Three kilometers from Jerusalem lay the village of Bethany and the home of Jesus’ friends, Mary and Martha and their brother, Lazarus—a convenient place for Jesus to pause, an oasis of true friendship. A few hours within this home’s peaceful confines would provide the quiet interval that His body and spirit needed before proceeding to the thronging city of Jerusalem.
In describing this stopover, Luke mentions only the two sisters, Mary and Martha, and the brief narrative revolves around the fact that a special meal was intended for their revered visitor. The two sisters have much in common. But they were quite different in temperament.
It was Martha who was in charge of the preparations for dinner. “Martha was very worried about her elaborate preparations” (v. 50 PH), or as the King James Version has it, Martha was “cumbered about [with] much serving” (Luke 10:40). Joseph Scriven’s famous hymn, asks: “Are we weak and heavy laden, Cumbered with a load of care?” What today’s meteorologist calls “cumulus clouds” are those rounded masses heaped upon on each other, and at once we see analogies:
“the work is all piled up”; “it is just one thing on top of another!” In such terms Martha’s feelings are described. She was pulled away from fellowship with Jesus by the distractions of the kitchen and by her anxiety to provide an impressive table.
Hospitality is good. Even culinary achievements in their own way can be good. But something is better. Nothing can compare with, or take the place of, communion with Jesus. To hear His voice is better than all other sounds that can fall on the ear of the soul. To listen to His instruction is better than all the knowledge that a secular world can impart. Outside of the presence of Jesus we are soon inevitably enveloped by the cumulus clouds of care. In His presence all is at peace.
In this frenetic age it is not easy to find the time for communion with Jesus. Tremendous forces are at work to keep His followers from spending quiet periods in His presence. We have only to think of the chaotic atmosphere that dominates many homes and many lives. In the morning the house is a panic zone, with members of the family scrambling in all directions as they rush from ablutions to breakfast to the bus. The pace only quickens by noon. In the evening fatigue takes over.
Let us, in the rush of life, not neglect our communion with the Master.
Arnold Brown, With Christ at the Table