Douay-Rheims: “Lord, by this time he stinketh.”
Some people may wonder what Martha was thinking, calling out Jesus in public. Not me. I know that Martha was wondering what Jesus was thinking.
Martha is my favorite Bible lady, the worker bee, acts of service, everything’s under control half of the sisters who were so close to Jesus in his ministry. I relate to Martha. Every time we read the other Martha story, in Luke. I always mutter under my breath in stubborn solidarity “Sure, I’ll sit down and listen but don’t complain to me later when you’re hungry and there’s no food.”
I relate to Martha’s flaw as well—her desire that her plan be God’s plan, instead of the other way around. I get it. I do it. I even think it’s reasonable sometimes.
Why can’t my way be His way, if we’re headed to the same place? Why can’t we follow my directions instead of his?
The answer is a hard one to stomach for Type A gals like Martha and me: It’s because the big picture is BIG, too big for us to see. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead that day in preparation for what was to come: his own death and resurrection.
Jesus loved Martha. And he loves me and all my fellow worker bee, acts of service, everything’s under control sisters and brothers. I know this because he gave us Martha, in the Gospels of Luke and John, so we could see for ourselves that it isn’t wrong to question with an open and honest heart. Only to not listen to the answer.
And can I just say that for me, if there was any doubt to the claim that Jesus was the Son of God, it evaporates in the moment Lazarus walks out of the tomb and Jesus doesn’t cut Martha some side eye.
That is SUPERNATURAL self-control right there.