In the New Testament gospels, several mentions are made of Lazarus and his sisters, Martha and Mary. This family was close to Jesus and it appears that he was a frequent guest in their home. From various passages, it seems as though Martha had the gift of hospitality. On more than one occasion, she is described as serving. No doubt, this task would have been expected of Martha, given her position in the household and in society in general. From the gospels, we get the impression that she is practical, organized, and responsible. She understands her duties and diligently rolls up her sleeves to get the job done. Martha doesn’t have time for nonsense or dilly-dally. When there is work to do, she takes her responsibilities very seriously.
Martha’s sister Mary, on the other hand, is sensitive and emotional. She feels deeply, and responds to people with genuine heart-felt affection and care. She is easily moved to tears. Mary connects with people on a personal level in a way that is not intuitive to Martha.
When our story opens, Jesus and his disciples have stopped by the home of Lazarus and his sisters.
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. Luke 10:38, NIV
Martha welcomes them in, counts the number of people who need to eat and goes to the kitchen to get supper started. Will she have enough food to feed everyone? What about wine? Are there clean dishes, pots, and pans? Oh, and what about seating? “Mary, can you make sure there are sufficient cushions available for all the guests?” “Mary?” Martha discovers that Mary is nowhere to be found. Not in the kitchen anyway. Martha leaves the kitchen in search of her sister and finds Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus. This sight disturbs her to no end, so she confronts Jesus with her concerns.
She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 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!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:39-42, NIV
Jesus gently rebukes Martha, reminding her of what is important. While she’s frazzled about plates that don’t match, having to serve store-bought rolls or realizing that the floors are not as clean as they could be, Mary is listening attentively to the words of Christ.
At the end of the day, the fellowship is more important than the food.
It is interesting to note that a second dinner mentioned in the gospel of John, also shows Martha serving, but this time, there is no mention of her complaining about the division of work.
Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. John 12:1-3, NIV
Perhaps by now, Martha is not as distracted. She still serves, but maybe now she is less concerned about the non-essentials and more focused on spending quality time with her guests. Perhaps by now, she understands that her own ministry of hospitality may not be shared by her sister. Perhaps by now, she recognizes the importance of Mary’s role in the anointing of Jesus prior to his death.
God gifts each one of us with skills to complete certain works that only we can do. When we wander away from our own assignments to be concerned about what God has given someone else to do, then we cannot complete the good works that he’s equipped us to do.
Martha’s story was one of distraction, but God’s provision was one of focus.
Join me tomorrow for a story involving one hot pursuit, two walls of water, and a provision of conveyance!
If you’ve missed any part of this series, you can find all of the posts in the side bar category 31 Days of God’s Provision.
On the journey toward Home,