comparison between Mary and Martha has been a topic of sermons and lessons for
many years. The differences are really not either-or, but both-and.
Luk 10:38-42 NASB
Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named
Martha welcomed Him into her home. (39) She
had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord's feet, listening to His
word. (40) But Martha was distracted with all
her preparations; and she came up to Him
and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the
serving alone? Then tell her to help me." (41)
But the Lord answered and said to her, "Martha,
Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; (42) but only one thing is
necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away
pleasant as hospitality is today, we must remember that in the ancient world it
was much more important.
was considered a sacred obligation. The concept of a hotel, or
restaurant, was little known in the ancient world. The most common
example they would give for that was a house of prostitution. An inn was
often not much more. Therefore decent people sought out a home in which
to stay the night. They would plant themselves in the town square and
wait for someone to take them in for the night. (One suspects that news
from afar paid the bill).
most ancient of the patriarchs, Abraham, had set this as an example –
while entertaining angels without knowing it at first.
The thought that you too might be entertaining angels made for good
hospitality. Besides, don’t you always throw a party for visitors from
was socially expected, almost to the point of being a “right” of a
traveler. When Christ sent out the seventy, He did not say “if you find a
house” but “whatever house you enter.”
what about Martha? There are three verbs in this passage which tell us
is distracted – other translations use such words as encumbered, worried,
upset or pulled away. That last is a very insightful
translation. The Greek word used is composed of two other Greek
words. One is the root of our word perimeter; the other means
“to pull.” Taken together, they mean “pulled away from the center.”
That’s instructive; for Christ is the center, and Martha is being
pulled away from him by the chores of hospitality.
is also worried. This word is used in several other places in
the New Testament, with both positive and negative emphasis: It’s the
word used for “take no thought for the morrow”, but also that we are to
“take care” of each other in the church. You get the idea. It’s not just
having cares or problems; it’s the mental load that this
carries. It you’re going to carry such a load, do so for God’s
then tells Mary that she is bothered (the NIV has “upset.”) This
word carries with it a meaning of a noisy commotion. It’s not too
much of a stretch to think that there are things boiling over on the
supremacy of Christ
key to understanding Martha in this passage may be found in the fact that she tells
Christ to have Mary help. We often get the idea that listening to the speaker
(teachers love this) is better than working in the kitchen. That, I submit, is
not the problem at all. This rebuke entirely turns on the fact that Mary is
listening, face to face, to Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the Living God. It’s
not what Mary could be doing – it’s Who she’s listening to. His presence
overrides the law of hospitality.
Joh 11:1-44 NASB
Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her
sister Martha. (2) It was the Mary who
anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose
brother Lazarus was sick. (3) So the sisters
sent word to Him, saying, "Lord,
behold, he whom You love is sick." (4)
But when Jesus heard this, He said, "This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory
of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it." (5) Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and
Lazarus. (6) So when He heard that he was
sick, He then stayed two days longer in
the place where He was. (7) Then after this
He *said to the disciples, "Let us go to Judea
again." (8) The disciples *said
to Him, "Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone You, and are You
going there again?" (9) Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks
in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. (10) "But if
anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him." (11) This He said, and after that He *said to
them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I
go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep." (12) The disciples then said to Him, "Lord, if
he has fallen asleep, he will recover." (13)
Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that He was speaking of
literal sleep. (14) So Jesus then said to
them plainly, "Lazarus is dead, (15) and I am glad for your
sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to
him." (16) Therefore Thomas, who
is called Didymus, said to his fellow
disciples, "Let us also go, so that we may die with Him." (17) So when Jesus came, He found that he had
already been in the tomb four days. (18) Now
Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off; (19)
and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary, to console them concerning their brother. (20)
Martha therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went to meet Him, but
Mary stayed at the house. (21) Martha then
said to Jesus, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have
died. (22) "Even now I know that
whatever You ask of God, God will give You." (23)
Jesus *said to her, "Your brother will rise
again." (24) Martha *said to Him,
"I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last
day." (25) Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in
Me will live even if he dies, (26) and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do
you believe this?" (27) She *said
to Him, "Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of
God, even He who comes into the
world." (28) When she had said this, she
went away and called Mary her sister, saying secretly, "The Teacher is
here and is calling for you." (29) And
when she heard it, she *got up quickly and was coming to Him. (30) Now Jesus had not yet come into the village,
but was still in the place where Martha met Him. (31)
Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and consoling her, when they saw
that Mary got up quickly and went out, they followed her, supposing that she
was going to the tomb to weep there. (32)
Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet,
saying to Him, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have
died." (33) When Jesus therefore saw her
weeping, and the Jews who came with her also
weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled, (34) and said, "Where
have you laid him?" They *said to Him, "Lord, come and
see." (35) Jesus wept. (36) So the Jews were saying, "See how He loved
him!" (37) But some of them said,
"Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this
man also from dying?" (38) So Jesus,
again being deeply moved within, *came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a
stone was lying against it. (39) Jesus *said,
"Remove the stone." Martha, the sister
of the deceased, *said to Him, "Lord, by this time there will be a stench,
for he has been dead four days." (40) Jesus *said to her, "Did
I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?" (41) So they removed the stone. Then Jesus
raised His eyes, and said, "Father, I thank You
that You have heard Me. (42) "I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the
people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent
Me." (43) When He had said these
things, He cried out with a loud voice, "Lazarus,
come forth." (44) The man who had
died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped
around with a cloth. Jesus *said to them, "Unbind
him, and let him go."
