Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
- John 12:1-8
“The two sisters and the brother who made up the favored household at Bethany, though all most truly loving Jesus, each had a different way of showing that love. Even so, true children of God do not always feel moved to serve the Lord Jesus in the same fashion or to express their love to him in precisely the same manner. Martha served. She was the housekeeper and with much diligence made him a supper. As for Lazarus, the people had come together to see Lazarus who had been raised from the dead. So for him to sit there and to show himself eating and drinking was to testify to onlookers that he was, indeed, alive. Now, Mary, perhaps, had been somewhat fond of adorning her person. She may have cherished her long hair and been profuse in the use of perfume on it. The thought struck her – she would consecrate that hair to Jesus, and that pound of fragrant salve she had stored up for the beautifying of herself she would spend on him. She had found something to do and that something not the least of the three works of love! The service of the three members of that elect family made a complete feast. Martha prepared the supper, Lazarus conversed with their honored guest, and Mary anointed the Master’s feet.”
- Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes
We already know from Luke 10:38:42 that Martha felt that she was the only one of the three who was serving. Spurgeon provides a unique definition to the word here, as they all served their Master.
Being a good host and carrying a conversation is hard work. The person sweating in the kitchen may think that you are goofing off, but if you have guests who are masters at one word answers and perfectly comfortable staring at the cobweb in the corner, keeping the conversation going, obtaining and keeping eye contact… Those tasks might be impossible. As for me, I can have what is called diarrhea of the mouth or I can stare at cobwebs myself. I’m rarely in between those extremes, and being in between those extremes is necessary for conversation. One-sided conversation is a monologue, not a conversation. And if everyone is staring at cobwebs, well, that just gets uncomfortable.
My wife is the master of conversation. We’ll meet a new couple and I will be so proud of the fact that, afterward, I can remember the husband’s name and that the wife’s name begins with a “P”. Then my wife will recite their full name, including middle name – not just initials – their birthdays, their wedding day, their children’s birthdays, etc. For the life of me, I can’t remember those things ever being mentioned in the conversation. I guess that was when I was staring at the cobwebs.
But when entertaining guests, there is also the person that cleans up the house, prepares the food, cleans up afterwards. My wife loves preparing food, but with my new dietary restrictions that she has not dealt with, I might be doing a lot of the cooking too, according to our ‘conversation’ yesterday. Before she left to go babysit, she would supervise me at times in food prep or cleaning, since I have a higher and/or longer reach. She needs a step stool and a grabber to reach things in the kitchen and sometimes the grabber can’t get the heavy stuff. And I’ve done the dish washing, by hand, ever since the boys left home.
But, even with all my wife’s perfume samples, and a few bottles that were purchased, we’ve never anointed the feet of our guests. I apologize for the oversight. Then again, people usually drive over. They don’t walk on dusty roads to get to the house.
And thinking of dusty roads, when I was in India the first time, I saw a woman sweeping the floor of her home. The home had a thatched roof and a dirt floor. The thought came to me, “How does she know when to quit sweeping?” I wonder if they had that problem in Jesus’ time?
When I think of the church where we go at present, okay, no one is ‘going, at present’, it is a doing church. There are mission opportunities locally, at a distance, and overseas. Whatever your interest and your ability to take time off, there is a mission for you. But, for the non-mission goer, I am sure that the custodians have not cleaned away every cobweb. If you look really hard, you may find your means of helping – by staring at the cobweb that they missed. This meaning, conversation focuses on mission work and the basic church gossip. As for me, I’ve only been on one mission trip and that was over ten years ago. Sure, they hint at you going on a mission trip until it feels like you’re being chastised, but they don’t actually browbeat you. They are kind of like Martha in that regard, not face-to-face confrontational, but given permission … To those from the church that read this, I love you anyway and you know this only refers to some of the people in the church. (To everyone else, “Do you think they bought it?” – dramatic shrug)
But other churches close in the doors and windows and never preach the Gospel past the walls, not even in the parking lot. Their focus, or what they think is their focus, is to make the members better Christians, closer to God-like creatures. I guess a lot of these Christians are the ones that Mark Lowry talks about in his talk on being a recovering fundamentalist: The outcasts, that Christ died for so that they could be accepted, are the ones that try to prevent different outcasts from getting into their church.
There are other types of churches, but regardless of the type of church, they are always looking for people who can host gatherings, cook, teach Sunday school or whatever they call it.
The most important thing to remember is that we are all ministers. The preacher preaches and should do more than that. But the members are the ones who should be spreading the Gospel throughout the week. And that can be done in many ways. St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.”
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.