Verse 40, tell Mary to help me. In other words, shoo her back into the kitchen, which means she's got to see the need that I see, which means she's got to think like I do. Lord, why don't other people see that need like I see it? Why don't they think like I think? Why don't they help me like I'm helping you?
Why am I serving all of a sudden surrounded by, you know, carrots and cabbage alone? When Jesus visited the home of two sisters, they each demonstrated faithful but different acts of service toward him. As theologians and Christians have read the Gospel of Luke, many criticize Martha and commend Mary for their behavior. But the truth of the matter is much more complex. The reality is both sisters exhibited faithful devotion to Jesus, and both utilize their spiritual gifts, though through different expressions of love.
There's much more to be learned from both Mary and Martha today. Stephen will teach you more in this message called significant lessons from a surprising visitor. One little kindergartner was pretty bright kid for somebody so young. His Sunday school teacher was teaching them the account of Jesus visiting a home unexpectedly, and then she asked the children, now what would you do if Jesus came to your home? The little boy raised his hand and said, I'd put a Bible out on the coffee table.
Smart kid. We probably would too. Well, something like this actually happened in the record of Scripture. And I want to show you how two sisters responded and what we can learn from them both. So go back with me to the Gospel by Luke. We're finishing chapter 10 today, and we're now at verse 38. I want to break this encounter down into three scenes for us. We'll call the first scene the invitation. Now verse 38. Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village and a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. Now this phrase, as they went on their way, could be translated as they were traveling along. And what that means is this is an unannounced, unexpected detour.
No cell phones. There's no advance notice. Martha had no idea, nor did Mary, her sister. So Luke is just sort of setting the stage here for this unannounced visit. We're not told, by the way, if Jesus is traveling alone or if he has 72 disciples with him that have been sent out recently or just his 12 closest disciples. But the comment here by Luke that she welcomed him into her house, you need to understand it doesn't mean that the entourage has to wait out on the front lawn. No, this is official language by the matriarch. When she welcomes him, she welcomes everyone with him. She welcomes them all then into her house. We can piece together, Martha is single, living with her single sister and their brother Lazarus who is not mentioned in this visit. Mary, or Martha that is, seems to be the matriarch of the household. And here she immediately invites in the guest of honor, someone she already knows.
We're not sure how and when. She'll refer to him as Lord. She already believes who he is. And she'll call him that in a moment. So you need to understand that she readily opens the door.
Now that's remarkable. She sort of sees past, works through that immediate startled, oh no, look who's arrived. But still, she opens the door. And I want to pause here long enough to comment that Martha is all too often too quickly criticized for complaining to the Lord, as we'll see in a moment, when at least we ought to begin by commending her for opening the door and letting them in. She could have easily said, not a good time. Because she's immediately thinking of a million things, probably the food she doesn't have or she has to prepare.
How many heads are represented out there? She takes a quick count. She would have known whether or not the house was a mess, but she still put out the welcome mat. Now I want to also pause long enough to tell you that there's another misunderstanding here, especially those of us that have been believers a long time and you've read this passage and you kind of skip over everything and get to that complaint. Oh, can you believe she's complaining?
Well, just slow down a little. We miss, by being too quick to capture her complaint, we miss the context. We miss the contribution that she made and then we make the wrong application. One Protestant commentator I read gave his interpretation of this scene, which is to me the traditional typical scene or interpretation, that Mary was the one who represented, quote, the genuine believer. So we should model her. Well, does that mean that a genuine believer doesn't cook? How many women are going, yeah, I knew it. Thank you, Steven. It's my theme verse from here on out.
No. Does that mean a genuine believer never cleans or takes care of dinner guests and all the details behind the scenes? They just spend their time studying the Bible and sitting at the feet of Jesus, as it were, and praying. It's interesting if you connect this to what happened earlier in chapter 7 where Jesus was the invited guest in the home of the Pharisee. Jesus later on rebukes the Pharisee for inviting him into his home but not providing for the washing of his feet, not giving him the kiss of greeting, the introductions, all the treatment given to dinner guests because he knew the Pharisee was withholding all of that in order to insult him. This is everything Martha's doing because she loves him. It wasn't wrong to serve in the kitchen.
After all, somebody had to do it or they would have nothing to eat, and they will eat. The Lord, if we take a closer look, isn't really troubled by her service. He's troubled by her spirit and her priority.
So at the outset of this scene here, let's take another look. Let's not overlook the fact that out of love for the Lord, she's responding to the way she knows best, the way God has created her. Now let's look at verse 39. She had a sister called Mary who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. Now understand in these days to be seated at the feet of a respected rabbi or teacher is the official position taken by a student who is now prepared to learn. In fact, we're told, we're given the same expression where we're told over in Acts chapter 22 and verse 3 that Paul was too dirty, he was officially educated at the feet of Gamaliel, the brilliant attorney. So when you read this phrase that Mary is now sitting at Jesus' feet, that by implication means that Jesus is beginning to teach. A transition has occurred. This is no longer, you know, conversation over by the punch bowl, you know, Jesus is talking to Peter and, oh, I'm going to say a few things. Now this has moved now into a room somewhere. More than likely Jesus is sitting on a very typical divan, raised perhaps cross-legged and everyone sits around him which would have been that fashion and Mary is among them.