first salient fact in this narrative is this: Mary stayed home. We see the results
is comforted by her friends, but is without comfort from Jesus.
actually has to call her to His side; she’s not moving.
reproaches Jesus for not being there. Unlike Martha, however, her
statements stops with the reproach.
has been rewarded for her faith before. She now relies upon it alone. Perhaps
she was feeling spiritual that day.
meets the Christ
on the other hand, knows she’d better be doing something. Perhaps she learned
from her rebuke; I suspect that she was just the kind of person who was always
doing something. See her reward:
has only friends; Martha obtains comfort from the Lord Himself. He
quickly reminds her that death is not final.
too says, “If only…” but follows it with “yet even now…”. Action must
have its roots in faith, but those who do the faith grow stronger for it.
shows us why: there is nothing wrong with her understanding of Who He is
– now. She makes the great confession.
out your own salvation
reversal of roles seems to us to be contradictory in some ways. But that is
the nature of the faith. At one and the same time we say, “faith alone,” and
then say “faith without works is dead.” Paul combines the two for us this way:
Php 2:12-13 NASB
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence
only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and
trembling; (13) for it is God who is at work
in you, both to will and to work for His
Joh 12:1-8 NASB
Jesus, therefore, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus
was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. (2)
So they made Him a supper there, and Martha was serving; but Lazarus was one of
those reclining at the table with Him. (3)
Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the
feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with
the fragrance of the perfume. (4) But Judas
Iscariot, one of His disciples, who was intending to betray Him, *said, (5) "Why was this perfume not sold for three
hundred denarii and given to poor people?"
(6) Now he said this, not because he was
concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money
box, he used to pilfer what was put into it. (7)
Therefore Jesus said, "Let her alone, so that she
may keep it for the day of My burial. (8) "For you always have the poor with you, but you do
not always have Me."
is worth noting that Martha raises no objections – this time. Perhaps she has
thought it through; perhaps she has seen that Mary must be Mary and Martha
remain Martha. Here is Mary’s hour; she is worshiping her Lord with complete
for the moment, the word “pure.” In the Greek that is pistici, which
comes from the same root word used for “faith.” That’s the kind of worship she
is giving to Christ: pure.
also a “no holds barred” worship. Note that the act itself immediately
provokes negative feedback – from Judas in particular, but (from Mark’s
account) the other disciples as well.
seen it before. Think about your last worship service – particularly in song.
Eyes closed, hands in the air, singing with all their strength. Maybe they’re
not musicians, perhaps even tone-deaf, but their Lord is getting all of the
best they have and are.
the widow’s two small coins? That’s devotional giving.
world sees it as a waste. Why would you do that?
always possible to give less, or not at all. Social pressure, if
anything, says “don’t be extravagant.”
giver sees it as costly – but worth it.
shows the same thing here. It’s a waste, it’s extravagant – it is a gift to
the Lord. The heart broken before Jesus sees the perfume broken as the obvious
you practice sacrificial worship long enough, you will soon find yourself in
sacrificial living. It is a life style that puts Christ first:
poor are always with us – and are the special concern of the Christian.
If you live for Christ, holding to His forgiveness, it is natural to pass
that forgiveness (and blessing) on.
gift is something that really is a sacrifice; you would not offer a gift
to God (for such are your gifts to the poor) that costs you nothing.
challenged, you know what the standard is for living and dying – the