In between moments of teaching large groups of people, the gospels document small, personal exchanges between the Savior and individuals. Mary and Martha appear in only a few of these moments and but each mention of them offers precious insight into the personality of Jesus Christ. Luke recounts the now-famous moment when Mary sat at the feet of the Savior while Martha served Him as a faithful hostess. In the midst of her service, it appears that Martha started to feel frustrated, maybe resentful, maybe angry and she approached the Savior with her complaint against Mary. He, seemingly tenderly, with the “Martha, Martha” introduction, pointed out the differences in the activities of the two women.
First off, being familiar with passive-agressive modes of communication myself, I wonder if Martha was banging pots around and setting ingredients down with a bit more force than necessary, before she approached the Savior. I wonder if she felt frustrated because she wanted to be the one sitting down, listening. I wonder if she’d had a long day, if she’d received notice of the Savior’s impending arrival and was worried about feeding this important guest or if she was trying to string together a meal from the contents of her bare larder. I wonder if she’d reached her wits end when the meat was about to burn and the flatbread was still baking and the table needed to be set. I also wonder why she didn’t ask Mary for help directly.
I find it interesting that the Savior didn’t feel the need to say anything until Martha requested that Mary’s service mirror her own. He seemed perfectly content to let them serve in their respective spheres according to their desires and talents and the needs of the moment. I imagine He was aware of both of them the entire time but at no point did He jump up and demand that Martha stop her preparations and come sit by Mary, even after he helped her understand more about what Mary was trying to do. It seems so gracious, the recognition that our service to Him will look different depending on the hour or need or the person. As we fumble around and learn to offer that brand of graciousness to our striving selves as well as those around us, I believe we learn volumes about how He loves.