*Parts of this story have been fictionalized to protect the not-so-innocent. This was especially important because the not-so-innocent are the readers and the suthor.
Once upon a time, long, long ago, there was a woman named Mary. She lived in a time when many people did not do what was right. The rulers of the land treated people very poorly, and the poorly treated people often did the same to each other. It was a difficult place to live. Mary, along with her sister Martha and brother Lazarus, worked hard to provide for their home. They also worked hard to get along with each other, but that did not always go so well. Mary always felt guilty after a dispute, especially when her sister called Mary the name “Mara.” Mara means “rebellious,” at least as Marha used it. And even though Martha’s name was almost the same, Martha’s name took on the tone of “Lady Boss,” as she was Mary’s older sister.
Sometimes Mary did feel rebellious. It was not that she was especially difficult, but she knew there were times when she acted headstrong. Sometimes being headstrong was all she had. Her sister Martha had a tendency to plunge into the task at hand, but sometimes Mary felt there had to be something more. Something more to life. And then she started to hear of a man named Jesus who was causing a big stir in nearby Jerusalem. Mary wanted to go to Jerusalem to see more. At least this had generated some excitement. Martha, however, the Lady Boss, did not think this was a good idea. It would not be safe and there was already much to do around the house. Mary sulked. Why did her sister have to be that way? Yes, it was important to keep a good home. It was good to be responsible. And, working together, they often did much good for their neighbors. But wasn’t there more to life? There had to be.
Then, one day, something more did happen. Jesus and his followers had come to Bethany and, because of the good reputation of the home, friends referred Jesus to spend time with Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. Well, imagine all of the work to be done! At least a dozen guests in and around the house, plus many more from the town milling around. All seemed to be interested in hearing anything that Jesus had to say. Martha set about the tasks of the house, busily preparing the home to be suitable and orderly. As she called out a request to Mary, she heard no response. She looked up and did not see her, so she called Mary’s name again – louder this time. A brief, tense, pause and still no answer. How would Martha ever get all of this done?
“MARA!” Martha nearly shouted now.
Mary came to the entryway, concerned with her sister’s tone. “Is everything alright?” she asked, hesitant to enter.
Martha erupted, “No, rebellious one! Everything is not alright. Jesus is a very important person and we must prepare all these things for him! How will he ever be pleased with us or come visit again if we have not presented our best?!”
“But Martha,” Mary responded, “you should hear the things he is saying. It’s wonderful!”
“How am I supposed to hear what he is saying when there are all these things that are not yet done?!” Martha retorted.
Then, at the sound of laughter coming from the other room, Mary turned and ran back to be by Jesus.
Martha had had enough. Her sister, her rebellious sister, was NOT going to make her look foolish today! Breaking from her form and tradition, Martha marched in to the room where Jesus sat. “Lord,” she began, “there are many things that need to be done for you and I assure you that I am doing my best. But it is, at this time, too much for me. I apologize that I have been such a poor hostess.”
Jesus looked at her and loved her.
Martha continued on, half in tears and half in rage, “Don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me! I wanted to have everything right for you. If I had just been given more time, I could have done all these things for you!” Her voice trailed off into tears.
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken from her.”
What was it that Mary had chosen? Mary had made the subtle but accurate choice to be with Jesus. Very often we strive to measure what can be done for Jesus. And then, at the end of the day we come running to him saying, “Jesus! Did you see everything that I did for you?!” And I imagine that Jesus might say, “I did, but I had planned to spend the day with you…what happened to that?”
When we start to grasp that there is no measure of things that we can do for Jesus to satisfy, we will have the chance to see where we should be. With him. If you still think your accomplishments are important, ask the rich young ruler. Ask Martha. We are all rebellious. And what would a parent of a rebellious child want more than anything? I believe it is for the child to come home. To sit and spend time. To return to their first love. Jesus is our way to spend time with our Heavenly Father. Our Heavenly Father who loved us, the rebellious children, enough that he sent Jesus. To live. To die. And to live again, and to live in us by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
In what aspect are you rebellious? Do you reject time with God, or do you reject the notion that you must complete all the things that are not needed?
Evaluate today whether you do things for Jesus or with Jesus. I believe there is a big difference.