Written and Presented by Rev. Courtney Stamey on March 8, 2017.
You all know me, the “less spiritual” half of Mary and Martha. The one you are taught chose the worse way from Sunday school to the pulpit. My sister Mary has chosen the better way Jesus says. But I am not only characterized by that one instance. Mary was my sister, my whole life, and Jesus was not only our savior but our friend.
She and I were both there when our brother died. You all have an account of this in John 11. We wrote to Jesus telling him that the one he loves, our brother was ill. I heard that Jesus told his disciples that the illness would not lead to death. Well by the time Jesus returned to Judea, he died. And I’ll give it to Jesus, he didn’t have to come back, people in our area were threatening his life, but he loved Mary my brother and I and like a good friend he came to support us. But someone had to tell Jesus that Lazarus died, and of course it was me. I do the things that no one else does or no one else feels like they are able to. I didn’t know at the time that Jesus knew Lazarus had died. So there I was walking up to him. Mary was beside herself. She is the more emotional of the two of us. And she elected to stay home. So, I walked each step with my chest pounding and the unbearable grief infiltrating every crevasse of my heart. I walked and I told him. But despite my sense of obligation and despite Mary being an emotional train wreck, we both knew he could do something about it. We weren’t expecting Lazarus to rise; we thought that our friend and teacher could ease our grief. We thought that he could weep with us. He did help us but not in the way we expected.
That’s the thing about friends, really great friends. They see your needs. Sometimes they meet them and other times they challenge the need itself. That’s what happened in the scene you all are more familiar with. Mary, Lazarus, and I hosted a dinner at our home in Bethany. Well it’s technically my home. You know someone has to go to the notary and put their name on the deed and pay taxes. Oh! And someone needs to keep the Home Owners Association dues in check, but that’s beside the point. Jesus came, and Lazarus was reclined with him at the table and Mary at Jesus’ feet taking in every word. So many of our friends were there, it was a snapshot of the best moments of our life. I just wanted to freeze it in the photo album of my mind. Right there, the three people I loved more than anything in the world. Laughing and smiling. Maybe this was the kingdom of God that Jesus was always talking about? But I was where I always was, in the kitchen preparing and caring for everyone. Usually Mary would help me and I needed help that night, especially because there were so many more people than we were used to. I was swamped, over my head, and jealous. I so wanted to be where Mary was, sitting at the feet of Jesus, fully present and not preoccupied with my obligations. I wanted to be in my own snapshot of the best of what life could be. I wanted to be in the picture of the kingdom of God.
I wanted to be FREE! I wanted to rise from the death of my duties. So, I did the only thing I knew how, I asked for Jesus to help me. I asked him to tell my sister to help. He responded that it was Mary, not I, who had chosen the better part. And just like that friend always does he takes what you think you need (whether it is forgiveness or to be made clean, or help in the kitchen) and he addresses your real need. I asked for help in the kitchen, thinking that was my need, but Jesus addressed my core need, freedom. He knew that I was anxious and troubled about so many things and I missed the one thing I really needed, freedom. Freedom from what my culture expected of me as a woman, freedom from the role my family expected me to take (you know Martha will take care of it), and freedom from the limitations I placed on myself.
Now, I’ll be honest, it did not feel like freedom in that moment. It felt really embarrassing, and I wish he pulled me aside and told me privately. But now that he is gone I would give anything for him to tell me that I am free again. And I am thankful that it was public, because people like Mary never let me forget it. Mary never lets you forget anything. Not in a hateful way, but when I get caught in that rut, when the bars of expectation close in on me like a bird in a cage. She reminds me that the key has already been given to me, that Jesus offered it to me on that busy dinner party night. I have the key to my own freedom, and I found it at the feet of Jesus.
Questions for Reflection:
What did you hear in Martha’s voice that you have not heard before?
Can you remember a time when you let other’s expectations of you dictate your actions?
What is the difference between knowing what you want and what you need?
What do you need to be freed from?
In this Lenten season, what are you seeking from the voice of Christ?
To learn more about the interactive Voices of Lent Wednesday Night Series click here.