Now let me point out another thing. There's another misunderstanding in the typical treatment of this text in that Mary supposedly never helped Martha do anything. She was never in the kitchen to begin with. She was just, you know, so enraptured, so godly, so pure that as soon as Jesus showed up, she sat down at his feet, teach me.
That's not what happened. This transition finds Jesus moving from being welcomed, no doubt having his feet washed, greeted with kisses, introduced to the household though all is not named, everything that the Pharisee did not do and now he shifts into an official teaching rabbinical position. And we know that Mary had been helping because of what Martha is about to complain.
But let's not move there too quickly. Let's move into scene two. We'll call this the interruption and notice just the first phrase of verse 40, but now in contrast, Martha was distracted with much serving. Now again, people typically read this and say, yep, you know, she was wrong to be so busy for the Lord.
She's not going to be instructed by her action, but by her distraction, there's a difference. People say, well, you know, look at her. She shouldn't have been so busy serving the Lord.
Well, I think, really? If that's true, then we're all in trouble as soon as we start serving. For people in my position, Sunday is not a day of rest.
And it probably isn't for many of you. You've been serving, perhaps you just finished an hour of serving, there's more to do this afternoon or evening. The truth is the Lord commends us for serving. In fact, Ephesians 2 says, he created you for work, deeds that he has prepared beforehand. The apostle Paul told Titus to teach those believers on the island of Crete to be eagerly devoted to good works. Titus chapter 3 and verse 8. Over in Romans chapter 12 and verse 13, the apostle Paul told the Roman believers, in fact, he commanded them, practice hospitality.
Wash feet, clean your house, cook the meal, welcome the men, do that. It's interesting the word Luke uses here for Martha being distracted literally means to be dragged away, to be pulled along emotionally and mentally. Again, Martha's actions weren't wrong, her attitude was. Now, up until this point, based on her complaint that we'll see in a moment, Mary has been helping Martha, all those immediate needs of hospitality. Somewhere between chopping the cabbage, which was one of their staples, and cleaning the carrots, Martha becomes aware, Mary's gone. Where's Mary? Carrots sitting there, you know, maybe some cabbage, maybe something's burning, I have no idea. But she goes looking for her and she spots her, of all places, sitting down, sitting down.
That's too much. She literally walks over and interrupts the Lord's lecture. Again, get the idea, this is formal instruction of a rabbi. Martha comes in there and interrupts the lecture, just sort of stops everything, verse 40. And she went up to him and said, Lord, do you not care? Just draw a bracket around that phrase and ask yourself how often you've said that to the Lord. Lord, do you not care? Do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?
Tell her then to help me. In other words, she was working with me, she was helping me, and she left me to come over here and sit down and listen to you teach. And here's a very important element to this context that will help us understand this better. Bible scholars point out the timing chronologically, which is very helpful, has been to me. This is taking place either during the Jewish festival of booths or just preceding it. This is an annual time when life is supposed to become simplified. The faithful Jewish people would build little lean-tos out in their courtyards where they would spend their evenings, and they would be reflecting on God's amazing deliverance from Egypt. They'd been delivered.
They're to reflect on that and the provision that God has had given them as they wandered out outdoors. This was not the time for a traditional meal. That would be set aside.
This is, as one author pointed out, the time for a sandwich, not a feast with five courses. You see, but Martha is driven by her nature and temperament. We would call it today her firing, driven by that to do what? To put on a feast. That's what she does. She loves doing that for others that she cares about.
This is her default. She can't throttle it back to a sandwich, not for the king of the universe. We're not going to give him cheese and crackers.
During this festival week, a typical meal was simply fruit and vegetables. Whatever was quickly and easily made so they could reflect on their deliverance. There's another problem I think buried in this complaint that surfaces in our own lives today. Verse 40, tell Mary to help me. In other words, shoo her back into the kitchen. What is she really saying? She's suggesting that what Mary is doing is not as important as what I'm doing. She's implying that she ought to be serving like I'm serving, which means she's got to see the need that I see, which means she's got to think like I do.
Wherever it is in the world where you are passionate about serving, you see the need. Lord, why don't other people see that need like I see it? Why don't they think like I think?
Why don't they help me like I'm helping you? Why am I serving all of a sudden surrounded by carrots and cabbage alone? We are effectively complaining to the Lord with the spirit of Martha that he isn't making our brothers and sisters think like us and serve like us and see the need like us.
I appreciate the writing of Warren Wiersbe who in his commentary on this text said, God has made us with different personalities and gifts given to complement one another for service. I've used the illustration of imagining that we're all gathered in a nearby restaurant for soup after church. We're all there and we're all in line getting our bowl of soup and a lady up in the front of the line gets her bowl of soup and she's walking to her table, she stumbles into a chair, falls, the soup spills everywhere and there she sits on the floor in the puddle of soup. The person with the gift of mercy would immediately go over and sit down and get out her handkerchief and wipe off the soup and say, I'm so sorry this happened to you.
