Meet Martha, a Friend of Jesus

Luke 10:38-41, NCV

“While Jesus and his followers were traveling, Jesus went into a town. A woman named Martha let Jesus stay at her house. 39 Martha had a sister named Mary, who was sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to him teach. 40 But Martha was busy with all the work to be done. She went in and said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me alone to do all the work? Tell her to help me.”

41 “But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things. 

42 Only one thing is important. Mary has chosen the better thing, and it will never be taken away from her.”

My name is Martha and I’m a friend of Jesus. My home was one of His favorite places to stay–a refuge for Him whose life was so busy. I joyfully opened my house for Him and His disciples. When Jesus came I went all out, I wanted the best for them and that meant there were always things to do. Is that really a bad thing?

The kitchen was verging on bedlam–lamb, cucumbers, figs, and so on. Roasting and slicing, I had bread in the oven. All of this was requiring constant attention, and I remember not being able to keep up.

I wanted things to be perfect for Jesus.

I took occasional peeks at He who was teaching in my living room. I just brought in some bowls of figs and raisins as an appetizer and found my sister Mary sitting with the men listening to Jesus and asking questions. It was that which started to get a little ticked off.

I was getting irritated.

There was so much to do and I realized I had to have her help. And the more I thought of Mary the more frustrated I got. I suspect she didn’t understand the work that need to be done. I suppose her priorities were messed up–she simply didn’t understand her role as a hostess, and to sit with the men like she was doing was wrong.

Mary didn’t understand her place.

I admit I was having issues with my sister. I had brought out another bowl of figs and that’s when I gently interrupted the Lord’s teaching. I wanted Him to tell Mary that her place was with me in the kitchen. He could correct her and I knew she would listen. “Tell her to help me.”

Instead, it was Jesus who corrected me. I still remember Jesus’ words. I wasn’t expecting this.

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things.”

Was I really that transparent? He understood, but rather than encouraging me I had become another lesson to everyone present. I realize now that the real issue was with my attitude, and not the work. Yes, I was bothered and upset and I know that it’s those things that were the problem.

Only one thing is important. Mary has chosen the better thing, and it will never be taken away from her.”

I suddenly knew that He was right. Jesus was in my home, and all I did was get angry. I thought my work would please Him and after all, wasn’t that important? Didn’t He “deserve” my best efforts?

My younger sister Mary was being praised. She was my example and now I was being gently rebuked. I realized that all I was doing, all my work, was not what Jesus wanted from me. The problem was my own heart—-it wasn’t Mary, it was me!

I had taken my eyes off of Jesus and was immersed in my service to Him.

I had become critical and resentful of Mary, and I had forgotten that my place was at Jesus’ feet, listening and learning. That’s what Jesus wanted from me, and somehow I had forgotten that. The work could wait, my real place was with Jesus.

Martha’s frustration is typical of those who diligently serve with good intent, but forget to also sit at Jesus’ feet. “The Martha spirit says, if the work is done, is not that all? The Mary spirit asks whether Jesus is well pleased or not? All must be done in his name and by his Spirit, or nothing is done.”

C.H. Spurgeon

Meet the Woman Who Couldn’t Stop Bleeding

A woman suffering from bleeding for twelve years, who had spent all she had on doctors and yet could not be healed by any, approached from behind and touched the end of his robe. Instantly her bleeding stopped.

45 “Who touched me?” Jesus asked.

When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds are hemming you in and pressing against you.”

Luke 8:43-45

I had to touch Him. I had to reach out and somehow get His attention. It was no longer an option. I bled all the time and it wouldn’t stop. There was no one else who could stop this, no doctor, no medicine. I was so desperate. It had to stop, it was killing me.

I had spent so much money on so many doctors.

I had nothing left. Each doctor promised a cure and my hopes were always dashed. A few days ago I heard about Jesus, I heard about His power to raise the dead and heal every disease. I don’t really know why, but I somehow knew He could heal me.

Perhaps this was really it, I thought. There was a big problem though, I was ritually unclean and all that I touched was unclean. The temple was off-limits and I had been cut off from sacrifice and forgiveness. In my darker moments, I remember thinking that perhaps God really had forsaken me?

After all, it had been 12 years.

What I had to do must be done secretly. I knew I just had to touch this man. I would have to wriggle my way through the crowd to get close enough. This wasn’t right and if I couldn’t get close enough I somehow knew I’d be taken to task for my foolishness.

But oh I was so sick and weak.

Just a touch was all I needed. I knew the He had the power. I just knew it. So I listened and tried to understand His busy itinerary. I must figure out how to get to Him, you see, everything depended on that connection.

It somehow worked. I just managed to grab just the tassel of His ceremonial head covering (ironic isn’t it).

And immediately the flow stopped. Just like that! I felt it and knew what happened.

Christ is the Good Physician. There is no disease He cannot heal; no sin He cannot remove; no trouble He cannot help.”

    James H. Aughey

   

When Jesus Cleansed the Temple

John 2:14-17, NCV

 “In the Temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves. He saw others sitting at tables, exchanging different kinds of money. 15 Jesus made a whip out of cords and forced all of them, both the sheep and cattle, to leave the Temple. He turned over the tables and scattered the money of those who were exchanging it. 16 Then he said to those who were selling pigeons, “Take these things out of here! Don’t make my Father’s house a place for buying and selling!”

17 When this happened, the followers remembered what was written in the Scriptures: “My strong love for your Temple completely controls me.”

He used a whip. The text tells us that Jesus carefully took cords and braided a whip. What can I say? I’m amazed at His reaction to what He saw going down in the Temple. What Jesus saw grieved His heart so intensely that there wasn’t anything else He could do.

