The Bible records only eight times when God reiterates someone’s name. Four were spoken in the Old Testament era: to Abraham, to Jacob, to Moses, and to Hannah. A thousand years later, Jesus–God with skin on–repeated the name of a frantic hostess.
Near and far Martha was praised as the hostess with the mostest. She was the epitome of Miss Hospitality. Entertaining was her passion, and she immersed herself in it. She oozed with management and organizational skills. Not to mention money.
A wealthy widow, she could well afford to give lavish dinner parties without a smidgen of restraint. Oh, how she loved every part of the planning and preparation and presentation! That is, until today.
Today’s extravagant meal had gone to pot. The heightened hustle-and-bustle sounds were grating on her nerves. The permeating culinary aromas turned her stomach. Simply put, her usual joy had withered like a drying fig.
The chief kitchen servant had suddenly taken ill, throwing her schedule off and leaving her shorthanded. Martha’s sister had offered to help. And she did stuff the dates. But where were the pickled olives she had sent her for? The hors d’oeuvre trays had to be set up next. They were already half an hour late. How was she going to get everything done?
And where was Mary? That girl! She could never depend on her to finish anything. Not an ounce of responsibility in her! Her head was always in the clouds.
Maybe this was her fault. Maybe years ago she should have let her stand on a stool and stir the lentils instead of shooing her outside time and again to play. But she wanted the child to know carefree fun. Soon enough she would meet the sorrows and demands of adulthood.
There! She found her! She wouldn’t have if James and John hadn’t stepped apart at that moment. But there Mary was as if she had nothing better to do than leisurely sit at the feet of the guest of honor and look up at him with saucer eyes. Martha’s immediate urge was to order her sister back to the kitchen. But she knew she wouldn’t because she couldn’t.
She had never been able to deny the girl anything since their parents’ tragic death. No, she couldn’t do it. However, there was someone, she quickly calculated, who could.
Untying the towel hanging from her waist, she tossed it over a clay jar and dashed into the courtyard. She sliced a zigzagged path through the pressing crowd until she reached Jesus.
And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me” (Luke 10:40 ESV ).
Jesus, perfectly understanding his hostess’ anxiety, prefaced the answer with a double knock created in love and concern:
But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42 ESV).