The evolution of Christianity is the evolution of history. The story of a child born to a “Virgin” mother and unbelievable understanding husband is only part of the story. Why did this birth of peace cause so much death and destruction in the world? There is another story, there is the story told through Jesus relationship with women. This is a different story, not one surrounded by violence and death, but rather the story about human feelings and relations. What can we learn from Mary and Martha, a family that was close to the heart and ministry of Jesus, and a place where He felt at home and at peace.

Jesus and His disciples arrived at the home of Lazarus, Mary and Martha about mealtime. It was Martha who invited them in. Nothing is said in the Bible account about the cordial greetings they exchanged, but an important lesson was recorded during that visit that should positively affect us.

Notice the exchange between Jesus and Martha: “She [Martha] had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.’ And Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken from her’ ” (Luke 10:39-42 [39] And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.
[40] But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
[41] And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
[42] But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
See All…).

Scripture doesn’t record whether Jesus’ response made a lasting impression on Martha’s understanding, but we can hope this spiritual lesson—so inseparably linked to our priorities—will favorably impact us.

What did Mary have that Martha needed? What was the “good part” Mary chose? Why will the good part that Mary chose remain hers forever?

In a world filled with distractions, the story of Mary and Martha can help you set your life in order.

Home away from home

The Gospels record that Jesus felt comfortable in the home of Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus. The four weren’t just acquaintances; they were close friends.

Earlier, when Jesus had come to resurrect Lazarus from the dead, He showed great respect and love for Mary and Martha (John 11:3Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.
See All…, 20-39). They spoke to Jesus as if He were a part of their immediate family. Jesus was so troubled by their anguish over their brother’s death that He was moved to tears before raising Lazarus to life again (verse 33).

Luke’s account also shows the closeness between Jesus and this family. “Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house” (Luke 10:38Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
See All…). Jesus was at ease with Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Their home, at Bethany just outside Jerusalem, might have been considered Jesus’ home away from home.

But, though Jesus felt a deep affinity for all three, their personalities and perspectives differed.

Martha’s view of life

When we visit friends and relatives we have a good idea of how they think and act. Jesus was no different. He appreciated the differences among His three friends and felt comfortable enough to offer constructive advice as to their priorities.

Martha’s outlook on life was quite different from Mary’s. It is possible that Martha was older and that her age figured into her personality and perspective. Martha’s words and actions depict her as practical and efficient. Nothing is wrong with being practical and efficient if it doesn’t interfere with the more important things in life. If it does, it can become a problem. God recorded important examples for us in Scripture (1 Corinthians 10:11Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.
See All…), so we can learn from Martha’s and Mary’s recorded actions.

Martha appears to be the leader and the more hospitable and social of the two: “Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house” (Luke 10:38Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
See All…).

Mary’s outlook

“And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word” (verse 39). If one were to read no further, one could assume Mary may have been a little lazy, leaving the needs of hospitality and hostess to her gregarious sister. It was Martha who invited Jesus into their home. It was Mary who simply sat at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him talk. Who was the more hospitable, the more sociable? Who was more concerned about serving her Savior, Martha or Mary?

Maybe Mary was shy. But we should consider Jesus’ evaluation of Mary’s actions. “But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.’ And Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her’ ” (Luke 10:40-42 [40] But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
[41] And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
[42] But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
See All…).

To better understand Mary’s actions, let’s read details in John’s account of that same visit.

“Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus [and the disciples] came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil” (John 12:1-3 [1] Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead.
[2] There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him.
[3] Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.
See All…).

John emphasizes here that Mary was so humble, convicted and dedicated to Jesus and His teachings that no expense or personal act was too great or demanding for her to honor her Savior. This attitude, outlook and perspective is the kind of approach God desires in all His disciples. Jesus highly regarded Mary’s approach.

It is illuminating to contrast Mary’s reverence with Martha’s demeanor. Martha was so comfortable with Jesus that she openly included Him in her frustration. Her words “Do You not care?” and “My sister has left me to serve alone” show her frustration. For Martha to intimate that Jesus didn’t care whether Mary was not helping shows both a close relationship and considerable forthrightness. Martha didn’t suggest to Jesus that He ask Mary to help her; she told Him directly to “tell her to help me.” Martha put the onus of responsibility for serving a meal, to her the most important of all responsibilities, on Jesus.