There seem to be three distinct whips I think we need to consider.

  • The one Jesus carefully braided to “cleanse the Temple.”
  • The one used on Jesus’ back as part of our atonement. (Isaiah 53:4-6).
  • The one that believers experience in the ways God disciplines us as His children.

All three are critical to see and know. Each carry a significance to this teaching. All three carry their own “pain.” The Temple becomes “pure.” His pain becomes our salvation. And I get discipline to become “holy.”

There are times when Jesus uses the whip on me! Not a leather one mind you, but a braided cord of discipline. What He saw taking place in the marketplace of “me” (my temple) brings Jesus grief and sorrow. I am the temple of the Holy Spirit, and He fully intends to make me pure inside. Hebrews 12 tells me what to expect as a son.

“For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.”

Hebrews 12:7-8, (in context)

It’s best to remember that Jesus was beaten almost to death for my sin. So whips often happen when the Will of God happens. It’s His way of cleansing through the effort of the Holy Spirit. I believe that certain “things” will only take place when the whip is cracked.

Think about this for a moment.

But he was wounded for the wrong we did;
    he was crushed for the evil we did.
The punishment, which made us well, was given to him,
    and we are healed because of his wounds.

Isaiah 53:5, (context. 4-7)

Yes a whip carefully used is needful, and it brings pain. But the three can show us spiritual realities. It’s through each that we see God doing His work. I should warn you–this is not a “prosperity” gospel. There’s not “a blab it and grab it” theology. Just reading Hebrews 11 and 12 should alert you to what’s real.

The Catching of the Fish

Luke 5:1-11, ESV

“On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.” 

“But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.”

Seriously now. You never try to catch fish during the day. The fish head to the bottom to escape the summer’s heat. At night the fishermen would use a lantern to bring the fish to the surface–that’s just the way it worked. The text makes it clear that Peter’s crew had worked all night. They were incredibly tired, and they didn’t need a simple carpenter to speak to hardcore fishermen.

Jesus had been teaching and Peter’s boat was His pulpit. Jesus had been sharing things that were profound, and Peter had been listening. Perhaps all that he heard resonated deep inside. Jesus’ teaching went far beyond what Peter heard in the synagogue. He knew he was in the presence of the Messiah. For once, he was hearing God’s voice talk to his heart.

Much began to happen at this point in the story.

Jesus requested that they took their nets and go fishing again. This time in broad daylight, and that was something that wasn’t done. It seemed absolutely foolish, and yet this man Jesus was asking that these fishermen would do it. Peter as the chief made the decision. They would fish, if only from obedience.

Their nets were now starting to break.

They had taken so many fish that they couldn’t take the load. Peter’s boat cried out for other boats to intervene. The catch was way too much. Both boats together carried so much that they were at the point of sinking with the weight. At least that’s been told.

What was Peter’s response to all of this?

We see him kneeling in the pile of fish. We hear his cry, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” Peter understood and made this astute observation. First of all, he was sinful. Second, he knew that he didn’t belong. Third, he understood who Jesus was. I don’t think Peter ever shook that experience. He knew deep down that he was never ever going to be worthy. It was a great prayer, but at that moment Peter didn’t know that.

From then on, they would be catching men. Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 would lead 3,000 to the Lord. At that moment he “fished” for souls. He had finally become God’s fisherman. He had become God’s mouthpiece to a world that was waiting for him to speak.

There’s so much more in this passage. I deeply regret I can’t bring it out. I only hope that this’s a start, and that you can “excavate” more. The ball’s in your court now. Try to make it count–for Him.

Meet the Centurion and Discover Real Faith

Matthew 8:5-13

 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”

Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”

The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.

Obedience had been ingrained in me. I understood authority and submission to my superior officers. It’s called “the chain of command” and it’s the reason why armies function the way they do. I ultimately acceded my will to my superior, who’s under authority himself. I also have soldiers who I command. I led over 100 men as the occupying force in Palestine.

We were hated and despised.

My servant was sick, and I knew that he was suffering greatly, but I had run out of options. My servant was the only family I was allowed to have. Since I served as a centurion I was not allowed to have a wife for the duration of my service. Over the years I’ve kept good and trustworthy servants with me–these men were very dear to me. They became my family.

I certainly was aware that both my men and I lived in constant danger from radical Jews.

I had exhausted all my efforts to bring some relief and healing to him–and it seemed to be getting worse, not better. My “contacts” told me of an itinerant teacher who had a reputation as a healer. It seems Jesus had a large following and I realized that He could be my last option.

So I went to Him for help and Jesus responded. But He wanted to go with me to my home. His willingness to come encouraged me, but I simply couldn’t allow that. Jesus’ visit would’ve made Him ceremonially unclean–I was a Gentile, a “dog.”

My home was off-limits.

But I did understand something. I was under authority as an officer in the Roman army, and my men also took orders. Obedience meant survival in a hostile environment like Judea. Our entire unit was drilled constantly and we all understood the need for a “chain of command.” Each of us obeyed our superiors. We had to.

With all this in mind, I asked Jesus to heal my servant with just a word.

He marveled at this. He said that my adherence to protocol was evidence of real faith. Those who were with Jesus were told something earth-shaking. My trust meant something, He made me an equal with the Israel patriarchs. My faith was to be emulated by the Jews.

He then told His followers that my confident trust was respected and acknowledged as evidence of God’s favor.

Simply, Jesus spoke a word and when I returned home my servant would be healed. I returned home to find him healthy.

“Christ will always accept the faith that puts its trust in Him.”

    Andrew Murray

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