I’ve been thinking a bit lately about Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42). Please don’t switch off – I know you’ve probably read many a blog post about them but this won’t take long!
I, of course, identify with Martha. She’s so busy. She can’t see the wood for the trees. She hasn’t chosen “what is better,” which is to listen to Jesus. As parents, we are so busy. Sometimes I’m a slave to my own – or other people’s – expectations of what can be achieved in a day. And so I fail to make time to sit down and listen to Jesus.
If only I could be more like Mary. There she is in my children’s bible, sitting at Jesus’ feet and smiling serenely. She’s a woman with the right priorities. She doesn’t seem to care about her culture’s expectations of her. She puts Jesus first. I must be more like that.
The problem is, that feeling guilty about not being more like Mary isn’t actually going to drive me to the feet of Jesus to listen to him. It might for a day or two, but not for a lifetime.
There’s another woman I’ve been thinking about. She’s not serene or sensible. She’s not had the right priorities. She hasn’t been putting Jesus first. She’s a “sinful woman.” She’s found in each of the four gospels, and Jesus honoured her for her devotion to him. The two things – her sinfulness and her devotion – go hand in hand, as Jesus explains to the Pharisee in Luke Chapter 7: “I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” (See Luke 7:41-47). It’s logical, right? She’s desperate for forgiveness, and when she receives it she’s overwhelmed with gratitude and love for Jesus. In a simple but extravagant act which would make her famous, she gives up her greatest treasure so that she can worship him.
So we’ve got these two women. One (Mary) puts Jesus first, as I know I should. One is sinful – and I know I’m that. But sisters, let’s not forget that these two women are in fact the same woman.
John is very clear about that in chapter 11:
“This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.” (v2)
and chapter 12: “Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honour… Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair.” (v3)
It turns out, therefore, that I can be like Mary. I am a sinful woman, and I need to be forgiven much. So when I come to Jesus it’s as someone who has been forgiven much, and who needs to be reminded of that forgiveness which is only found in Christ. I come as a desperate woman, needing grace and to know the Father’s love for me. I come knowing that I have other things I could be doing, but I am free – free to choose what is better.
And how do I come to Jesus? Well, I pray, read the Bible, and pray. I feed on his living and active word, which wonderfully I can do because I have it in my language.
Our God speaks: let’s listen to him.
As often happens, this brings to mind a Colin Buchanan song:
“If you’re a fusser or a fretter
Take the plunge and choose the better
and Pray for help, when you’re stressed,
Leave the good, and choose the best!”