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TEXT: Luke 11:38-42
SUBJECT: Women of the New Testament #7: Martha
Martha and Mary are the Bible's best known sisters. Because of this, they are often compared--and always to Martha's detriment. Mary is portrayed as thoughtful and eager to learn; Martha, rather carnal in her thinking.
But this is unfair. For Martha was a woman of rare qualities and high honor. Of all the good things that might be said of her, none is better than this: she held a special place in our Lord's heart. During His earthly ministry, how many people did Christ love? His family, the Apostles, the "Seventy", the multitudes. To be sure. But how many are named? Only four, among whom is this good lady. "Now Jesus loved Martha, her sister, and Lazarus".
This "love", of course, was unearned. But it was not unproductive. The love of Christ changed Martha into a woman deserving our sincere imitation. But what about her stands out? In my mind, at least, five things:
1.Martha had an uncommon grasp of the truth. At the tomb of Lazarus, she displayed a solid learning.
a. Three things, in particular, she knew:
1.She knew the character of Jesus. "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died". In Christ, she saw both the power and the grace to prevent the death of her dear sibling. And here, she stands in contrast to some other, highly esteemed, folk. "Master, carest thou not that we perish?" wondered the frightened Apostles! But not Martha.
"O yes He cares, I know He cares".
2.She also knew of her Savior's unique position and calling. "Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world". Here too, she knows more than most. John the Baptist, for example, wasn't sure. But Martha was. John, "saw through a glass darkly"; but Martha "face to face".
3.She knew that death did not end it all. "Yes, Lord, I know that my brother will rise again in the resurrection at the last day".
b.Now, how do you suppose she learned these things? Were they given miraculously? It is possible, but very doubtful. It is more likely that she learned them "the old-fashioned way"--by study, thought and prayer.
2.Martha had a firm grip on her emotions.
a.When upset, all of us tend to say stupid--and sometimes sinful--things. The humble Moses once crowed, "Rebels! Must Aaron and I fetch water out of this rock?" David, too: "I said in my haste, I am cut off from before Your eyes". Even Job cursed the day of his birth (much to his later regret).
b.The reason for such foolish talk is obvious. Emotion has overpowered rational thought. But it did not in Martha's case. Her great confession took place, not in the calm of her study, but at the tomb of her brother!
c.It's not wrong to weep, to laugh, or to show other emotions. Jesus Himself did! But when they take over, they become wrong. Martha is worthy of our highest respect, then, because: "He who rules his own spirit is mightier than he who takes a city".
3.Martha was practical in her service.
a.Some "thinkers" do nothing but think. But Martha was not one of them. In her life, theology translated into ministry. She served her Savior--and His people--in a most practical way. She cooked, she cleaned, she took care of them while they visited her home.
b.She went a bit "overboard" to be sure. And so Jesus reproved her. But it was not her service itself that He found objectionable. But only her frustration, her irritation, her lashing out at Mary, that He criticized.
c.This, it seems to me, is the best way of judging your studies.
1.If they only make you smart--or a smart aleck--they are of no value.
2.True learning is always practical. It is a "doctrine (which leads to) godliness".
4.Martha was humble under reproof.
a.To some people--I'm sorry to say--"knowledge puffs up" and good works arouse pride. But not in this good lady. It would seem to me that Martha had a pretty good argument. The virtuous woman "does not eat the bread of idleness". A good hostess is more concerned for her guests than for herself. And perhaps Martha even thought her sister rather "pushy", joining the men in conversation, rather than serving them.
b.But Jesus thought otherwise. He reproved her for her critical spirit, and held up her sister as the proper role model.
c.If Martha had been like some of the smartest women I know, she would have either:
1.Gotten into a fight with Jesus,
2.Made Him "prove" his case, and not be satisfied till every counter-argument had been answered,
3.Gone off and sulked.
d.But she didn't. She humbly submitted to His wisdom, without a word of complaint--or an ill thought! And this must have been humiliating, for there must have been more at least 15 people in the room at the time.
e.Martha possessed, to a rare degree, that "Meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God, very precious".
5.Martha cultivated a warm and personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
a.This is the best thing we can say about Martha--or anyone else. "She walked with Christ".
b.Jesus loved Martha, and she loved Him. And this "love" was not pent up in her heart, but showed itself in real fellowship. This was unusual at the time. For, as a rule, women had little to do with men. It was considered inappropriate, unladylike.
c.But Martha preferred Christ to convention. And so kept up a warm and personal relationship with her Savior. This can only be done by talking to Him and listening to Him.
d.Here, perhaps a word or two of correction may be in order. Some female Christians cede to their husband or father a privilege he does not deserve: mediator between her and God. But this cannot be. Each person is invited to Christ and bidden to enjoy His fellowship. And so, dear lady or girl, you have to respond personally. Your husband is not your "prophet, priest, or king" Christ is. And so you must study for yourself, pray on your own, and bind your conscience to Him alone. For, on the Day of Judgment, your husband/father will not answer for you. You will. Thus, you must get and maintain communion with Jesus Christ.
And so, we have much to learn from Martha. May God so teach us, for Christ's sake. Amen.
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