For centuries together, the Bible Story of Martha and Mary has long perplexed Christians of all denominations. Perhaps one of the most misinterpreted stories in the Bible, a much deeper analysis of the tale leads us to the importance of setting priorities in life, and why Mary wins hands down in choosing her focus right, i.e. “Devotion to the Messiah and His Wisdom.”
Mary’s approach to
Jesus’ visit has been an intriguing topic of discussion among theologians. Her
attitude has many times been distorted as one that borders on callousness and
It is nevertheless
thought-provoking to see that Jesus does not reproach Mary for her disinterest
in helping her sister Martha. This further intensifies our misunderstanding to
story of Martha and Mary
The Gospel of Luke, chapter 10 unfolds before us the captivating scene of Martha, inviting Jesus and His disciples to her house. Being the gracious host that she is, Martha takes matters into her own hands and hurries into the kitchen to attend to the preparations for a banquet to be spread out for the guests. The lady means business and shows determination and devotion to put her culinary skills to the best use when the Rabbi is home.
Martha from a safe distance;bustling around like a tornado, making a whirlwind
of preparations in a jiffy, attending to the cooking, baking, clearing, cleansing,
and spreading of the entire table, “all alone”, but with so much finesse and
Quite curiously, her fervour gradually turns to disdain, irritation, and
one of total reproach towards her sister. She falters, fumbles and flares intermittently,
quite given to muttering under her breath, as and when she takes a quick,
stealthy glance at the engrossing discourse happening in the hall.She directs
her diabolic glare straight at Mary, her sister, who quite unaware of the volcano
bubbling within Martha, is peacefully listening with deep intent to what Jesus has
Martha, we get it!
Many of us have been in such unfair situations. Frustrated, disappointed, and distracted, we complain and totally lose it at some point!
While we admire Martha’s hospitality and
service- ‘spiritual gifts’ in itself, how many of us would remain peaceful and
unperturbed if we are in Martha’s goody two shoes?
Naturally, Martha would have expected her
sister Mary to follow suit, to help her in her mundane activities. But, to her
utter exasperation, she sees Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to
the Rabbi in all her earnestness; soaking Him in all His glory! Martha is at
her wit’s end, worrying about all the cooking and arrangements that she has to make
Martha’s defiance can be summed up by the way
she marches up to Jesus and declares with such audacity:-
do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell
her then to help me.”
Martha fair enough in asking the Lord for some help?
Jesus calmly listening to her. Being the highest authority in the room, Jesus
could have condemned Martha for showing the courage to complain to him, and
could have reacted with supremacy and put her in the right place. Martha could very
well have been expecting Jesus to support her in her bemoaning, and scold Mary
for her negligence towards her sister.
However, to her disbelief,
the Lord answered thus-
“Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things;there is need of only one
thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from
our Master’s response perplex us as well?
What does Mary and Martha
We see Martha and Mary as two strong
individuals with totally different priorities in their lives.
Being a Jewish woman, and having no independent stance of her own, Martha was doing what was best expected from the women of her times-being a submissive and gracious hostess, and taking the guests who have come visiting, under her capable wings.
However, Martha also comes across as amazingly
courageous, fearless,impulsive and straightforward for a woman of Jewish
origin. She runs ahead and invites a man into her house without a second
thought. That too, a man who was not in the good books of the town authorities;
a man who had the proverbial “Sword of Damocles hanging
over his head.” Her reputation could
have been at stake. She did not care a dime!
Martha teaches us a few remarkable lessons,
good as well as bad, that are worth applying in our lives till the end of times
Be courageous enough
to run to the highest authority (JESUS) for guidance and
protection, when you are faced with rejection, discontentment and distraction.
Jesus did not rebuke
Mary for her attentive ear and lack of hospitality. However, through Martha, He
also reminds us in no uncertain terms, that hospitality and service are spiritual
gifts and must be shared and practiced, “without grumbling.’’
“Share with the Lord’s people
who are in need. Practice hospitality.” Romans 12:13
“Offer hospitality to one
another without grumbling.” 1 Peter 4:9
contempt and dissatisfaction. Whatever you do for the Lord, do it with
happiness, total surrender, peace,and without complaining; with full dedication
and no distraction.
Count on Jesus as your best friend to whom you can take all your worries and problems without
fearing His reaction to your disputes. The Lord knows how best He can put you
back on the right track, as gently as possible.
