Working by Myself: Meditation for the Fourth Sunday of Lent

Martha-and-MaryThe last part of Luke 10 continues the story of Jesus’ Journey to Jerusalem. The narrator tells us that “Jesus and his disciples were on their way,” the final walk to the holy, fateful, temple city of Jerusalem. In these meditations for Lent, we are over half-way there as we follow our Lord to the cross. Let us look at the story Luke tells about Mary and Martha.

The story shows us that Luke’s material is stylized and topical, not a linear presentation of events in chronological order. We say this because the village of Mary and Martha was Bethany, just a few hundred yards from the gates of the temple in Jerusalem (John 11:1). Luke still has over eight chapters of material to relate, not reaching Jerusalem until chapter 19, but this is the story he wants to tell us now.

The incident is familiar to us. Jesus and his troop show up at the home of Martha. It feels like a place they have been here before, a welcome place. Martha immediately begins arrangements for a festive meal, a fitting reception for her friend and Lord. While things are being prepared, Jesus is talking and teaching, and we can imagine a small crowd of disciples, villagers, and other pilgrims on the way to Jerusalem. Among them is Martha’s sister, Mary. Martha’s hospitable and niceness persona is dropped temporarily, and she goes and complains to Jesus that Mary should be helping her, not sitting to listen to Jesus. We can imagine that tempers have flared a bit and the atmosphere of accusation and shame is strong in the room (or, more likely, the courtyard of the home).

Martha’s core complaint is this,

My sister has left me to do the work by myself.

How often have you felt that way? How often, in church work, have you felt that many are receiving and few are giving? How often have you felt that you are going it alone, just you and Jesus, and no one quite understands how lonely your journey is?

In this Lenten season, let us each make our way to the cross to celebrate Jesus’ great sacrifice for us. We must sacrifice, too, and there will be days when we feel we have been left to do a mountain of tasks of ministry all by ourselves. You need help, and there seems to be no help to be found.

Yet we know this is not true. It is not just you and your imaginary friend Jesus laboring in ministry. First, he is not an imaginary friend. He is a real presence in the lives of his disciples. Second, you are not alone. Look around. The road to the cross is full of pilgrims. Some are happy and have a bounce in their step. Some are sad and walk slowly. Some are even disabled, and are being pushed by another. Yet we are not alone.

When we feel the Martha blues coming on us, let us stop, and give thanks for the companions we have on the way.

Prayer: Lord, may we not feel sorry for ourselves, the worst of all feelings. May we take joy in our journey, joy in our companions, and joy in you, our Leader. Amen

Mark Krause
Nebraska Christian College

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