Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. (John 11:5)
If you’ve been a Christian for a few years, you’re bound to have heard of the two sisters Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus - he was the one Jesus raised from the dead after he’d been in the tomb for 4 days (see John 11). Now we get to know something about the characters of Mary and Martha from the story in Luke 10:38-42. Mary was a worshipper. When Jesus visited their house on one particular occasion, Mary sat at His feet and listened to Him while Martha was busy serving her guests, distracted by all that needed to be done. Martha was annoyed with her sister for not helping her, but Jesus gently but firmly told Martha that by sitting at His feet and listening, Mary had chosen what was better.
We can all probably identify with one or other of the sisters, or perhaps we can identify with them both at times. As I am someone who hosts guests quite often, I can really identify with Martha and all the preparations that need to be made when you have guests coming. Sometimes while the guests have been in my home, I’ve been so distracted by making sure the food is ready and the house stays tidy that I don’t actually give my guests my full attention because I’m thinking about what else needs to be done so I’m not really listening to them. Now this story of Martha entertaining Jesus has helped me to focus my attention on the person in front of me when I have people round to my home, rather than what I think needs to be done.
Of course we can be like that with Jesus too; we can let all the busyness of life distract us from choosing what is better – spending time with the One who is the source of real life. There are times when I am less busy and so find it easier to focus on the Lord, and there are also times when I am distracted by things I feel I need to get done and I find it a struggle again. Recently I was having a very “distracted” day and I kept saying to myself, “stop and spend time with the Lord” but I didn’t stop and gradually felt more and more condemned. Then I finally finished what I’d been doing and sat down to spend time with Jesus. Immediately I felt His love flood over me. His presence was so sweet and I was reminded why Mary had chosen what was better. Those voices of condemnation I’d heard had not been from Jesus; His voice is always gentle and always full of love and peace, even when He is firm with us. Sometimes we choose what is better and sometimes we make second rate choices, but Jesus never stops loving us.
I want to encourage you today that if you’ve been distracted or “worried and upset by many things”, just like Martha was, Jesus isn’t angry with you. His heart is full of compassion for you. The gospel of Matthew tells us that when Jesus saw the crowds, “He was moved with compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd,” (Matthew 9:36). Jesus’ heart is always full of compassion for us, especially when we feel upset, stressed, harassed, helpless or discouraged. He is our Good Shepherd who wants to lead us away from our own harassment and helplessness and go with Him instead into green pastures, which are better by far. He is the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for His sheep (John 10:11) and just as sheep know the voice of their shepherd, you can know His voice (John 10:4). If the voices you are hearing make you feel stressed, upset, harassed or condemned, that is not the voice of Jesus. You can tell His voice because it is full of compassion, comfort, encouragement, peace and most of all, love.
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus and Jesus loves you too.