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Taking Mary Moments in a Martha World

mary and martha

mary and martha

The interaction between Jesus, Mary and Martha is one of the best-known passages in the New Testament. Luke took every opportunity to highlight and elevate the roles of women in his gospel, and this week’s passage is another wonderful example.

That a woman is portrayed in such a positive light – as one worthy of sitting at the Master’s feet as a student – is profoundly significant in the context of first century culture where women were often regarded as unworthy of receiving such instruction.

This story shows that grace has no boundaries. Instruction in the ways of the Lord should be open to all. Jesus treated women with respect as disciples of equal standing with the men in his team.

This passage is also a key discipleship text in highlighting the trap of judging others whose ways differ from our own.

Mary showed wisdom in seeking time with Jesus – an ardent student hungry for his teaching. In contrast, Martha was consumed with her subjective assessment that her particular chosen duties were more important.

It seems that time with the Lord in prayer and reflection is the first casualty in a busy life. Healthy discipleship requires a balance between service and study with reflection. Service at the expense of reflection quickly becomes self-serving. A time to work and a time to listen.


For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. [Ecclesiastes 3:1 NRSV]

Amos 8:1-12 [NRSV] The Basket of Fruit

1 This is what the Lord God showed me—a basket of summer fruit. 2He said, ‘Amos, what do you see?’ And I said, ‘A basket of summer fruit.’ Then the Lord said to me, ‘The end has come upon my people Israel; I will never again pass them by. 3The songs of the temple shall become wailings on that day,’ says the Lord God; ‘the dead bodies shall be many, cast out in every place. Be silent!’ 4 Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land, 5saying, ‘When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain; and the Sabbath, so that we may offer wheat for sale? We will make the ephah small and the shekel great, and practise deceit with false balances, 6buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and selling the sweepings of the wheat.’ 7The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Surely I will never forget any of their deeds. 8Shall not the land tremble on this account, and everyone mourn who lives in it, and all of it rise like the Nile, and be tossed about and sink again, like the Nile of Egypt? 9On that day, says the Lord God, I will make the sun go down at noon, and darken the earth in broad daylight. 10I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; I will bring sackcloth on all loins, and baldness on every head; I will make it like the mourning for an only son, and the end of it like a bitter day. 11The time is surely coming, says the Lord God, when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. 12They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it.


Luke 10:38-42 [NRSV]   

38Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” 41But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”