We see that Martha was daring and unflinching to take her
dissatisfaction towards her sister straight to the Messiah-her friend. It takes
a lot of courage to take your grievances and criticism to someone who is so
pure, powerful and authoritative. She is bold and daring and does not even ask
him if it is right for Mary to neglect her, but declares to Him, “Tell her then to help me.”
Martha shows us how to approach the Lord without any fear of
rejection. This is the kind of
closeness that we should have with Jesus. A closeness that warrants all kinds
of discussions without fear or reproach about the outcome.
Jesus waits for us to run to Him with our
Contrary to Martha’s temperament, Mary comes across as deeply dedicated, and devoted to Jesus. She does not have any qualms in showing her priority in her life, despite being rebuked by her sister for not helping her. She is courageous in her own terms, putting herself in the line of fire to be criticized by the entire community for taking the role of a man, i.e. engaging in discourse with the Rabbi, and shirking her responsibility as a woman.
Mary is unconcerned about what people think about her. She
anoints Jesus with expensive perfumes without thinking about the aftermath of
such an act in full public view.
While we do not get a profound insight into the character of
Mary, she throws some very deep and delightful cues along our way so that we
know what priorities to focus on in our lives.
Put Jesus above all priorities in life and everything else will
be set straight in its due course.
‘Love’ for the Lord is
the only focus we need in life to tackle all anxieties and distress.
As long as we have the
right person (JESUS) beside us, and do the
right thing (listening to the word of God) in our life, we are in safe hands!
Mary reminds us to-“But seek first the kingdom
of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”Mathew 6:33
Mary also tells us that we must have pure, unconditional
devotion to Jesus, no matter what circumstances and trials we have to face for
publicly declaring our love and affection for Jesus.
Mary is placed a notch higher in terms of devotion than Jesus’ disciples who
betrayed Him to save themselves from getting into trouble. Mary sits at His feet for
comfort when she is overcome with grief. Once
she has chosen her focus, she is unconcerned about what others would think and comment.
This is the kind of focus that the Lord demands
from us. Unconditional focus, devoid of any fear of criticism, outcomes, or
rejection from society.“Mary
has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”
My dear brothers and
sisters, would you drop all your focuses in life and set Jesus as your priority
like Mary? Mary demonstrates to us in simple terms that Jesus can solve all our
Where does your
attention linger on? As the well known adage points out – “We
get what we focus on”, let us take an effort to put our mind’s focus back
on Jesus. All we need in life is His grace, and the pieces of the puzzle fall
back in perfect order.
Sometimes, we are
taken for a merry ride when we focus our attention on things materialistic and
worldly. We fall into a deep chasm, and grope in the darkness, trying to stay
afloat, and achieve fame and accolades that give us instantaneous, momentary
pleasures at the most. We are distracted like Martha!
If you want to know
where your heart is, look to where your mind wanders when it is idle. Does your
mind wander towards things materialistic? Does it turn to people, places, and
specific things? If yes, then we need to realign our mind, gather our ball
bearings, and adjust our focus back to the Lord.
of Martha and Mary
While Martha is in no way wrong in tending to her duties as a hostess,
we must understand the importance of choosing the right priority at the right
time. At the time of Jesus’ visit, listening to the Rabbi should have been her
greatest priority, and Mary chose the perfect focus.She demonstrated her love,
devotion and worship towards the Lord by being in perfect attendance and
reverence in His presence.Mary
perfectly understood the scripture:-
“It is written, ‘Man shall not
live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’” Luke 4:4
We must assume that Martha was also invited by Jesus to listen to Him. However, being in control of the house, Martha could have been worried about the hospitality part and would have scurried off to make the necessary arrangements. She might have even asked her sister to accompany her. Martha appears to be practical, nurturing and gracious. Like the Apostle Peter, she is impulsive and short-tempered too.
Mary on the other hand is
deeply spiritual, and focused on her cause- Jesus. Like the Apostle John, Mary is loving and calm.
Nothing changes her focus from the Messiah, not even her sister’s accusations,
or her reputation, which was in danger of being tarnished.
We all have rudiments of Martha and Mary in our lives. Jesus loved both
the sisters deeply, even with all their imperfections. It is just a matter of
what priority that we set in our lives that balances out our imperfections.
Are we Martha or Mary? I will leave you with this resonating query to ponder
May the good Lord bless and direct you to your ‘Solid Focus’ in life.