home speaking schedule bookstore contact

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Martha and Mary Part 1

          Martha means “Lady of the house.” Mary means “wise woman.” Martha and Mary lived up to their names as we will see in this teaching. Mary sought the wisdom and truth of Jesus, and Martha ran the show! She was indeed the lady of the house. They lived in Bethany, a small village within walking distance to Jerusalem via the Mount of Olives. Bethany on the Mount of Olives was the place where Jesus ascended to the Father. It means "house of affliction." Jesus on the cross made the house of affliction a house of blessing, love and resurrection life. Bethany is also where Mary anointed Jesus' feet with her fragrant perfume (oil), and where Jesus resurrected Lazarus. Bethany is on a fault line that will split the Mount of Olives when Jesus sets His feet upon it at His second coming.  Mount Olives will become the place of separation.   But here, the Mount of Olives will be the place of resurrection life.
         Jesus stopped at Martha, Mary and Lazarus' home often. They were friends. The Bible says that Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus. They also loved Jesus. Jesus loved Mary, Martha and Lazarus so much that He risked going close to His enemies in Jerusalem who were plotting to kill Him to visit them. Love, care and concern motivated Him.
          Martha saw or heard that Jesus was coming so she was preparing for His coming. The Bible tells us that Christ's Bride is to be prepared for His second coming also. In the parable of the ten virgins, five were prepared and ready for the bridegroom, but five were not. At the end of Revelation, it says, “His bride has made herself ready.” 19:7 In the Older Testament, Esther had to be prepared to go before the king. The Body of Christ must be prepared as a Bride ready to meet her King.
        Both Martha and Mary were excited that Jesus came to their house. Martha excitedly was preparing a meal for Jesus and His disciples. In biblical times, Rabbis would travel with their students (disciples) who followed them from village to village. A Rabbi was an honorable position in biblical times, and to have a rabbi and his disciples in your home was an honor.  People would gladly open up their homes to them. These rabbis and their disciples came unannounced. No one knew when they would come. Martha was doing what was expected of women in those days. She was preparing a meal for Jesus and His disciples. Martha was doing what was right in the eyes of man and the custom of the day, but Mary was doing what was right in the eyes of God! She was learning of Him and worshiping Him.  In biblical times, only the men were taught the scriptures and followed rabbis.  But Mary went against the traditions of the day and sat at the feet of Jesus with the rest of the disciples to learn of Him.  Mary hungered and thirsted for more of Jesus and His Word.
          Martha had quite a burden.  There was much to do to feed the guests. Jesus would have probably been satisfied with a piece of fish and some bread, but Martha wanted to put together a large banquet. Martha had placed such high expectations upon herself that she was burdened and overwhelmed by them. She must kill the lamb, prepare it and cook it. The bread must be made and baked. Vegetables and fruits must be gathered, cleaned and prepared. The table must be set for these honored guests. So much to do. So little time! Martha wanted to make sure everything was perfect for these honored guests. It is commendable that Martha wanted to give her very best, but this was her own doing not something Jesus called her to do, so she was burdened and somewhat angry that her sister Mary wasn't helping her. Martha will soon find out that Jesus was more concerned with feeding than being fed.
           Martha would have been commended by men, but Jesus did just the opposite. He commended Mary and gently corrected Martha! Jesus who is spiritual is the opposite of the natural. Martha was preparing physical food to feed their physical bodies, but Jesus was serving the spiritual food of His Word to feed their eternal spirits. In this particular situation, Jesus will turn social and religious mindsets up-side-down!
          Martha wanted to serve Jesus but Mary wanted to listen to His wise words and learn of Him. Mary stepped out of the traditional role of women in those days and sat at the feet of Jesus like the men did. Jesus even ignored the tradition and encouraged Mary to learn of Him. Both Martha and Mary showed their love for Jesus in different ways. Jesus didn't say that Martha's role of serving was unimportant. He was merely teaching that being a disciple of Him was more important. Mary was so wrapped up in Jesus and His Word that she wasn't concerned about what Martha was doing. But Martha was concerned about what Mary was doing. Martha heaped a heavy burden upon herself. This was Martha's own need, not one that Jesus required even though He will enjoy her banquet. Jesus said in John 4:34, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work.” Physical food was not Jesus' focus.
