Dear Student of the Word,
It's time once again to visit our devotional Bible study of Luke's gospel. This week, we focus on Jesus' teaching on prayer, but we also encounter the well-known and often-taught on story of Mary and Martha. I offer a slightly different take on that story, which is included in part four below of this seven-part study, all of which can be downloaded below:
Study Seventeen, Part Four
38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" 41 "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
10:38 – This is the well-known story of Martha and Mary, sisters of Lazarus whom Jesus later raised from the dead. It seems that Martha was the elder sister, or at least it was “her home” and she was “in charge.”
10:39 – Jesus must have begun to teach while He was in the house, for Mary sat at his feet, taking in everything He said. That isn’t a bad place to be—at the feet of Jesus, listening to His word. Perhaps you would do well to follow Mary’s example today and sit at his feet to learn and be encouraged.
10:40 – Since Martha had extended the invitation, she was responsible for hospitality. She felt a sense of duty to provide food not only for Jesus, but also for His traveling companions. It bothered her that Mary had abandoned her, and Martha was offended that Jesus was allowing that to happen! So Martha gave Jesus a piece of her mind! She accused Him of not caring and of endorsing Mary’s seeming irresponsibility. Martha then ordered Jesus to order Mary to come help her in the preparations!
There is a deeper issue here than just Martha being busy and Mary choosing to sit at Jesus’ feet. In Jesus’ day, women were not part of the spiritual community. They were second-class members of the covenant community. I think Mary chose to be a disciple of Jesus and that angered Martha because Mary (and Jesus indirectly) were expressing the freedom of women to be Jesus’ disciples. I have watched some women come into their ministry and their greatest opposition can come from women who think they shouldn’t be in ministry. Martha was trying to force Mary to do what was “proper” for women to do—run a household and handle food preparations.
10:41 – Jesus said that Martha was “worried and upset.” Oh my, how often I have been in the same condition. When working on this section of Luke’s study, I was in Zambia and I was “worried and upset.” I was doing some ministry consulting here, and a large group was supposed to come to have their personality profiles done. But the group was too big and the profiles I had were defective. Therefore, I worried and thought about how I could possibly handle this group. To make a long story short, the group never came! I realized then that I have spent much of my adult life “worried and upset” over many things that never even happen! That makes it easy for me to identify with Martha. Are you “worried and upset” about anything today? Then why not choose Mary’s path and just sit at Jesus’ feet?
10:42 – Jesus said that Mary chose the better thing and that was to focus on God and not on the circumstances. She had chosen to reject the traditional view of women and instead became a disciple of Jesus, not just His servant. Jesus saw this as the better choice and refused Martha’s petition to order Mary back into her “place” in the home. Every woman who reads this story should stand up and applaud not only Mary, who was among the first to reject the cultural norm to follow God, but also applaud Jesus who allowed it to happen and then endorsed it. Every man reading this story should ask whether or not he has given the women in his life freedom to sit at Jesus’ feet.
As always, I welcome your comments to this week's study. For additional Bible studies, check out my website archive, which contains a complete collection of all my verse-by-verse New Testament studies, along with the daily devotional entitled A Daily Taste of Proverbs. Thank you and I hope you continue to enjoy this study of Luke's gospel from God's word.