Jesus responded forthrightly but tenderly: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things” (Luke 10:41And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
See All…). Martha was fretting over something quite important to her: providing a meal for Jesus and His disciples. But how important was this compared with other priorities?

Choices in life

Jesus continued: “But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” (verse 42).

Jesus said Mary made a conscious decision between two alternatives: She chose listening to Jesus over preparation of a meal. This may sound strange to those who, like Martha, think meal preparation is more important than visiting. But couldn’t that depend on who the guest is? The most pressing need in Martha’s eyes was that of preparing a meal for Jesus and His disciples. Mary saw this situation differently. She chose to listen to the wisdom of Jesus, her Savior, while she had the opportunity.

People make choices. They are a part of life. The prophet Moses declared: “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:
See All…). Our daily choices affect our lives, and the end result of this life is determined by the choices we make every day. Jesus said Mary chose “that good part.”

The good part we need

We have to make a choice as to whether we seek the good part. Jesus tells us our highest priority in life should be to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness . . .” (Matthew 6:33But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
See All…).

He also gives us guidance in how to do that: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God” (Luke 4:4And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.
See All…; compare Deuteronomy 8:3And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.
See All…). He adds, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.
See All…).

For Mary, Martha, Lazarus and the 12 disciples, the Word of God was in their presence in the person of Jesus Christ (John 1:14-15 [14] And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
[15] John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.
See All…). Apparently Mary knew that Jesus’ words were the most important needs of her life. Jesus recognized this when He reminded Martha that her life was taken up with many secondary needs, but her greatest need was that which Mary acknowledged: the words of eternal life (John 6:68Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.
See All…).

The book of Hebrews tells us the importance of hearing and heeding the words of life: “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him” (Hebrews 2:1-3 [1] Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.
[2] For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward;
[3] How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;
See All…).

The good part lasts forever

What did Jesus mean when He spoke of “that good part, which will not be taken away from her”? (Luke 10:42But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
See All…). The apostle John answers this question: “All that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:16-17 [16] For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
[17] And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
See All…; compare 2 Peter 3:10-12 [10] But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
[11] Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,
[12] Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?
See All…).

God’s truth and laws will abide forever. Our bodies won’t last forever, for they must be replaced with spirit bodies. The spiritual knowledge we accumulate in this life will be ours forever, never taken away from us. But we must not allow physical needs and duties to consume us.

Like Mary, we need patient faith, that in a world hell-bent on destruction, filled with frivolous trappings and empty, momentary sensual pleasures we can keep the good part forever: “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.
See All…).

Mary and Martha were Jesus’ good friends. Martha stayed busy supplying her guests with things that made their visit more comfortable. She should be commended for seeing to the important needs of others.

But Jesus commended her sister Mary. Jesus noted, in effect, that Martha stayed busy with form, but that Mary concentrated on substance. He commended Mary for choosing the good part, the holy words, truth and faith of Jesus Christ, which will never be taken from her. We should follow Mary’s example and desire God’s truth above everything else.

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1 comments

Submitted on Mar 29, 2012, 1:55 pm

 

Marcus5221

 

 

I have always, I guess, related to Martha in the story. In trying to understand I could see the point of Mary placing importance of listening to Jesus over serving. Likewise I could see the importance, of serving (caring for invited guests), which would not occur it one did not do the tasks. Yet, this conflicting view has always concerned me. When does one stop serving, to benefit from listening. Many in church culture have served, to the nth degree, only to burn our, loose families, etc. in the name of serving the church. The fine line between the two examples has not be adequately or accurately presented by ministry in the past within church of God cultures. Finding that proper balance is critical, otherwise two things will happen IMO; 1) one will become discouraged from over serving, 2) one will become bitter because some others are not helping carry the load. Neither option is desirable, so we MUST balance the two examples (Mary and Martha). Thanks you Mr.Aust (M.Brown, GG-Calif)

 

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Categories:

Faith

Biblical Personalities

Christian Living

Personal Appearance

Joy

Relationships

Service

Love

The Bible

Appeared In:

Good News Magazine November – December 1999

 

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