           Mary was resting at the feet of Jesus learning of Him. Jesus is pleased when we spend time in His Word and learn of Him. Learning about Jesus through His Word and His life is far more valuable to our Christian walk than any custom demands society can place upon us. To be filled with Jesus and His powerful Word and Spirit will equip us for Godly service like nothing else! Laboring for Christ is good, but we must be careful not to put it before growing in the knowledge of Christ. We must find our life in His life. Then we will serve Him with His and the Father's heart. True service comes from adhering to the Truth, loving and abiding in Jesus at all times. Unless our work is grounded in Jesus, it will become overwhelming and a burden.
           In her dilemma, Martha came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me.” Luke 10:40
          Don't you care? Of course Jesus cares. No doubt Martha is thinking, “Where's Mary? How come she isn't here helping me?” She even commands Jesus to tell Mary to help her! Martha thought Jesus would be on her side. Jesus who is all-knowing knew Martha's heart and how she was feeling. He didn't use condemnation or judgment but gently corrected Martha. Jesus will use this circumstance to teach Martha also. Martha and Mary were at different levels of their walk with Jesus.
          Mary said nothing. Mary had an attitude of worship but Martha had an attitude! Mary let Jesus defend her just as she did when Judas criticized her for pouring her expensive perfume on Jesus' feet. Jesus is our defender. Jesus illustrated this in His own life when He remained silent before His accusers just before His crucifixion. If what we do for Jesus is from our heart and not to impress others, we have no need to defend ourselves. Jesus not only defended Mary's choice, he commended her for it. Jesus honored Mary for pouring her expensive perfume on His feet. “Wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” Mark 14:9 Mary's sacrificial gift to Jesus lives on eternally, as the righteous acts of the saints (believers) live on eternally. (see Revelation 19:8)
           Jesus responds, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.” Mary has chosen the better part, and it will not be taken away from her.” When God or Jesus uses a person's name twice, it means that He is about to say something that is important and will affect them spiritually. The voice of God said “Moses, Moses” when He was about to reveal who He was to Moses in the burning bush in Exodus 3:4. God was going to give revelation knowledge to Moses about who He is, and give Moses direction. He did the same to Samuel in 1 Samuel 3:10 when He pronounced judgment upon Eli's house. Jesus also did this with Simon in Luke 22:31 and Saul in Acts 9:4.
             Each time Mary is mentioned in the Bible, she is at the feet of Jesus. Here in Luke 10:39; in John 11:32 when she fell at His feet to share her sorrow over the death of her brother Lazarus, and in John 12:3 when she poured out her expensive perfume on His feet. Sitting at the feet of a Rabbi is the place of love, humility, honor, submission to authority and respect. Mary ate up Jesus' Word and drank of His Spirit. She loved and worshiped Jesus in Spirit and in Truth. We must first go to the Master's feet in loving submission and humility, then we can serve Him.
            Martha was preparing physical food, but Mary was receiving spiritual food from Jesus. What Jesus was serving was eternal which is why Jesus said that Mary had the “better part and it couldn't be taken away from her.” Mary was sitting at Jesus' feet because she wanted to “know” Jesus in a close and intimate way. Mary had her priorities right. Mary took advantage of the freedom which is in Christ. She was not bound by the rules of the Law or men. Christ didn't tell her to leave or not sit at His feet because tradition said she was excluded. Christ also knew Mary's heart and her hunger and thirst for the knowledge of Him and an intimate relationship with Him. What Mary received from Jesus, the Eternal Word, was eternal and couldn't be taken from her. Once we know and understand His Word and then do it, the Word is established in us and cannot be taken away. Only the Word of God in us and the righteous acts we have done for His Kingdom will remain eternally. All of the rest will be burnt up as wood, hay and stubble. This should encourage us to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.
          Jesus said in Matthew 11:29, “Learn of Me.” Mary was doing just that! Mary knew that listening to Jesus is far more important than anything else she could choose. Jesus said that Mary “chose” the better part. This was Mary's free will and choice. Mary also must have known that service comes from a Christ-centered life. Service cannot produce a Christ-centered life. The Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit produces a Christ-centered life, then we will serve with His ways and heart. We must first “know” Him, and then we can serve Him reflecting His words, actions and deeds.
