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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, January 21 2021

Martha and Mary: Lessons from the two sisters

Martha's outlook on life was quite different from Mary's. Her words and actions depict her as practical and efficient, and there is nothing is wrong with that as long as it doesn't interfere with the more important things in life.

Martha and Mary: Lessons from the two sisters
Re-enactment of Jesus at Mary and Martha's home. Credit: www.LumoProject.com
by Jerold Aust

Mary and Martha were Jesus' good friends and earlier He had raised their brother, Lazarus from the dead (John 11:20-39).

The incident where Jesus condoned Mary’s approach, as opposed to Martha’s, is related by Luke: "She [Martha] had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus' feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, 'Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.' And Jesus answered and said to her, 'Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken from her' " (Luke 10:39-42).

Martha was probably trying to be the perfect hostess, but Jesus approved of Mary’s attitude and approach. What was the "good part" Mary chose and why will it remain hers forever?

To better understand Mary's actions, let's read the details in John's account of the same visit. "Then...Jesus [and the disciples] came to Bethany, where Lazarus was...whom He had raised from the dead. There they made Him a supper; and Martha served...Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil" (John 12:1-3).

Mary was so convicted and dedicated to Jesus and His teachings that no expense or personal act was too great for her to honour her Saviour. It is illuminating to contrast Mary's reverence with Martha's demeanour. Martha forthrightly infers Jesus didn't care whether Mary was helping her or not and tells Him directly “tell her to help me" (Luke 10:40).

Martha was fretting over something quite important to her: providing a meal for Jesus and His disciples. But how important was this compared with other priorities? Jesus explains Mary made a conscious decision between two alternatives: She chose listening to Jesus over preparation of a meal.

This perspective is the kind of approach God desires in all His disciples. The end result of this life is determined by the choices we make every day. Jesus said Mary chose "that good part" and tells us our highest priority in life should be to "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness . . ." (Matthew 6:33). He also gives us guidance in how to do that: "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God" (Luke 4:4; compare Deuteronomy 8:3).

Jesus reminded Martha her life was taken up with many secondary needs, but her greatest need was that she recognise what Mary acknowledged --- that the spiritual knowledge we accumulate in this life will be ours forever, and we must not allow physical needs and duties to consume us.

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