“The Very Different Sisters”
Now as they went on their way, he entered a village; and a woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving; and she went to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.”Luke 10:38-42
To Seek and To Save
The Very Different Sisters
After Jesus’ confrontation with the lawyer, Luke tells us that He went to the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. It’s evident that Jesus loved this family very much and they knew Him well. We see more of this close relationship later in the Gospel when Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. But here, Luke wants us to focus on the two sisters and their very different responses to His visit. As we look at these two sisters, we have to remember that Jesus had set His face to go to Jerusalem, where He was to suffer, be rejected, and die. Time was running out.
Mary sat with Jesus, at His feet, listening to Him talk. Martha played the host. If Luke had left his account here we might be thinking that Martha was doing what she should have been doing – making sure that everyone had food and drink during their visit – and Mary was shirking her responsibilities. But Luke doesn’t leave it here. He tells us that Martha was distracted by her serving. And so we ask: distracted from what? And the only answer is: from being with Jesus.
Martha was so frustrated that she approached Jesus in her frustration and demanded to know what He was going to do about it (this is another clue as to how close their relationship was, that she felt familiar enough with the Lord to scold Him!). “Don’t you care? Tell her!” And we read that Martha’s frustration was met by Jesus’ warm and gracious response, “Martha, Martha…” He knew that Martha was distracted; more, that she was anxious. She was playing host to Jesus. She had to make sure that everything was just so for Him and for His companions! Which was all well and good, but it entirely missed the point of His visit! Her distractedness kept her away from Him. This was the greater portion that Jesus mentioned – to be present with the Lord. Her anxiety had made her lose her focus on Him. Her service – doing things for Jesus – had taken the place of being with Him.
“Is today going to be a busy one? There is so much to do. Indeed, there is so much to do for Jesus. Read Paul’s words in Philippians 3:13-14, and remember that only “one thing is necessary” (Luke 10:42).”
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.Philippians 3:13-14