Monday, August 25, 2008
"Pureness Of Hearts Is Knowing Your Intentions"
A Mary Heart
The Bible doesn't tell us a lot about Mary and Martha. They are mentioned by name only three times in Scripture: Luke 10:38-42, John 11:1-44, and John 12:1-11. But from these brief accounts, a fascinating picture develops of what life must have been like at the house in Bethany—and what life is often like for us.
They say variety is the spice of life. Perhaps that's why God so often puts people of such different personalities in the same family. (Either that, or he's trying to prepare us for marriage!) Mary was the sunlight to Martha's thunder. She was the caboose to Martha's locomotive. Mary's bent was to meander through life, pausing to smell the roses. Martha was more likely to pick the roses, quickly cut the stems at an angle, and arrange them in a vase with baby's breath and ferns.
That is not to say one is right and one is wrong. We are all different, and that is just as God made us to be. Each gifting and personality has its own strengths and weaknesses, its glories and temptations.
I find it interesting that when Jesus corrected Martha, he didn't say, "Why can't you be more like your sister, Mary?" He knew Martha would never be Mary, and Mary would never be Martha. But when the two were faced with the same choice---to work or to worship—Jesus said, "Mary has chosen the better part." To me, this implies the Better Part was available to both Mary and Martha. And it's available to each one of us, regardless of our gifting or personality. It's a choice we each can make.
It is true that, personality-wise, the choice may have come easier to Mary than it did to Martha. Mary does seem more mellow by nature, more prone to walk in the dew of the morning than to get caught up in the "dos" of the day.
I'm sure when Jesus dropped by unexpectedly that afternoon, Mary probably began the visit by serving, just as she had many times before. I can see her taking walking staffs and sleeping rolls as the disciples spill into her sister's well-ordered home. Buried beneath cloaks and backpacks, she watches the man who has taken the heart of Israel captive by his words. There is such joy and winsomeness about him, she can't help but be drawn to this man.
Could Jesus be the Messiah the people say he is? Mary wonders. She knows he's a great teacher, but could this actually be the Son of God admiring the tapestry she wove, drawing her out of her shyness and into the circle of his closest friends?
She drops the disciples' belongings in a corner and hurries to pour wine for the thirsty crew. There is an ease about them, a true camaraderie. The men laugh at each other's jokes as they wash down the dust of the road with the liquid she provides. Then they settle on low couches around the room, and Jesus begins to teach.
He speaks as none she ever heard before. There is a magnetism about his words, as though they contain breath and life—breath and life Mary hasn't known she needed until this day. She creeps closer and stands in a dark corner listening to Jesus, her arms wrapped around the empty pitcher.
She's aware of movement around her. Several servants busy themselves washing dirty feet, while another sets the table at the other end of the room for the meal to come. Mary knows there is plenty to do. And yet she is unable to move—except closer.
It isn't customary for a woman to sit with a group of men, but his words welcome her. Despite her natural reticence, she gradually moves forward until she's kneeling at his feet. His teaching envelops her, revealing truth to her hungry heart.
The Bible isn't clear whether or not this was Jesus' first visit to the home in Bethany. Martha's openness with Christ seems to indicate a prior acquaintance, but whatever the case, this day Mary chose to let someone else do the serving so she could do some listening. It isn't every day God visits your house. So she ignores tradition, she breaks social etiquette, and she presses closer. As close to Jesus as possible.
It doesn't matter that she might be misunderstood. She cares little that the disciples look at her strangely. Somewhere in the distance she hears her name, but it is drowned by the call of her Master. The call to come. The call to listen.
And listen she does.