The Fragrance Of His Presence
Cumbered About Much
Today’s Study Text:
“But Martha (overly occupied and too busy) was distracted with much serving; and she came up to Him and said, ‘Lord, is it nothing to You that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me, [to lend a hand and do her part along with me]!’”
Luke 10: 40
“Worldly business is a snare to us when it hinders us from serving God and getting good for our souls.”
Thoughts for Consideration:
Have I ever found myself so “cumbered” with the cares and burdens of this world that I simply didn’t have time to foster the growth of what would benefit me spiritually?
“Don’t let the cares of the day, the stresses of the moment, and the worries of tomorrow interfere with your communing with and partaking of the love affair that Jesus longs for you to have with Him.”
Dee Brestin and
“Lord, Thou knowest how busy I must be this day. If I forget Thee, do not Thou forget me.”
As we continue to become better acquainted with Jesus’ friends who lived in Bethany, we find that after getting settled in with Mary at His feet, Jesus was confronted by Martha, the older sister in the home and apparent owner of the house where Jesus stopped for rest and refreshment.
After digging through some historical information, I uncovered the fact that some Biblical historians believe this particular visit by Jesus to the home of His friends took place close to the Feast of Tabernacles. This event in Jewish life fell annually on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, just 4 days after the Day of Atonement. As recorded in Exodus 23: 16, this seven day celebration was also called the Feast of Harvest. Branches of palm trees, leafy trees as well as the fruit from goodly trees were used to construct booths. There was great rejoicing in the religious and family communities during this event and history informs us that when on earth Jesus participated in this festival (John 7: 2, 10, 14). The noted historian Josephus (Antiquities VIII. Inv. 1) called this celebration “the holiest and greatest of the Hebrew feasts.”
I take time to share these details because if the family in Bethany participated in this event, as was very likely, it is easy for me to understand how Martha may have felt rather overwhelmed with so many important activities happening on top of each other. I can remember when I was growing up, my parents had many friends who would often stop in to visit with them, sometimes unexpectedly. It would seem that clean sheets would be put on the bed one day and taken off to wash the next. And quite potentially the Bethany home had a cycle of visitors coming in and going out.
It’s interesting that this perception turned out not to be just my own. Commentator Matthew Henry appeared to draw a similar conclusion when writing about Martha’s challenge of being “cumbered about much serving.” As he observed “Martha was providing for the entertainment of Christ and those who came with Him. Perhaps she had no notice before His coming, and she was unprovided, but was in care to have everything handsome (well laid out) upon the occasion…So something commendable (toward Martha) must not be overlooked. She had respect to our Lord Jesus, for we have no reason to think (her preparations) were for ostentation, but purely to testify of her good-will to Him that she made this entertainment.”
I appreciate this idea that Martha’s zealous desire to make everything for Jesus comfortable was at the heart of her ambitious activity. As Henry notes, “those who love Jesus will bestow all they can to honor Him.” As we witness, Martha herself did the serving. She didn’t think it was below her station in life to do what some may have thought to be a servant’s duties. Anything for Jesus was not viewed as too much in her eyes.
There is a phrase in Luke 10: 40, which does, however, open our minds to the challenge which got Martha tied up in knots. In the King James Version of the Bible, these words describe the problem: “Martha was cumbered about much serving” (Luke 10 40, K.J.V.). The Greek does a tremendous service in helping us understand exactly what Dr. Luke wanted to convey to his readers. There are three words we need to look at: “cumber,” “much,” and “serving.” If we replace the Greek meaning of these words in the sentence found in Luke 10: 40, it would read in the following manner: “But Martha was distracted by dragging around such a large burden as she ministered and gave relief services to Jesus and those with Him.”
What happened was that everything Martha undertook was honorable and thoughtful. Her motives were pure – service for Jesus. The problem was that she took on too much. She overwhelmed her physical limitations. I must tell you, I’m certain many of us have found ourselves in the same position. We can relate to Martha!
Thankfully, Jesus didn’t have any fault with Martha’s choice to work for Him. The fact is He admired her because she had gone to so much effort to care for His needs. But when she found herself completely worn to a frazzle, Jesus had an idea for her and every one of his children who feel stretched to the limit.
In times past, there was a word in Latin, elixir, which referred to a sweetened aromatic solution of alcohol and water, used as a vehicle for medicine. It was supposed to be a medicine that would cure all ills. But the word “elixir” was also used to “describe an underlying principle” and this is why the famed poet, George Herbert so beautifully incorporated the title “Elixir” into his poem by the same name. Here are his words:
“Teach me, my God and King
In all things Thee to see,
And what I do in any thing
To do it as for Thee…
All may of Thee partake:
Nothing can be so mean
Which with his tincture ‘for Thy sake,’
Will not grow bright and clean.
A servant with this clause
Makes drudgery divine;
Who sweeps a room, as for Thy laws,
Makes that and the action fine.
This is the famous stone
That turneth all to gold;
For that which God doth touch and own
Cannot for less be told.”
What was the “elixir” – the underlying principle – Jesus wanted Martha to partake of on that day many years ago? It was this: anything done for Jesus, no matter how simple, when done to honor our Lord and Master, makes that action great for it is done as unto God, Himself.
“All That Wearies Me”
“To Thee I bring my care,
The care I cannot flee;
Thou wilt not only share
But bear it all for me;
O loving Savior, now to Thee
I bring the load that wearies me.”
Frances Ridley Havergal
“Drop thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.”
John Greenleaf Whittier
“Lord, You put twenty-four hours in a day, and gave me a body which gets tired and can only do so much. Show me which tasks You want me to do, and help me to live prayerfully as I do them.
Sharpen my senses, that I may truly see what I am looking at, listen to what I am hearing, face what I am suffering, celebrate the ways I am loved, and offer to You whatever I am doing.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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