“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.'”
– Luke 10:38-40 [ESV]
Luke, the historian, is the first to introduce these sisters to the reading audience. Later, Lazarus accompanies them, whom Jesus would raise from the dead in the gospel of John. Finally, in John’s gospel, after the raising of Lazarus, Mary anoints the feet of Jesus with a costly ointment, thereby becoming tied to His atonement on the cross. Through these accounts, we witness a fondness and affinity for this family, and in this verse lies the beginnings of their relationship. It’s not evident from Scripture if Martha had prior knowledge of Jesus or had a previous encounter with Him. She was, possibly, moved by the stories uttered of His miraculous works, authoritative preaching, and prophet-like rebukes of Israel. Being thus moved, it likely fell on her heart to invite Jesus into her home, recognizing His stature as a man of God and needing rest from His journeyings. Maybe, she believed in Him as the Son of God and felt obligated to serve Him and his disciples. Whatever prompted her to invite Jesus into her home, she did, and in doing so, she provided us with a lesson.
First, we should commend Martha for inviting Jesus in the first place. I say this because we have a picture of Jesus in the Revelation to the Apostle John of His knocking on a door, waiting for entry. Martha doesn’t allow Jesus to knock but instead welcomes Him into her home and, consequently, her life. This is very courageous of her to invite God into her life, into her abode, where He can see the real Martha. Indeed this is bold because many don’t freely ask themselves to be transparent before the Lord, but she does, apparently without hesitation. Considering how in our present day, people still reject Jesus even though He’s more popular now than when He walked the streets of Galilee. So again, I applaud Martha for gladly receiving Jesus into her life and home due to the many that would deny Christ’s admission into their lives.
Nevertheless, I must say something about Martha because though she gives Jesus entrance into her home, she ignores His influence. Yes, she displays generosity in diligently serving her guests, but her priorities reveal themselves as she would rather be busy than be still and know He is God. Of course, she may have felt that she was doing the Lord a favor and possibly had an air of pride waiting on the Master, but it remains to be stated: she invited Him in only to ignore Him. I started with the commendation of Martha because she isn’t a Judas. She neither betrays the Lord’s confidence nor tries to manipulate Christ for personal gain. She loves and believes in Him, yet she denies Him the opportunity to spread His influence into her heart.
How many of us are similar? We busy ourselves with church services and other ecclesiastical activities but deny Christ the personal communion He’d happily enjoy. The Lord takes notice of this as He gently rebukes the vigorous activity that only serves to distract her and, in the end, holds no lasting value. Her housekeeping was temporary; His words are eternal. Therefore, on the other hand, He compliments Mary’s ability to recognize His words’ infinite value and weight as she exercises choice not to be interrupted away from their impression. As Christians, we’ve opened our hearts to Christ; let us also give Him the benefit of priority and not deny His impact on our lives.