            Mary stayed close to Jesus. She was “seeking first the Kingdom of God.....” Mary hungered and thirsted after the spiritual food of Jesus' Word. She was the one who poured her expensive, precious ointment on Jesus' feet and wiped His feet with her hair. (John 12:3) Mary had listened and understood His words about dying and being raised again. Jesus had just told His disciples that He must lay down His life and take it up again. Mary wanted to use her very best oil to anoint Jesus for His death and burial. Mary knew that Jesus would die and be resurrected. After all, she had seen her brother Lazarus resurrected from the dead by Jesus and His powerful Word. Jesus had given Mary revelation knowledge and an understanding of His Word. The Bible says that the fragrance of her great sacrifice filled the house. Christ's laying down His life on the cross – the greatest sacrifice ever given – is a sweet fragrance to the Father. The fragrance of our sacrifices for Christ are also a sweet fragrance to the Lord and fills His House. As Jesus was being whipped and beaten, the sweet smell of Mary's anointing oil permeated the air. Her sacrifice was lasting.
           The Apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:3-11, “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the Law, but that which is through faith. I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him to His death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” The most important thing to Paul was also knowing Christ, gaining Christ and sharing in His sufferings and becoming like Him in His death so He could attain to the resurrection life that is in Christ. Paul knew that he had not yet taken hold of it, but he was going to press on toward the goal and win the prize for which God has called him which was heavenward in Christ Jesus.
           Martha and Mary together symbolize the Church. Martha was preparing for His coming and Mary was sitting at His feet seeking His wisdom and learning of Him. It is the Church (Bride of Christ) where we learn the Word so we know Jesus in a close and abiding way, and also serve Him and others to prepare for His coming. Martha was the “lady of the house” because she took charge of the servants and preparation of food. Mary was a “wise woman” because she had a hunger and passion for truth and sought the wisdom of Jesus. Jesus doesn't want us to put the cart before the horse. We must first learn of Jesus through His Word and then serve Him with His and the Father's heart. In the parable of the ten virgins, Jesus is teaching us that we must be prepared for His coming (Martha). And in Matthew 11:29, Jesus said, “learn of Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Mary)
           Both Martha and Mary were women of faith, but Mary chose the better part. Mary drank in His Wisdom and His love and was strengthened by it. Martha got so caught up with temporal things that she missed out on the spiritual. It is important that we don't make that same mistake. Service is the outward manifestation of a changed heart. The Word of God that gives us the knowledge of who Jesus truly is should be learned first; then we will serve with a new heart and a new spirit that reflects the heart of our precious Savior and Lord Jesus.
         Jesus did not treat women like second-class citizens. He embraced them, taught them, revealed truth to them, healed them and loved them no more or no less than any other. He treated them equally with men.

                                           COMPARISON OF MARTHA AND MARY

                 Martha was serving                                   Mary was sitting (resting) 
                 Martha was worrying                                 Mary was worshiping
                 Martha was hurrying                                  Mary was hearing
                 Martha was busy with the work                 Mary was listening to the Word
                 Martha was troubled about many things   Mary was focused on one thing—Jesus/Word
                 Martha was laboring                                   Mary was learning and loving
                 Martha was busy and bothered                  Mary was blessed
                 Martha was overwhelmed                          Mary was an overcomer
                 Martha was occupied with serving             Mary was occupied with the Savior

             Jesus didn't change Martha or Mary's strengths and gifts. Mary will continue to seek the truth and a closer walk with Jesus and so will Martha. Mary will no doubt be a teacher of the Word, and Martha will continue to serve because she has a servant's heart and the gift of hospitality. Jesus was teaching both Martha and Mary to put Him first, learn of Him and serve using their individual spiritual gifts, and trusting that Jesus will lead and guide them as they submit to His authority and Word.

                               (Next week:  Martha and Mary and Lazarus' death and resurrection)

No comments:

Post a Comment