Poor St. Martha. Martha, with her straight-forward statements and down-to-business attitude, can come off as busy, bossy, overworked, and accusatory. How many people (repeatedly) inform Jesus that his other disciples aren’t bearing their load? Martha does: “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me (Luke 10: 40).” Who can tell the Lord, to his face, that he hasn’t done enough? Martha does: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died (John 11: 21).”
Maybe Martha is busy, even bossy. But, Martha is my spiritual hero. For me, Martha is a model of efficiency and hard work, loyal friendship, and amazing faith. Her closeness with Jesus, even if she does has an attitude, is something to be admired, not admonished. Her role in the Gospel of John is particularly striking. In the series of intensifying miracles portrayed in John, the miracle in which Martha participates becomes a capstone: Jesus destroys death, raising a man from the dead. In her dialogue of faith with Jesus, not only does Martha tell Jesus he could have saved her brother from death yesterday, but that he could do so now, or in the future. Martha tells Jesus to his face, in her usual straight-forward speech: “I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world (John 11: 27).”
Martha is worried about many things. But, Martha, loyal, loving, and hardworking, teaches us that the Christian life places both prayer and work at the feet of Jesus.