Mary and Martha were two sisters who knew and loved their friend and teacher, Jesus. They lived with their brother Lazarus (who also loved the Lord dearly) in Bethany near Jerusalem.
Jesus came to visit them one time and Martha quickly started preparing food for Him.
Now it came to pass, as they went, that He entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard His word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to Him, and said, “Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me.”
And Jesus answered and said unto her, “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
Jesus said that the love of His Word is what is needful, it is the good part. He said Mary had chosen that good part and – oh what sweet words – ‘it shall not be taken away’ from her. This is a beautiful promise.
Jesus defended Mary’s devotion to His Word. He would not allow Martha to rob her of the prize. Jesus understood the Jewish cultural and social requirement to offer hospitality which was causing Martha’s anxiety and keeping her away from Him. And He knew her heart. It was unthinkable to Martha that her guest and special friend Jesus should not be fed with the best of her dishes. Her womanly role was to be a hostess, providing bountiful food and warm hospitality. Martha believed she couldn’t afford the time or luxury to sit and listen because there was just too much to do. When she needed help, Martha pointed at her sister. Frustration with Mary for not helping was a natural response when she was trying with all her own might and talents to give a worthy offering of works to the Saviour. Wasn’t she right to expect some help from her sister? Wasn’t it reasonable to point this out in order to provoke her sister to help?
Martha expected that Jesus would support her reasonable complaint. She thought that her urgent need for Mary’s hands should be obvious. In her stress Martha even assumed that Jesus must be unaware of her need and had not noticed her sister’s neglect.
Jesus did understand Martha’s drive to be busy but He praised Mary’s choice to focus on Him. Jesus sorrowfully admonished Martha for choosing to worry about the things of this world instead of drawing close to Him.
Oh, Martha, we may understand how she feels but may we never make the same mistake. May we never miss the opportunity to be in His Holy presence like she did. May Jesus find reason to defend us for always being preoccupied with His word. May He always find us worthy to wear a crown of devotion to Him. May Jesus give us the same precious promise as He gave to Mary – it will not be taken away from us.