“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “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” (Luke 10:41, 42 NIV).
Friend To Friend
Mary and Martha lived in a home with their brother, Lazarus, in the small Judean village of Bethany. Bethany was two miles east of the temple in Jerusalem, on the east slope of the Mount of Olives – the final station on the road from Jericho to Jerusalem. The name, Bethany, meant “house of dates and figs,” the perfect place to stop for refreshment. Mary and Martha’s home served as a safe haven and quiet retreat for Jesus as he traveled from place to place.
Mary and Martha were busy in the kitchen making dinner for their honored guest and his friends. “Mary, check on the roasting lamb,” Martha calls among the clattering of the pots and pans. “And where’s the wine? The bread must be kneaded in fifteen minutes. There’s just so much to do!”
“I’ll take a bowl of fresh dates into the guests,” Mary said. “That will give them something to nibble on while we finish the preparations.”
As Mary entered the room, she heard Jesus talking about the kingdom of God, the plan of redemption, the fulfillment of prophecy, the forgiveness of sins, and eternal life.
“Do not judge and you will not be judged,” Jesus taught. “Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and it will be given to you.”
“The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden,” he continued. “It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches.”
Jesus noticed Mary standing in the doorway and motioned for her to enter. Looking directly at her, he continued, “The kingdom of God is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.”
Jesus continued teaching about who he was, and what he came to do. Mesmerized by the Rabbi’s words, Mary sank to the floor and sat right at the Master’s feet with the others. The men shifted uncomfortably in their places, but Jesus lowered his eyes and began speaking directly to Mary – his newest student.
The disciples waited for Jesus to send Mary back into the kitchen where she belonged, but He didn’t. They were confused when Jesus welcomed her into the classroom, but tried their best not to become distracted by her presence. After all, women were not allowed to sit and learn from a Rabbi’s teaching. They weren’t even allowed to join men in such a gathering at all.
Twenty minutes passed when Martha huffed, “Where is that girl?”
Martha angrily stomped into the gathering room with mixing bowl in hand. All eyes turned toward the frustrated sister as she interrupted Jesus and pointed her wooden spoon in Mary’s direction.
“Lord,” she began sternly, “can’t you see that Mary has left me all alone in the kitchen? What does she think she’s doing? Don’t you care that I have to do all this work by myself while my irresponsible sister is out here lollygagging about with the men. Why she’s not even supposed to be out here at all. It isn’t proper for a woman to join a room full of men, much less sit at a rabbi’s feet while he’s teaching. Put her in her place! Tell her to get back in the kitchen this instant!”
The men turned their head from Jesus to the red-faced Martha and back to Jesus again.
“Martha, Martha,” Jesus replied, “don’t get so worked up. Mary is right where she needs to be. You are so worried, bothered, and distracted with the details of living that you miss the joys of life. You don’t need to work so hard to create a feast for us. That’s not even important. What is important is that I am here and I have something to share with you. Mary has figured that out. She has chosen what is important and I am not going to send her away. She has joined the classroom to learn – to become a disciple of God’s Word – and I am not going to take that away from her.
Martha put her flour-covered hand on her hip, spun around on her heels, and marched back into the kitchen. “Well, I never,” she mumbled as she stomped away.
Dear LORD, I have a smile on my face as I think about Martha all steamed up in the kitchen. Thank you for the courage of Mary of Bethany to enter your classroom and sit at Your feet with the other disciples. Thank You for swinging the doors wide open for women to become disciples or students of the Word and followers of Jesus Christ.
In Jesus’ Name,
Now It’s Your Turn
I hope you enjoyed my retelling of the story of Martha steamed up in the kitchen. We must never forget that these were real women who had real encounters with Jesus – encounters that changed their lives forever.
Have you ever entered a place of worship or study and felt somewhat or totally out of place?
What do you think the disciples thought when Jesus allowed a woman to join them while He taught?
Do you think this was a gutsy move for Mary?
Do you think they were surprised when Jesus didn’t send her back into the kitchen?
Is God calling you to make a gutsy move for Him today? If so, I’d love to hear about it. Click on and share your story. We’d love to pray for you as you move forward!
More From The Girlfriends
Today’s devotion was taken from Sharon’s new book, What God Really Thinks about Women: Finding Your Significance through the Women Jesus Encountered. We tend to read the gospels with our twenty-first century eyes. But when we understand how oppressive the culture Jesus stepped into was against women, we begin to understand just how radical Jesus’ ministry, messages, and miracles were at setting women free. He risked His reputation to save theirs…and yours.