Mary & Martha: A New Perspective

In Luke 10, we read the story of Jesus in the home of two sisters, Martha and Mary.  As Jesus was visiting Martha’s house, she was scurrying all around, cooking, and keeping house.  The scripture says she was “distracted with much serving.”


This was the expected role for a first-century Jewish woman.  It was her responsibility to make guests feel comfortable and safe.  However, this responsibility felt too heavy a burden for Martha, and in her frustration, she lashed out at Jesus.  “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?  Tell her to help me!”


While Martha was busying herself with endless household tasks, the scripture says that Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to his teaching.  While Martha was busying herself with an endless list of chores, Mary was still, attentive, and present to Jesus.


Jesus didn’t respond to Martha’s irritation by putting Mary to work.  Instead, he revealed the anxiety in Martha’s heart, and told her that Mary was doing the exact right thing.



If you’ve been in any women’s ministry gatherings before, I’m guessing you’ve heard this story. I’m also guessing the takeaway sounded a bit like this:


“Be a Mary, not a Martha. As women, we’re so busy with our work.  We’re so busy taking care of our families and checking things off of our to-do list.  But we need to find time to be still.  We need to sit quietly at Jesus’ feet.”


Or maybe the takeaway went something like this:


“As women of God, we can have the spirit of a Mary, even when we’re busting through our Martha tasks.  Because we can invite Jesus in and ask him to be present as we work.”


These action steps aren’t wrong.

There will always be work we can’t avoid.

We do need to spend intentional, quiet time with Jesus.

Today though, I’d like to offer you a different perspective on Mary’s story.


When Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, she was all but saying,

“I will not do what the world expects me to.  This man is my teacher, and I AM HIS DISCIPLE.”


In Jesus’ time, Mary was expected to keep house and extend hospitality to her guests.  She was meant to be cooking, refilling beverages, and ensuring everyone had a place to sit.


Do you know where she wasn’t expected to be?


At Jesus’ feet. 


That was a disciple’s place.  Every Jewish teacher had disciples back in Jesus’ time.  A disciple, literally a learner, was meant to spend years studying under a rabbi, learning to interpret the Torah, and apply it in righteous living.  By sitting, and listening to Jesus, Mary was placing herself shoulder to shoulder with Jesus’ disciples.


Her posture was saying, “Yes, I am a woman, but Jesus is MY teacher.  Think what you want, complain if you want, but I will choose to learn, and live, and be transformed by him.”  And Jesus blessed Mary.  Scripture says that Jesus responded to Martha’s complaint by saying, “Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken from her.”


Sister in Christ, you too are welcome at his feet!  Not just as a brief respite from your work, or as a way to hype yourself up for whatever the day demands.  You are welcome at his feet because you are welcome as his disciple.  Shoulder to shoulder with everyone else.


He wants you to learn his ways, and live in his presence, and be completely transformed by his word.  This is the good portion, as Jesus says.  Don’t let anyone take it away from you.

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