From Control to Belonging

John 11: 17 – 28

“On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.”

I have always loved this part of the story. Martha is a character that I have felt rather protective of. She has so often gotten a bad rap because of the passage in Luke 10 where Jesus seems to chide her for being too focused on serving guests and not enough on sitting contemplatively. For many women, myself included, that story seemed to put us in a no-win situation. Somehow we weren’t supposed to be like Martha – but we were never truly free to be like Mary either. The account flattened out the characters of these two women, seemingly pitting them against each other. And the way it was used to control women’s lives sucked the life out of the story.

But here in the gospel of John we see a completely different side of Martha. Here Martha makes a bold declaration of faith. Jesus entrusts her with his true identity and deepest purpose. And she sees and acknowledges what so many learned ones missed.

Martha’s bold witness to who Jesus is liberated me from the misuse of the Luke 10 passage.

Scripture has been misused to control, exclude, and oppress so many. We must take every opportunity to step up and speak out of the liberation we have found.

Reflection Questions:

  1. How have you experienced liberation from a misuse of scripture?

  2. If the trajectory of the scriptures is towards radical inclusion – “all things hold together in Christ” – how can you bear witness to that?


Liberating God instill in us the confidence of your generous embrace. Give us the bold faith of Martha to declare your radical inclusion of all things. Amen.

This Lenten reflection accompanies the Tell Your Pastor #imaffirming initiative. To learn more click here.

#imaffirming #lent

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