We often take leave of people with the words, "Take care." We mean that in a good, even tender, way. But is it good or tender to want someone to take care?
Martha took care. Instead of translating Jesus words to Martha, "You are worried and upset," the King James has "thou art careful and troubled." Yes Martha took care, and why shouldn't she? It was her house. Our text says that "Martha opened her home to Jesus." She was hostess not her sister, so naturally as hostess there were more things to take care of.
These were legitimate cares too. A lot goes into getting a meal on the table. Since Jesus was a special guest, since Jesus was her Lord as she calls him in the text, there were extra things to take care of and extra care would have to be taken with every thing else. There was cooking the various foods at just the right time. There was getting the dishes out and setting the table. Since at the opening of the text the disciples go one way and Jesus goes to Martha's house, this could have been a drop by visit or one where Martha wasn't exactly sure when Jesus would arrive. If either was the case, the many preparations would have been even more pressing.
All the preparing left Martha "distracted" according to our insert. "Cumbered" translates the KJV. The 2 aren't so different. Cumbered comes from the Latin cumulus "a heap" and means to overload, overburden. The Greek here means to be over busy, torn this way and that. I have to do this, this, and that too, and I forgot that I had better do that before this.
Do you know this feeling? I do, and it seems technology has fueled the feeling by speeding up life. It does what Henry Ford's assembly line did. By speeding up the line, Ford could speed up the rate his workers had to work. The phone, the computer, the ability to tie many different devices directly to you all the time means you can be beeped, buzzed, rang, emailed, and pinged till you're ping-ponged every which way but loose.
That's Martha in the text, but gets this. The word translated "distracted" or "cumbered" is passive. Martha is not choosing to be distracted, worried or upset, and neither do you, do you? You don't set out in the morning saying, "I'm planning at being at my wit's end by day's end." This may help you relate to the gay community and their assertion that they don't choose to be gay; they just are. They then say that because they don't choose to be gay it can't be sinful. I believe them; they no more choose to be gay than I choose to be overloaded with care, but we're both still sinning.
That sin can be going on when we take care the way Martha did is seen by the fact that care took Martha. Her load of care took her to the point of confronting the Lord. The insert says "she came to Him." That Greek word is used of someone coming up suddenly. Martha took care of this and that; she took care after care after care until she was driven to confront Jesus with what she is sure is an unjust situation.
After coming up suddenly, Martha prays. That's what a request to the Lord is whether made to Him when He is visibly present or when He's not. She prays, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?" The Greek makes it plain that Martha thinks Jesus does care. She literally says, "Lord, surely you care don't you that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?"
Although care is taking Martha away at least it's taking her to Jesus, but then care corrupts her prayer. Martha is driven to the point of telling Jesus in her prayer what He should do. She literally says, "You should tell her to help me." It is a sinful prayer, a prayer that calls for judgment, which proscribes to the Lord what He should do.
Care can take you to that place, and when you're worried and upset, like Martha, you don't realize how dangerous that place is. The word our insert translates as "worried" and the King James "careful" is used by Jesus in the Parable of the Sower and the in His end time's teaching. In Matthew 13:22 Jesus warns that the cares of the world can choke the life out of the plant the Gospel seed produces. In Luke 21:34 Jesus warns that that the cares of life can make you vulnerable to judgment springing on you like a trap.
Jesus warns of 2 specific types of care that can take you away, and I'm familiar with both. The cares of the world is one. It varies with where you are in life but the world will tell you exactly what you are to take care of giving you the illusion you can while all the while care is taking you, as it took Martha, away from your Lord. You'd better care what college you go to. You'd better care about whom you will marry. You'd better care for your kids in just this way. You'd better care about political events, world events, current events or else. Jesus warns about the cares of this age choking the spiritual life right out of you. Spiritual things seem powerless and even pointless in a care worn world.
The cares of life is the other care Jesus warns about. He says, "Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with cares of life, and Judgment Day come on you suddenly like a trap." These life cares are specifically biotikias. You can hear the word biology there. This is care about physical life, what shall we eat, what shall we wear, what shall we do about health care, what shall we retire on, what about cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's, diabetes, and more. You can feel the weight of those cares, can't you? You can't care too much about these things can you? Yes, you can. Care can take you so far away from your Lord that you're not ready when He comes for you.
Martha took care; then care took Martha. Thankfully Jesus takes care. He'd better or we're toast. James 1 says that a "double-minded man is unstable in all his ways." Jesus says that it is impossible for a man to serve 2 masters. Maratha tried. The fact that the word for her being distracted is passive shows that she wanted to do what Mary did. She wanted to be in that Bible class hearing her Lord, but someone had to take care to have the meal done on time. So as she's in and out of the room where Jesus is teaching she's trying to sit at His feet and learn and take care of everything else too. She couldn't do both and ended up saying a foolish prayer.
Jesus takes care by putting only one thing before Martha and us. Just one thing not 12 steps, not 7 habits of highly effective people, not a life choked by the cares of the world or weighted down by the cares of physical life. Jesus puts before us not our cares but He who takes care: Himself. He is the one Person able to take care. He is True Man born of the Virgin Mary so He knows the cares of this physical life. He is True God Son of the Father from eternity, so He has the strength to take the cares of the world on His back. Go home read Matthew 6. You're English will say don't be worried or anxious, but it's the same Greek word used here. It's care. All the things Jesus tells us to take no care for He puts on His shoulders.
The Christian can live carefree, careless, without a care in the world, rather than with a load of care. Why? Because Jesus cares for you. He cared enough to take your obligations under the Law. He cared enough to do what you and I cannot do: live before God and man without sinning at all. But He cared more than that. He cared enough to pay our debts. I phrase it that way because it would really mean something to you if someone paid off your mortgage, your car, your credit card, your school loans. That would be great; how greater still is Jesus paying off your debt of sin?
Have you ever gone to court to pay a fine and they can find no record of it? They look and look and it's not there. That's your case before the court of heaven. The blood, sweat, and tears of the perfect Jesus expunged the record. Let me tell you; if He had not, that you should care about. If your debt of sin was not paid, you could not care too much about that. In fact, your only care in all the world would be taking care of that. But that debt has been taken care of; it is paid off in full; you don't have to be careful to make payments. Now if God in Christ took care of your eternal cares, you can know that every temporal care in the world is taken care of. That's how Paul reasons in Romans 8. "If God spared not His own Son, how will He not with Him give us all things?"
Go on answer that. What in the world, what in your world will your Lord not take care of, no matter what the cost, if He took care of your eternal debt of sin at the price of His only beloved Son? If He was willingly and able to pick up that eternally heavy care, then what of your family, health, wealth, or daily cares? You are free from them; free now to focus on the One who takes care away from you.
Jesus comes to call daily in Baptism and the Word. Make the sign of the cross over yourself daily in the name of the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost remembering that you have been baptized into Him who cares more for you than you care for anyone else in the world. Pick up that Bible and sit at the feet of the Lord who takes care so far away from you that it can't be found again. Weekly Jesus comes to visit this house no less really than He came to Martha's. The same Body and Blood that were in her house are in this house. Jesus would meet you here weekly to take your cares in exchange for His Body and Blood that paid for them.
Next time someone says to you, "Take care," think to yourself, "No, I'll take Jesus who takes care." Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Ninth Sunday after Pentecost (20130721); Luke 10: 38-42