Welcoming Jesus, Part 2Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”
In yesterday’s reflection on this passage, I noted how Martha welcomed Jesus into her home. Then, while Jesus was teaching, Martha bustled about, making a special dinner for Jesus and his entourage. As she worked, her sister, Mary, sat among those who were listening to Jesus. Martha began to resent the fact that she was doing all the work, so she said to Jesus, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me” (10:40).
Jesus responded to Martha with a gentle word of admonishment: “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her” (10:41-42). I’ve heard plenty of Bible teachers excoriate Martha, missing the tenderness of Jesus’ words. Plus, we must remember that it was culturally expected for Mary to help her sister prepare the meal. Plus, many rabbis in the time of Jesus considered it wrong to teach women. So, Martha’s frustration was understandable.
But, in this case, Jesus clearly flouted cultural assumptions about the proper role of women. Mary was right to devote herself to Jesus’ teaching. She chose the “one thing worth being concerned about” (in Greek, “the one thing needed” and “the better part”). Jesus was not rejecting the value of hospitality. But he was showing that Martha’s busyness in the kitchen was not as important as Mary’s devotion to the teaching of Jesus.
Welcoming Jesus, therefore, is not simply a matter of inviting him into our lives. And it involves more than doing good things for Jesus. Once we have said “yes” to him, putting our faith in him as Lord and Savior, we continue to welcome Jesus by our devotion to his teaching. This means, not only that we care about the contents of the Gospels, but also that we pay attention to the whole of the Scripture.
Many Christians I know are active in doing good works. They usher in church and feed the poor in Jesus’ name. They teach Sunday School and go on mission trips. Such activity is right and good, to be sure. But, the story of Martha and Mary reminds us of the priority of learning the truth of Jesus. We mustn’t be so busy with good works that we neglect learning at the feet of the Master.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Do you tend to be more oriented to doing things for Jesus (like Martha) or to learning from Jesus (like Mary)? Do you think your life shows a healthy balance between activism and education? If Jesus were to speak to you as he once spoke to Martha, what might he say?
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, thank you for this wonderful story in Luke. Thank you for including Mary among your students, for showing that women as well as men are to be those who learn your Word.
Thank you for your gentle word of admonishment to Martha. You didn’t shame her. But rather you understood her and reached out to redirect her. Indeed, you implicitly encouraged her to join Mary in listening to you.
Help me, Lord, to be more like Mary. I can get so wrapped up in doing good things for you that I can neglect sitting at your feet. May I prioritize learning from you, so that my mind and heart might be shaped like your own mind and heart.
I offer this prayer in your gracious name. Amen.