Summary: The account of Martha and Mary teaches us about the priority of the word of God in the life of every believer.
After his ministry in Galilee, which lasted about two years, Jesus “set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51). On his journey to Jerusalem, Jesus taught his disciples many lessons. We learn about one of those lessons in the account of Martha and Mary in Luke 10:38-42.
Let’s read about Martha and Mary in Luke 10:38-42:
38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)
In an article titled, “Tis the Season to Be ‘Mary,’” author Mayo Mathers writes:
Here’s something about Christmas that brings out the “Martha” in me. I enjoy hosting buffets and entertaining guests. I love shopping for gifts and wrapping packages. And, like Martha, I also get frazzled in the process.
Last year, our holiday plans were in full swing when I attended our church’s annual Christmas pageant. As I sat in the candlelit sanctuary absentmindedly listening to the peaceful strains of “Silent Night,” I wrestled mentally with a list of things to be done. When the congregation stood to sing carols, my lips moved unconsciously to the words while my brain mulled over various menus for our annual Christmas Eve buffet.
As in every Christmas pageant, the usual parade of bathrobe-draped children marched down the center aisle. A pseudo-weary Mary and Joseph shook their heads in dismay as the innkeeper turned them away. Having watched so many similar renditions of the Christmas story, it had become commonplace to me.
Realizing this, I felt a stab of guilt and bowed my head. Father, I prayed, let me see the story through your eyes tonight.
The young girl portraying Mary began to sing a lullaby to the child in her arms. Her voice was so pure, so full of love and awe, that I stared at her, transfixed, my distracted musings forgotten. Suddenly, it was as if the congregation had disappeared, as if I had been transported back in time to the actual stable in Bethlehem.
As I listened to her song, wonder and immense gratitude settled upon me. Into my heart God whispered, If ever there was a time to worship me, it’s now! This season is about me only, but each year you crowd me out with the inconsequential!
Mathers concludes her article with these insightful words, “Beautiful, delicious dinners are nice. ‘Just right’ gifts are delightful. But I’m learning that only one thing really matters: while I tend to be more like Martha, at Christmas, ‘tis the season to be ‘Mary!’”
Jesus’ interaction with Martha and Mary teaches us the priority of listening to Jesus, not just at Christmas, but always.
The analysis of the account of Martha and Mary in Luke 10:38-42 teaches us about the priority of the word of God in the life of every believer.
Let’s use the following outline:
1. The Setting: Martha and Mary Host Jesus (10:38-40a)
2. Martha’s Request: Make Mary Help (10:40b)
3. Jesus’ Response: Make the Right Choice (10:41-42)
I. The Setting: Martha and Mary Host Jesus (10:38-40a)
First, let’s look at the setting: Martha and Mary host Jesus.
Luke said that as they, that is, Jesus and his disciples, went on their way to Jerusalem, Jesus entered a village (10:38a). Though Luke did not name the village Jesus entered, John told us that it was Bethany, where Martha and Mary and their brother Lazarus lived (John 11:1; 12:1-3). According to John 11:18, Bethany “was near Jerusalem, about two miles off.”
And a woman named Martha welcomed Jesus into her house (10:38b). Apparently, Martha owned the home, and Jesus seems to have been a frequent visitor.
Luke did not say whether Jesus sent disciples ahead of him (as he often did) to tell Martha of his imminent arrival or if he just arrived unannounced. Regardless, Martha jumped into action to serve Jesus. She put Paul’s later teaching into practice, “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality” (Romans 12:13). She had the gift of hospitality and used it “to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10).
Martha was committed to serving Jesus well. She tidied, cleaned, cooked, hosted, and served him and the others in her home. While she was hustling and bustling, Jesus was teaching a group of attentive listeners.