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Martha: criticized or honoured?

You know the story: Jesus tells Martha that her sister is right and that Martha is wrong. Some say she was wrong to worry, but right to prioritize her domestic duties. Others say she was wrong to prioritize chores over building a relationship with Jesus and learning from him.

Does Jesus judge Martha? Does he condemn or commend her? Does he tell her to repent? No - he frees her of her burden. He breaks the chains of her household responsibilities.

“For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. John 12:47
"For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." John 3:17

Jesus affirms all women and men to be disciples, like Martha's sister, Mary, sitting at his feet and listening to him. Learning is equally important regardless of gender. Jesus encourages Martha to spend time with him. He shows that building relationships is more important than being a perfect host/hostess. Hospitality is about relationships.

woman in hijab looking out
Photo portrays a woman trapped by her duties, longing for freedom : PNW Production

But what about the hospitality duties of cooking, and cleaning? Women and men need to make the right choices about when to listen and learn from Jesus, and when to take care of their responsibilities. There is a time for both women and men to serve others and a time for both women and men to be served. By mutually serving one another, we can both be fed and feed others. Jesus is an example of serving and being served. Jesus is the bread of life who fed the multitudes. Jesus also accepted support from others: the woman patrons in Luke 8 and Mary of Bethany who anoints him. Jesus honours those who provide nourishment to him:

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink" (Matthew 25:35)

Jesus does not criticize or condemn Martha. He takes away the worries that prevented her from building a relationship with him. What daily responsibilities and worries prevent you from spending time in prayer and study to deepen your relationship with God? Are you trapped by your duties, longing for freedom? Jesus can carry your burden and give you freedom.

three happy women
Photos shows women enjoying new freedom PNW Production

To reinforce how Jesus honours Martha, Martha becomes the one person - other than Peter - who is recorded in the Bible as confessing to Jesus that he is God's Messiah. She had learned to put a priority on God and she had great faith.

"I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world." John 11:27 NIV

Church traditions say that when church leaders sought to kill Lazarus (John 12:9-11), the siblings Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, escaped on a boat and ended up near Marseille, France. While there, a beast was persecuting the people, killing those who tried to sail the Rhone River. It was described as half animal and half fish - possibly an escaped crocodile. Martha subdued the beast and tied him up and became known as the "dragon-slayer". They rememered her for preaching, healing, and saving them from the beast. Martha is more than a housewife. With her priorities balanced, she is able to slay dragons. What dragons do you need to slay?

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