Women Jesus Commended

Martha and Mary received Jesus into their house Luke 10:38-42

The way the story reads, Jesus happened to be in town, so Martha—who appears to have been in charge, possibly as the oldest sister—may not have been ready for such a large party.

Pulling a meal together in ancient times took quite a bit of effort and coordination—just think about what it would take today, with all our modern conveniences! Evidently, Martha’s sister Mary wasn’t the least bit interested in all the preparations that were distracting Martha so. Mary just wanted to be with Jesus, receive His teaching, maybe even just take in His presence, listen to His voice, watch His beloved face.

You probably have heard plenty of teaching on Martha and Mary. What I want to look at is their relationship with each other, and with Jesus. Both loved Jesus. Both pulled out the stops for Him. Neither one of them had any complaint about His just dropping in unannounced, and with a big entourage of disciples. In fact, they both seem delighted to throw open the doors of their home to Him. They were a well-to-do family, owning their own home and having a private family tomb.  Some think it’s possible that Lazarus was the rich young ruler who later did return to Jesus. 

Mary seemed to be more sensitive, emotional, and relationship oriented, whereas Martha seemed to be more like the older sister, practical-minded, a take-charge kind of person.  One sister wanted to feed Jesus’ body, and the other wanted to feed His soul. One wanted to make sure He had everything He needed, the other wanted to affirm Him in Who He was.

Both gifts were beautiful, and both gifts were needed. We know Jesus and His disciples often were hungry, seldom got rest, and Jesus even talked about how they regularly had nowhere to rest their heads—in other words, they slept outside in the rough. Martha’s invitation to come into her home, eat, rest, have a place to stay, was a rich and wonderful gift.

Mary’s gift was different. So few people really listened to Jesus, let alone believed Him. Even His own disciples did not listen that well; their hearts were sometimes hardened (Mark 6:52). Jesus talked about the people’s calloused hearts, not listening, not understanding (Matt 13:15), about the religious leaders—who should have been among Jesus’ most ardent supporters—having hard hearts (Mark 10:5). The apostle John said this about Jesus, “But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people.” Yet Jesus was entrusting Himself to Mary.

Mary loved Jesus with all her mind. She listened deeply to His teaching, and she took everything He said to heart.

But Martha couldn’t see that what Mary was giving Jesus was as worthy as what Martha was trying to do for Jesus. Martha was trying to make her sister do what Martha thought was the better work, the “right” work. Martha couldn’t see her sister for who she really was; and Martha’s sense of injury for herself was real. She felt overworked, underappreciated and even unnoticed by the Lord. Jesus intended for Martha to become aware of her sister, and of the value of what Mary chose to give to the Lord, and to receive from Him.

There are two more stories about Mary and Martha, recorded in John's Gospel. We'll look at those two stories in the next two posts.

All passages taken from the New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.