~ by Randy Bushey
…but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her (Luke 10:42).
In the Gospels, there are several women – followers of Jesus – who are named Mary. Two are identified by their hometown: Mary Magdalene (of the town Magdala) and Mary of Bethany.
Bethany was a small town on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives about 3 km to the east of Jerusalem. Mary’s home – in which she lived with her siblings, Martha and Lazarus – appears to have been a favourite place for Jesus and His disciples to stay when in the Holy City.
These three siblings were all significant disciples of Christ.
Mary is the only woman in the Gospels to be twice commended by the Lord (Luke 10:42 and Matthew 26:12,13.)
Martha uttered one of the most profound and accurate summations of Jesus’ identity when she declared, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world (John 11:27).
Lazarus was one of 3 individuals raised by Jesus from the dead. Although prominent in Gospel narrative, Lazarus is never recorded as speaking.
Jesus and His entourage would have created attention wherever He went. But the hospitality burden – in a culture that placed a high premium on attending to the needs of visitors – would have been immense when they arrived in Bethany.
And, feeling the strain of the significant weight of preparing a meal for Jesus and His disciples, Martha senses a tinge of victimization. After all, she’s carrying more than her fair share of the load.
Many tasks are demanding attention. The time is short.
In his historical narrative, Luke records her frustration: 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!” (v.40).
The response of the Lord Jesus – as always – is worth lingering over.
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41,42).
1) the repetition of Martha’s name – that feature occurs about 15 times in Scripture (including God’s call of “Moses, Moses” in Exodus 3:4; David’s lament, “O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son” in 2 Samuel 19:4; the voice on the road to Damascus: “Saul, Saul” in Acts 9:4; the anguished cry from the Cross, “My God, My God” in Matthew 27:46).
Name repetition was an ancient Hebrew oral device to demonstrate great intimacy. Jesus’ repetition of Martha’s name indicated His empathetic, affectionate concern.
2) Martha was serving Jesus and His hungry troupe. But her heart and attitude were not in the right place. [Y]ou are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Martha had allowed the stress of service to rob her of the joy of discipleship.
3) Mary – sitting at the Master’s feet in a posture of humble adoration and learning –has chosen what is better.
Takeaway: This brief incident serves as a lens of self-analysis for me. How often have I been Martha, thinking I was busily serving, but ignoring what is better?
True, authentic, faithful service to the Lord Jesus must always be enacted on a foundation of humble discipleship and reverent worship.
Discipleship first. Service after.
To invert that structure is to disappoint the Master.
~graphic by Kaan Tanriover, freeimages.com