If you didn’t manage to watch the sermon I posted on Lazarus Saturday, here are the Cliff Notes*:
Lazarus has just been raised from the dead after mouldering in his tomb for four days. Jesus had not rushed to his rescue – he wanted him good and dead – so that when He raised Lazarus, the witnesses would really get the message. To celebrate, family and friends have a dinner at Lazarus’ home. During the cocktail hour** Mary, Lazarus’ sister, is so thankful she wipes Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume. Judas chastises her (he thought the money better spent on the poor) but Jesus says,
“Leave her alone. She bought it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” [John 12:7-8]
Students of literature will recognize this as foreshadowing. Mary is anointing him for his funeral, as a high priest would. (Go back and watch the sermon video. Fr. Jason Prati does a much better job explaining it than I. )
Mary’s sister Martha is serving the meal as Mary lolls about, wiping Jesus’ feet with spikenard. Just kidding, Mary is not lolling. She is literally pouring out her gratitude for Jesus’ raising her brother from the dead.
The apostle Luke [10: 38-42] tells an earlier story of Martha and Mary. In this vignette, Jesus tells Martha she is “distracted by her many tasks”. Professor Amy-Jill Levine’s interpretation of banquets [Luke 5:29 footnote] suggests that dinners were held for “instruction”, “ suggesting symposiums”. In response to Jesus , Martha actually asks Him to tell Mary to get off her *ss and help in the kitchen. He tells Martha that no, Mary is doing the right thing by chillaxing at his feet. This event precedes Lazarus’ resurrection and takes place in Martha’s house. Let that sink in for a moment. Martha owned a house. For sure, she had household help but instead of delegating, Martha was busy making sure everything was just so. There is no question in my mind that Martha was the oldest child.
In the Johanan story, though, I think that at the dinner party for Lazarus, Jesus is happy she is serving. Since it is Lazarus’ house, and he has just been raised from the dead, you can bet everything is in disarray. There were probably dishes left in the sink and no food in the house. But Martha makes sure everything is running smoothly. She is the hostess with the mostess and there is food to get on the table. You can almost see her roll her eyes at Mary, once again at the feet of Jesus, emoting, emoting, emoting. Jesus doesn’t tell Martha to relax, either. He lets her do her thing. I imagine Martha reconciled to her servant’s heart as well as reconciled to her little sister’s heart being her own. Hopefully, Martha’s ears were peeled as she poured the wine.
This evening, a woman at church opined that Martha was the old way of doing things and Mary the new. That pretty much sums things up, wouldn’t you agree?
No matter my fondness for Mary, today I have channeled Martha. With a 72 hour staycation with no one in my house except for my errant animals, I have matched 3,000 socks, cleaned the laundry room, done 5 loads of laundry, spot cleaned carpet, taken straggling Christmas crap to the basement, returned a sleep study machine, yoga’d, and cleaned the “self-cleaning” litter box. There are 2,000 socks still to match, the dishwasher to unload, and twin guest beds to make up for the weekend. Consider it preparation for Passover, getting the yeast out. A resurrection is coming but as I wait I am LOLLING with a glass of pinot noir, mindless television, and working on a needlepoint project. It’s all about balance, friends.
This post is dedicated to one of my favorite hostesses, godmother to Thing 3, Martita. She gets her pseudonym from this story and in homage to Martha Stewart, who was well named.
Herewith concludes Day 36.
* I am not sure Cliff Notes still exist. I was on a limited budget in college and might have bought them once. Today there is the internet.