Hespeler, 12 February, 2017 © Scott McAndless
Luke 10:38-42, John 11:17-27, Psalm 12
e all know a Martha. For that matter, many of us are Marthas. I hope you all recognize her type in our story this morning from the Gospel of Luke, but, just in case you’re not sure, let me lay out for you some of what I think that Martha’s backstory must have been.
Martha was the oldest of three siblings. There was Martha, then her brother, Lazarus, and then the baby Mary. As often happens with the oldest child – maybe especially when the oldest is a girl – Martha was given a lot of responsibility early on. But of course, given the realities of the world that they lived in, the family pinned all of their hopes and dreams on the only son, on Lazarus. He was the one who had to succeed. Indeed his failure would destroy the fortunes of the entire family.
And that was a problem because, from an early age, Lazarus was rather sickly. His lungs were weak; he always seemed to come down with fevers and spent as much time on his couch as he did learning a trade. Is it any surprise that Martha was the one who was always called upon to tend to him or to pick up the slack in the household when others were looking after him? Their parents, frankly, were at their wits end because of their worries for their son. If they lost him, they lost everything. And more often than not it was Martha that took care of them and helped them to calm down. She became like a mother to her own parents.
And so it was that Martha, from a very early age, learned that there was one thing that he needed above all things. She needed to be needed. It was the one thing that gave meaning to her life, the one thing that she could not do without. And so Martha went to work to make sure that absolutely everyone needed her. No one could cook or clean or organize things better than Martha. In fact, she set things up so that nobody but her could figure out her system and do any of her work in her place. She made herself completely indispensable.