Most of my friends know what I mean when I say I am having a senior moment. Senior moments are when it takes my brain too long to find the word or the thing I was going to do or what I was just about to tell you, and now my mind is blank! I think of my brain as a giant file cabinet, and it sometimes takes a few minutes to find the right file. Irrelevant trivia files seem to be more readily accessible than names of people I have known for years! Why is that?
That’s a senior moment, but what exactly is a Martha Moment? Sometimes we call it a meltdown. I have had a few in my life, and I imagine you have too. Martha had a meltdown when her sister left her to do all the work.
I think most of us think of Martha as the less admirable of the two sisters. As I have studied the lives and actions of women in the Bible, and what their recorded experiences can teach us, I have come to see Martha in a more sympathetic light.
Martha was single, either widowed or never having been married. Oddly, none of these three siblings is married, so they share a home together. Martha may have forgone her own happiness to care for Lazarus and Mary. We are not told how she came to be responsible for running the household, which now included hosting a large group of her brother’s friends, Jesus, and his disciples.
Martha is best known for her moment of frustration and anger when she wanted Jesus to tell her sister, Mary, to help her with the meal preparations. Why Mary wasn’t helping Martha is another story for another day. Right now, let’s focus on Martha.
Jesus gently chides Martha for her concern in Luke 10: 41-42
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things.
Of course, she is worried and upset! Martha wants everything to be perfect for their guests. She is a woman devoted to serving others, motivated by decorum and duty. She works hard to meet every possible expectation. She is deeply responsible and clearly capable. We admire all of these traits in any person, man or woman.
We read in Luke that Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be accomplished. She approaches Jesus and asks, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
So while we know Jesus has gently corrected her, there is another small detail in her complaint that we often overlook. She asked Jesus, “Don’t you care?”
Maybe her outburst was justified. Do you think she heard the laughter coming from the courtyard, the low murmur of voices, the joyful exclamations of good-natured retorts? Do you think, as she wiped the perspiration from her brow, that she wondered if Jesus and the others had forgotten her completely? Do you suppose she felt left out, thinking they hadn’t even missed her?
We may have judged Martha too harshly based on just this one moment. My Jesus, the Jesus I know and love, would have cared that Martha felt slighted and her hurt expressed itself in a momentary flash of anger and resentment. She had a meltdown.
We have all lost our temper in moments like this. My whole family cringes when we recall the morning preparations of “that Thanksgiving” when I had a Martha moment that sent all the men hightailing it to hide in the garage. At the same time, my daughters stood wide-eyed in fear and total submission to my iron will.
People are not one-dimensional, and Martha had another side to her that is frequently overlooked.
When I think of how Martha might have felt in that moment, my heart goes out to her. There is another moment that earns Martha a better reputation. It was when Lazarus died.
When Mary and Martha had sent messages to Jesus to come quickly because Lazarus was critically ill, Jesus purposely waited and arrived four days after Lazarus perished. When word came that Jesus had at long last entered the town, it was Martha who ran to meet him on the road while Mary remained at home, immobile in her grief. It was Martha who fell at his feet weeping.
John 11: 21-22
21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now, God will give you whatever you ask.”
There it is. Martha, who had faith enough to declare, “Even now, Jesus,” you have the authority, the direct access to God. She was stating her confident belief that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.
She got it. She got that Jesus was not just some itinerate preacher, a wise man, an astute teacher, or even just her brother’s favorite rabbi.
She knew in her heart of hearts this is the Messiah, and she believed he was the one who could somehow make this right.
When even the disciples, who had spent so much more time with Jesus, remained unsure and confused, Martha perceived it and declared it openly. What discernment! What unshakeable faith!
We have so underestimated Martha. She was a woman driven by devotion and duty, but she was also a woman of great faith, one of the few who recognized his deity long before others believed.
We all have Martha moments. Our flesh gets the better of us, our temper flares, our sense of injustice and indignation rises, and we lash out, unfortunately, with negative consequences that can haunt us for a very long time.
We would all prefer to be judged, not on a moment of weakness, but on a life lived by faith and a steadfast determination to do the right thing for all the people God places in our lives.
Martha got a bum rap. Haven’t we all been told not to judge a book by its cover? The same goes with not being too quick to judge a person based on one unpleasant encounter. Just because she was willing to do the hard, practical, thankless tasks does not mean she was not a warrior of faith.
I often think back on moments in my life, like that particular Thanksgiving and other Martha moments as well, and hope that those who witnessed my lapse in judgment would not forever hold it against me.
I had reasons to be distressed and upset that memorable Thanksgiving morning. There are other Martha moments in my past that I would chalk up to immaturity and I would handle them differently now. I have grown, and I have matured.
I need to recognize, when others have Martha moments, that one moment should not be the determining factor of what I think of that person for the rest of their lives.
I can take that one bad impression, and balance it against that person having grown and changed, as I have. I think we can learn from Martha to forgive ourselves for our Martha moments and hope the people who witnessed our lapse of self-control will forgive us as well.
Martha is an excellent example of how we have not always looked at women in the Bible from a woman’s viewpoint. If you have ever been preparing a big dinner and working alone while others relaxed and had fun, oblivious to the work to be done, oblivious that you are carrying the load alone, then you get Martha.
I am glad I can look a little more favorably at Martha, and it has helped me look at other women in my life who may have only just had a Martha moment, and not judge them entirely on that alone.
At its core, Martha asked Jesus, “Don’t you care?” and I guess that’s what we all want; a little appreciation around here, a little help would be nice. Validation. Go ahead and smile. We’ve all been there. And yes, Jesus does care.
We can learn so much from women in the Bible. So many lessons apply to us today. We have not always seen them through a woman’s eyes and a woman’s understanding.
I think next week we’ll talk about Mary and a little more insight into Martha too. I think it’s time to go a little deeper here.