Jesus might be the King of kings, but he is also the King of non sequiturs. All throughout his ministry, Jesus seemingly responds to a direct question by taking someone down a deep, tangential, rabbit hole. When Philip tells Jesus that some Greeks want to see him, he responds by talking about his death. When John’s disciples come to ask if Jesus really is the Messiah, he begins to talk about reeds blowing in the wind. It’s a thing. In reading the Gospel lesson appointed for Sunday, I realized that I’ve been under the assumption that what Jesus says to Martha is either a non sequitur or comes out of the blue.
I’m not sure how my brain did this, but I guess I’ve never really noticed that what happens immediately before, “Martha, Martha…” is Martha complaining about both her sister and Jesus. “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all the work be myself? Tell her then to help me.” On Monday, I noted that the word Luke uses to describe what is going on in Martha’s mind is only used once in the whole New Testament. She’s more than distracted, she’s literally being dragged about by her many tasks. Her brain is so scattered that she gets angry and lashes out against her sister and her Lord.
I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I can relate. I’ve been so frazzled as to forget myself and lose appreciation for those around me. I’m sure that upon reflection, Martha felt bad for what she’d said. With this new lens at my disposal, I’m beginning to realize that rather than seeing Jesus as, out of thin air, admonishing her for being so busy, upon re-reading the text today, I think what Jesus gets so upset about in this vignette is that her distractions and worries have led to a break in relationship. It isn’t Jesus saying, “Don’t offer hospitality” or even “Focus only on me and my teaching,” but rather, “Don’t lose sight of why you’re doing what you’re doing.”
Martha was offering hospitality to Jesus and his companions so that the Gospel might be proclaimed from her home. Unfortunately, she got so busy, all she saw in the end was her lazy sister sitting on her butt, not helping. Mary’s better choice wasn’t listening to Jesus at the expense of her chores, but to choose to stay focused on the relationship that was in front her; to stay engaged despite the many distractions that the world had to offer. The one thing that Mary chose was love, and she lived that love out at the feet of Jesus. Martha may have started her chores out of love, but chose resentment and frustration somewhere down the line. It’s a story I know too well in myself. I’m guessing you might too.