I'm just going to sit here with you and when you're ready to get up, I'll get up with you. The person with the gift of administration is ignoring the woman but assuming that if we had just set the chairs up a little differently and maybe organized the tables a little better, this wouldn't have happened so I'm going to fix that next time. The person with the gift of teaching would say, now everybody listen up, there are three reasons she tripped and fell and you need to write these down. The person with the gift of giving is going to stand there waiting for the woman to get back up because she's going to go over and give her her bowl of soup when she's ready. The person with the gift of helps isn't even around or going down the hallway looking for a mop and a bucket because they saw the fact that there's a mess that needs to be cleaned up.
God makes us see the need. The same event and respond differently but when the flesh governs the gift. The person with the gift of mercy is going to say, why am I the only one sitting down here caring about this person? That guy over there checking out the chair setup, he doesn't care about people. The person with the gift of giving is wondering why they don't ever get to eat any soup. They're always giving theirs away. The person with the gift of teaching is wondering why nobody's writing down what they're saying.
The person with the gift of helps is complaining all the way down the hallway that they're always the one getting the mop and cleaning up the mess. And what's lost? Joy. Serve the Lord with what? Gladness. There's a principle to learn here that our service can be quickly spoiled and it can spoil us by a wrong spirit. At that moment, this is Martha.
Lord, there's stuff to do. Make Mary see what I see and respond the same way. Now, the original construction of this phrase implies that she's going to get a positive response.
This is a rhetorical question. Lord, do you not care? And I know you do and so send Mary back into the kitchen. She's expecting him to say, you're right.
You're right. I hadn't thought about that, Martha. So Mary, would you go back and help her out? Instead, the Lord offers this.
Let's call this scene three and label it this, simply the instruction. Verse 41. But the Lord answered her, Martha, Martha, stop, doubling the name implies affectionate instruction. Use for emphasis.
He's not harsh. Jerusalem, Jerusalem. How I would love to gather you as a hen does her chicks. This is very tender, compassionate. Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things. The word for anxious here refers that Greek word to being worried about circumstances you can't change, that you can't control.
So it isn't just a meal here. This is a mindset. He's saying you're worried about many things that you can't change, but one thing is necessary. One thing matters more than many things. Now follow this.
Don't miss this. Martha's problem was focusing on something that didn't matter as much as something else. Jesus is not saying, Martha, everything you've been doing doesn't matter.
You shouldn't have been doing any of that. No, he's saying everything you've been doing is at this moment distracting you from something else you ought to take time here and now to do. Balance, work with worship. Again, the problem is not her activity. The problem is her priority. She reflects what we struggle with in our own lives. There will always, beloved, there will always be a thousand things that are good that pull you away from this one good thing.
Responsibilities overshadow our relationship with Christ. That's what she's demonstrating. It wasn't just about a meal she was cooking, as helpful as that was.
They're going to enjoy it. It was about a meal that Jesus was delivering for her. In fact, this is that tug of war we could call it. This is that tug of war we feel between sitting with Christ and serving Christ. Balancing responsibilities with that relationship. Dwight Pentecost in his commentary put it this way, struggling with being occupied for Christ and being occupied with Christ.
That balance. Jesus goes on in verse 42 to say, Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her. He's playing on words here. The word for portion is the same word used for a portion of food. So he's essentially saying she's chosen the best meal. Martha, you need to know that while you were focused on our meal, Mary was focused on a meal as well and that meal will take her through life. Don't overlook that meal as you work on this meal.
You need both. Now we're not told what happened next, but I can imagine after this tender instruction that Martha sits down next to her sister and receives this meal from the Lord. Did she learn? I'm sure it would be terribly embarrassing for her to have this record in the gospels and she may have lived long enough to read it, aghast, embarrassed.
But the Lord put it in there because we struggle the same way. Well, did she learn? Well, we do have a clue that she did. In fact, the last time Jesus visits their home also seems to be unannounced. This time we're told in John's gospel that there were 12 disciples with him and Lazarus is mentioned. So now you've got 16 people stuffed in that home for dinner.
And what happened? John writes, so they gave a dinner for him there, notice, and Martha served. Mary took a pound of expensive ointment and anointed the feet of Jesus. Martha is still Martha. Mary is still Mary. And they're both responding in their way out of love for the Lord. But this time, Martha offers not one word of complaint. The only one who complained in that situation was Judas. I close with a very brief four line poem written by Charles Wesley, the hymn writer, who studied this passage and came to the same conclusion. Faithful to my Lord's commands, I will choose the better part.
I'll serve with Martha's hands and listen to Mary's heart. Stephen called today's lesson significant lessons from a surprising visitor. It's the final lesson in a series called Into the Spotlight. We've posted them to our website. When you visit wisdomonline.org and navigate to our sermon library, look for the Gospel of Luke. You'll find all of these messages there. I'll also mention that we sometimes have to edit these messages to fit in a radio broadcast. But on the website, we're able to bring you the full length version of Stephen's message. Again, you'll find that at wisdomonline.org. Join us next time for more wisdom for the heart. Thank you.
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