A secret garden enjoyed by a few who know how to find it.
The people kept coming and Martha’s welcoming smile never left her face. She was the hostess of hostesses. But this day, running back and forth, refilling endless cups and plates, her smile began to fade. Hearing Jesus voice but not able to follow the conversation made her think of what she was missing out on - how she would love to just sit down with everyone else and listen to Jesus’ words.
But no, she was the ‘servant’ of all – who would serve them if SHE didn’t ? Was it really so much to ask that someone could at least OFFER to help?
Mary ! where was Mary ?? oh yes.. right at Jesus feet totally oblivious to her sister’s need of help. It just wasn’t fair , was it ?
Her feet hurt, her arms ached, she was tired. Couldn’t Mary at least help a LITTLE?
And didn’t Jesus even notice that Martha was alone in serving everyone ? Did He not notice that Mary was not lending a helping hand ?
Maybe if she just brought Jesus’ attention to her need .. He would ask Mary to help her. Serve Mary right to have to be reprimanded by Jesus Himself !
When Martha finally brought the situation to Jesus’ attention, she was so upset her words were harsh and her anger directed not only at Mary but at Jesus Himself …”Don’t you care? Tell Mary to help me!”
How did Jesus respond ? He said ….
“Oh Martha, you are so good at serving, but Mary has chosen the better part and I will not take it from her.”
His younger brother had always been spoiled – the best loved son, the one who always got the bigger portion of meat…. the pampered treatment. How many times had he, the elder – the first born , got in trouble for something that was his younger brother’s fault?
Then, the ultimate ! His brother asks for his inheritance – not to invest.. oh no ! but to squander on riotous living, indulging the flesh. Where did that leave him but to continue to do all the work himself.. labouring all day in the heat while his father longed for his prodigal son, standing at the road gazing into the distance. The hurt burned within the elder brother’s heart !
Then one particularly hot and difficult day, when it was finally over and he could turn to home and food and rest, what does he find but a party !! And not just any party, no – it was in his brother’s HONOR !! Celebrating what … that he had come home penniless and knew he would find a father with his hand out to replenish his empty pockets??
Heaping insult upon injury !! How could this be ! Did his father really not have any love or even courtesy left for his elder son to even consider his feelings ? Did nothing matter to him except his love for his younger son, no matter what he did ??
When the elder son vents his anger to his father …. What does the Father say in response? “Son, everything I have has always been yours. Come celebrate with us, for your brother who was dead is alive again.”
Peter has just been told by Jesus that his death would not be a pleasant fall asleep, awaking in heaven kind of death. His death would be by crucifixion. Not an easy thing to hear. A life of following Jesus and then dying a horrible, humiliating, torturous death?
Peter looked over and saw the loving exchange of glances between John and Jesus. Why did Jesus have that special bond with John ? What was it that John had that he obviously didn’t? Hmm … wonder if John will also die a horrible death ? So Peter asked .. “What about John? How will he die ?”
And Jesus answered …. “What’s that to you ? You follow me .. Keep your eyes on me, not on someone else, judging them.”
Our pastor made a point in his last Sunday sermon on the life and temptations of Joseph, “A victim mentality lowers immunity to temptation.”
Contrary to the Joseph's immunity to temptation, we can see how the truth of the quote is played out in the above scenarios.
The elder brother allowed that ‘seed’ to take root early in his life, resenting his brother , resenting the unconditional love of his father, resenting his brother going off doing what he willed while he was out slaving in the sun to save the farm. Always he was left wanting, the one doing without.
Then when temptation came to hate his brother, to hate his father for throwing the party, … he fell headlong into the temptation, refused his father's love and refused to even attend the dinner party - he allowed sin to rule in his emotions/thoughts and finally actions.
Martha started off delighted that Jesus came to visit ! She started off being happy to do what she was good at – serving ! But then she looked at what she was ‘missing out on’ .. everyone else enjoying being waited on hand and foot and free to enjoy Jesus' company. She was delegated to the lowest rank --servant in her own home!
Wasn’t fair … victim mentality…. And then temptation came knocking to point fingers at Mary and accuse her of not doing what she should be doing … and so temptation found a resting place and conceived to bring forth Martha’s sin of turning away from her own gift and being critical of someone else's.
Peter, considered himself sold out to Jesus, boldly claiming that he would go/be anything for Jesus ! We know that his times of testing were coming but of course Peter had no idea at this point Jesus still walking with them. But when Jesus told him of how he would die, it shook his confidence. Why? Why would he have to die a violent death ? Was he being singled out for this? Was he more deserving of it than the others ? He looked over at John .. the one that Jesus seemed to favour or love the most … what about HIM ??
And in taking his eyes of Jesus and onto comparing himself with John and feeling like he was coming up short for some reason beyond his control… temptation came … and found a hook in him. Until he could not keep the question back .. “What about him ? How is HE going to die ?”
I don’t think we realize how easily the ‘victim mentality’ presents itself in our thinking .. or what a short path it sometimes is from thought to sin. First a thought, then handling of the thought, emotion responding to the thoughts, then emotion acted out.
When we look at Jesus’ responses in the examples above, some might comment at His seeming lack of compassion to the person’s pain. But if we look closer we see that in each instance, Jesus confirms the one coming to Him, but leaves no room for temptation to have any hook.
I remember when my daughter was little and would come to me in tears over some hurt and I would pick her up and -- if the ‘wound’ did not need medical attention -- I would distract her … excitedly pointing out something I knew she would like… and often the excitement in my voice would be enough for her to forget her tears and focus on what I was offering her.
I see Jesus doing the same thing with us. Not that He doesn’t recognize our hurt or doesn't want to gather us close , but He quickly draws our attention away from our pain to Himself .. because it is only in Him that we have the comfort, healing, answers that we need and seek.
We, as followers of Jesus are commanded to die to self. In German the word for suicide is ‘selbstmort’ – the direct translation would be self-murder. That’s what it feels like when we try to put our ‘flesh’ to death, doesn’t it ?
The easiest way is to hide in Jesus -- to flee at the first stab of pain , the first hint of temptation … flee TO the arms of Jesus and find all we need there.
One of my favourite verses … .”The Name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous run to it and are safe!” Pr. 18:10 .. If we remember that ‘Name’ means ‘character’ then this verse holds a very secure promise of comfort. The character of God is surely one we can trust in , He never changes and we are invited to run to Him in any and all circumstances and He promises we will be safe from all alarm !