Easter Vigil, a Story Told in 5 Parts

Martha served.

John 12:2

She glanced at her brother sleeping on the couch as she adjusted the goblets just-so and picked a few wilted leaves from the flowers in the centerpiece. The warm air hung thick and fragrant with the aroma of the spiced lamb roasting on the pit.

Martha allowed herself a rare moment to pause and take it all in. She had to admit the table looked exquisite; fit for a king. Passover-worthy–although that feast was still six days away.

She drew energy from the preparation and anticipation, almost as much as from watching people savor the meal itself. Hospitality was her spiritual gift. She took such pleasure in creating spaces for people to gather around the table and connect over the simple acts of breaking bread and drinking wine. There was an intrinsic perfection in these simple rituals; created to meet physical needs, yet with the power to accomplish so much more.

While she treasured this beauty, she hadn’t always taken time to see it. She remembered the last time Jesus had joined them for a meal; her heart had been consumed with resentment over the tasks she so loved, simply because her sister hadn’t chosen to help. Truth be told, Martha preferred it that way; Mary’s ethereal movements were less than helpful in Martha’s pragmatic, efficient kitchen.

Martha recalled Jesus’ gentle rebuke that day, “Dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it’s the main course, and it won’t be taken from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)

She wondered why those words hadn’t penetrated her heart then as they did now. Regrettably it took her brother’s recent near-death experience to get her priorities in order. Her eyes filled with unwanted tears at the memory. She stole another glimpse at her beloved brother, gazing long enough to confirm his chest was rising and falling in the gentle rhythm of life.

What a privilege to host this meal in Jesus’ honor–the natural way for Martha to thank their friend for saving her brother’s life; and she hoped, to offer a much-needed respite for Jesus, who had inexplicably drawn the ire of local Jewish leaders.

She was seeing the world with new eyes. It wasn’t just the gift of getting her brother back–even though she still had to pinch herself to believe that was real–it was the giver. She had been so frustrated by Jesus’ late arrival, not because she felt he owed them a miracle, but because she had this burgeoning confidence about who he was. The truth that had taken root in her heart had blossomed across her lips in that moment of unveiled reality:

I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God who is to come into the world.

John 11: 27

That truth had changed everything.

And now, Messiah, God’s promised One, was about to be at table with them.

Read all of “A Story Told in 5 Parts”:

Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

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