As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 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 10:38-42 (NIV)
Personality tests consistently peg me as the extroverted, relational, “never met a stranger”, kind of girl. Which clearly explains why I love a good party! Not the meal planning, preparation part… but the “bring me ALL the people” part. As the youngest of five children, family gatherings at our house are never small. In fact, these days, when you include extended family we could be looking at a gathering of thirty plus. #heaven. And although the food is good and all, my consistent thought is; “get me out of this kitchen and to the couch so I can enjoy my people.”
This wiring has given me great opportunities to build relationships but it has also caused some conflict. Conflict because inevitably there is always work to do in the kitchen and if I am on the couch someone else is usually working double time to cover for me. That someone is usually my responsible older sister Eileen. She is wired differently than me. Not easily distracted, focused and organized. As the oldest child, she’s the first one to start thinking about and planning for the next event. She knows what needs to be done and her servant’s heart keeps her focused on the task at hand.
I see a lot of us in Luke’s account of Mary and Martha. In Luke 10 we find a similar scenario. Martha has opened their home to serve Jesus and his disciples and she is consumed with all the work that needs to be done. Meanwhile – sister Mary sits on the proverbial couch listening to Jesus’ every word. When Martha goes to Jesus with her frustration (which is an awesome place to take frustration btw.) Jesus does not give her the reaction she was hoping for. Jesus tells Martha; “Martha, Martha, 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.”
I don’t know about you but I get mixed feelings from that. I kind of feel bad for Martha but at the same time, I am so happy for Mary. Now, I hope when you read this story you don’t respond like I did at first and think Martha = bad and Mary = good. Don’t miss that Martha had opened her home to Jesus and his disciples. With so much to do it was natural for her to expect her sister to pitch in. It’s important to recognize that Jesus didn’t tell her what she was doing was the wrong thing He just said that Mary chose what was better.
This glimpse into Mary’s priorities and Jesus’ response, simply reminds me that it’s better to sit at His feet than to be distracted by all the things that we think need to be accomplished. Mary made the choice to sit before Jesus and Jesus defended that choice.
You are my defender and protector, I put my hope in you Oh God.
And this wasn’t the last time Mary would find herself at Jesus’ feet. In John 11 we read the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. It’s been four days since her brother has been in the tomb, Mary is in the throes of grief with a team of mourners surrounding her and she gets word that Jesus is asking for her. As soon as Mary lays eyes on Jesus she falls at his feet (v.32) proclaiming; “If you had been here my brother would not have died.”
Did you catch that? There is is no hint of hesitation or doubt, Mary is confident that the very presence of Jesus would have prevented her brother’s death. Yet, her reaction is not one of anger or questioning – she doesn’t blame him for being late or ask Him if he cares. She just remains at His feet speaking faith in her grief and Jesus responds by doing more than she could have asked or imagined.
You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,
And THIS wasn’t the last time that Mary would find herself at Jesus’ feet either. In our third and final mention of Mary of Bethany, immediately following the account in John 10 we find ourselves six days before Passover. Six days before the Last Supper. The week before Jesus is crucified. The week before He is laid in a tomb just like Lazarus.
John 11 opens with a dinner. Jesus is the guest, Lazarus is reclining at the table with Jesus, Martha is serving a meal. Mary enters the room; a pint of pure nard in her hand. (Nard is an imported and refined perfume of great cost.) She pours it on Jesus’ feet as she wipes his feet with her hair. “…And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.”
The fragrance of sacrifice for sacrifice. Mary held in her hand a gift of great monetary value and abandoned its wealth to anoint the feet of the One who would pay the price of her redemption in full.
The Lord is your mighty defender, perfect and just in all his ways;
Your God is faithful and true; he does what is right and fair.
Now that I think about it, maybe there is a lot more of Martha in me than Mary. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I do like to sit but it’s not always with Jesus. And I’d much rather be on the couch than in the kitchen but that doesn’t mean I’m focused on the right thing. If I’m being honest I have a long way to go to be as focused and faithful as Mary of Bethany but I sure am grateful for her story and her testimony because she inspires me to choose the better thing.
Oh, Father! You are our defender and our comfort. You are good and gracious and I cannot begin to put words to my gratitude for the price Jesus paid on the cross for my sins. Thank you for Mary’s example of what it looks like to love Jesus as He loves me. Help me keep focused on the better thing. Help me not to be distracted by the things that I “think” are important and to keep myself humbly at the feet of Jesus. And so let it be! Love you!
Wait! Before you close out this window on your computer I have a challenge for you. Are you up for it? Good! Open up an email and type a letter to Jesus. Think about what you would say if you were sitting at His feet. Tell him what has you distracted or worried and just imagine yourself on the floor, eyes fixed on His. Write it down and lay it down. Then, if you’re feeling really brave, do it again tomorrow, and the next day and the next. After a few weeks, I bet you’ll find yourself more like Mary…Focused and Faithful and humbly at His feet.
Today’s post was written by Nora Elkins.
Nora is married 31 years to her first love, Scott. They have raised four children into adulthood and are now enjoying the reward of professional grandparenting. Nora can be found living the real-life version of “Fuller House” in her four generation household – where her 96-year-old dad is the favorite playmate of her precious grandkids. She is a “maker” at heart and loves creating personalized gifts – whether it’s for her shop on Etsy or special orders from friends. She also enjoys coloring in her bible and documenting her faith through journaling and bible study. You can find her serving at our Longwood campus where she practices the spiritual gift of warm hugs and happy smiles and if you’re lucky you may even catch her dancing to the music in the parking lot before service.