It wasn’t long after that that Jesus introduced us to his friend Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha.
We were on our way to Jerusalem and stopped in Bethany; the group scattered to find rooms where they could but Jesus invited Andrew and me to spend the night with him and his friends. Lazarus assured us it wouldn’t be any trouble at all, there was lots of food and if we didn’t mind sleeping on the floor, there would be a place to lay our head.
By now we were used to sleeping wherever we could find a spot, under a tree or by the beach. So, a dry floor with a roof over our heads was almost a luxury.
Well, Lazarus wasn’t kidding when he said that would be lots of food. Martha was an incredible cook, she had prepared a goat, and there were cheese and bread and olives, and the stuffed pigeon was incredible, actually, I found the pigeon a little dry but the couscous stuffing was delicious. And afterwards, she brought out figs and honey to dip them in. It had been a long time since I had eaten that much; I was stuffed.
Through the dinner, Jesus had told us stories about what the kingdom would be like and what it meant to follow him. And all the time that Martha was scurrying around making sure that everybody had enough to eat her younger sister sat at Jesus’ feet soaking in everything he said, like a sponge.
I hadn’t thought much about it, obviously being the perfect hostess was Martha’s thing, I assumed she would have resented Mary’s intrusion into her domain. And as my father taught me: you know what happens when you assume? Sometimes you’re wrong. And apparently, I was wrong.
Martha had just breezed back into the room, looked at her sister and said, “Really Mary, really? I have spent all day getting ready for supper and you can’t even help me serve?”
It was a little awkward. There’s nothing like being a stranger in the middle of a family quarrel.
Mary started to say something, but Martha cut her off when she demanded, “Don’t you think it’s unfair Jesus? I do all the work, and she just sits there mooning over you. Make her get up and help me.”
“Oh Martha, God has given you the gift of hospitality, and you use that gift so well. It was a beautiful meal, but you missed so much by worrying that things might not be perfect. It’s not me that Mary is intrigued with, it’s my kingdom, a kingdom I want you to be a part of as well. So, why not take a break and join us?
“I won’t make Mary help you, but I would suspect she’d be willing to help clean up when we are finished visiting.”
And while Martha did sit with us, you could tell that all that had to be done was grating on her. But in the end, everybody helped, and while it might not have been up to Martha’s standards, the house was back in order before we all crashed for the night.