Friday, February 05, 2016

A tale of two sisters

  • Luke 10:38-42
  • John 11:1-46; 12:1-8
Martha and Mary were sisters (John 11:1,5). They lived in Bethany in a house that is described as Martha’s (Luke 10:38). They seem to have lived together, with their brother Lazarus. Like most sisters, they had there similarities and their differences. We might guess that Martha was the older sibling, but that is nowhere stated in the Bible (though she seems to be given the distinction of head of the household).

Martha and Mary were similar (John 11:3,21,32) -- certainly not unusual for two who share the same parents and grow up in the same household. Martha and Mary had the same belief in Jesus. Together they sent for him when Lazarus was sick, recognizing his power over disease. Independently they made exactly the same expression of faith in that power, “If thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.” No doubt they were lifted with similar joy when their death was given back to life.

Martha and Mary were different. Though sisters who shared the same parents and grew up in the same household, they possessed their individual differences. Martha seems to be practical, a woman of action. When disciples arrived in her household she made sure they were fed (Luke 10:40; John 12:1ff.). When she heard Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him (John 11:20). When Jesus commanded the stone be rolled away from Lazarus’s tomb, she gave the practical observation on the normal status of a four-day old dead body (John 11:39). Mary seems to be contemplative, a woman of thought. When Jesus was in the home, she sat at his feet rather that perform the usual domestic duties (Luke 10:39). When she heard Jesus was coming, she stayed at the house (John 11:20). She washed Jesus’s feet with expensive ointment (John 12:1-8).

Jesus loved Martha and Mary (John 11:5). Just as they were, with and in spite of their similarities and differences -- Jesus loved the sisters Martha and Mary. Too often some people think that others should be more like they are -- dress like they do, talk life they do, react like they do. Or, conversely, that some people think they need to be less like themselves and more like someone else. But, as the children’s song says, Jesus loves me, this I know (Not just the me that shall be, but the me that is). God’s love is wonderful. God’s love is unconditional.

This is not to suggest that we have no improvements that could be made. We could all sin less, work harder, think higher and love longer. But there is room in God’s eternal love, to save a sin-sick soul. Room for us to come “just as we are,” and room for God to love us just like we are. Jesus loved BOTH Martha and Mary (and Lazarus, too!). That’s an encouraging proposition.

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