People Who Were There
Message #7 in a series on New Testament Personalities

Mary and Martha

Read: Luke 10:38-42; (John 11:1-45; John 12:1-8)

Text: Luke 10:41-42 (KJV) And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

Theme: Our service to Christ is only as good as our communion with Him which precedes it.


Lester Roloff did not preach from outlines, I'm told. He did not even decide what to preach before getting to the platform. He would listen to the singing and worship at the start of the service, and pray. If nothing came to him by the time he was to preach, he would instruct the song-leader to sing some more, until the message came to him. Then, he would preach with power. History records many were saved under his ministry.

I have personally known pastors (myself included, sometimes), who spend the time prior to delivering a message in reviewing (over and over) their materials. I have also known men like Rev. Sam Caudill (formerly a missionary to Mexico), who spend the time prior to delivering their message in a room, alone, on their knees before God, and then emerge from that room to preach like Elijah.

QUESTION - Which is right? Should we concentrate on service and preparation, or should be concentrate on communion and prayer? Which is right?

ANSWER - Both are needed ingredients.

Mary and Martha teach us the wonderful truth that our service for Chirst is only as good as our communion with Him. You cannot serve Him acceptable without first communing with Him, and if you are communing with Him, it will lead to acceptable service.

Let's learn the lesson of Mary and Martha:

I. Martha

QUESTION - What do we know about Martha from these verses? Was she saved? (cf. John 11:27) What word characterized her life? (SERVE/SERVICE/SERVANT) Do you think she pleased or displeased the Lord?

A. Martha was given to hospitality (vs. 38)
1. She opened her home.

2. She prepared. (vs. 40)

3. Later we see her serving again. (John 12:2)

4. Hospitality is a trait that is commended in scripture:

Rom 12:13 (KJV) Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.

1 Tim 3:2 (KJV) A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;

1 Tim 5:10 (KJV) Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints' feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work.

Heb 13:2 (KJV) Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

1 Pet 4:9 (KJV) Use hospitality one to another without grudging.

QUESTION - What, then, was wrong with Martha's actions?

B. Martha was too busy serving to listen to Jesus.
1. In her concern for the tasks at hand, she lost sight of who was in the room, and what he was saying.

QUESTION - What do you suppose Jesus was talking about? (He was now about 6 months from the crucifixion.)

QUESTION - How important is "what Jesus has to say" (i.e. the Word of God) to us today? Should anything ever take precedence?

2. In her distraction, she lost concern for her sister's welfare.

QUESTION - What did Mary need most? Would she receive it if Martha got her way?

QUESTION - How does this translate to us today?

QUOTE - "Many of us, like Martha, are activists who believe devotion to Christ is directly proportional to busyness. We involve ourselves in church activities to the point of distraction; then we become critical of those who are less involved. We even ask God to deepen their spirituality and increase their loyalty." Robert E. Wenger

QUESTION - Do you see yourself in that quote?

3. Her problem may have actually been caused by not sitting at Jesus feet in the first place!

- Maybe Jesus didn't want a big meal, but rather a time of fellowship. (NOTE - Some commentators / translators say the "one thing' in vs. 42 refers to the size of the meal that he wanted.)

- Martha may have begun DOING before she asked what was WANTED.

QUESTION - Have you ever been quilty of that?

ILLUS. My tendency in sermon / lesson preparation is to read the relevant passage, and then begin immediately to think of outlines.

4. Her SERVICE was commendable, but her ATTITUDE in serving was wrong.

- She was guilty of "stinkin thinkin."

- Thompson Chain Reference Bible lists 7 attitudes that should be part of the Christian life:

LYING DOWN for spiritual rest - Psalm 23:2

SITTING for instruction - Luke 10:39

STANDING for warfare - Eph. 6:14

WALKING for fellowship - 1 John 1:7

RUNNING for progress - Heb. 12:1

LEAPING for joy - Acts 3:8

MOUNTING UP for worship - Isa 40:31

- We need to learn to get our attitude right, our heart right BEFORE we serve.

- ... but then, we should serve!

NOTICE John 12:2 - Do you think she learned? She was still serving.

Psa 2:11 (KJV) Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.

1 Cor 15:58 (KJV) Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

C. Jesus did not rebuke her service, for he desires our service.
1. He said the way to be great is to serve.

Mark 10:43-44 (KJV) But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.

2. He demonstrated it and commanded us to do it.

John 13:14 (KJV) If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet.

3. He said it demonstrates love to him.

John 21:16 (KJV) He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

4. It was the reason He came!

Mat 20:28 (KJV) Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

II. Mary

QUESTION - What do we know about Mary from these verses? Was she saved? What one word characterized her? (WORSHIP / ADORATION) What action do we see her taking everytime she is mentiond in scripture? (Placing herself at Jesus' feet - cf. vs. 39; John 11:32; 12:3)

A. Mary knew WHERE she should be - at the feet of Jesus.
QUESTION - How do we emulate this?
B. Mary knew WHAT she should do.
1. Hear his words (Luke 10:39)

2. Go to Him in times of need (John 11:32)

3. Worship Him openly and extravagantly. (John 12:3)

QUESTION - How can we ensure that we are adequately doing these things?

C. Mary knew how to ignore distractions.
CONSIDER - Martha surely had complained to Mary many times before she got upset enough to approach Jesus about it, yet Mary could say no to her.

CONSIDER - Her actions in John 12 brought disapproval from the crowd. Yet she ignored the crowd and pleased the Lord.

QUESTION - How do we emulate this aspect of Mary?


- Even though good Christians may not understand, SAY NO to distractions (even seemingly worthy tasks) which take you away from communion with Chirst.

ILLUS. - I heard of a preacher who informed his congregation that there was a certain time during the day which he reserved for his time with God, and instructed his secretary to take no calls during that time, and admit no visitors. He understood how to say no to distractions. He had chosen "the best part."

- Even though certain tasks may not get done! (Jesus clearly teaches here that service without a right heart is worthless. Let the task remain undone rather than do it with a wrong heart.)



- Through His word.

- Through prayer.

- Through meditation.

- Through worship (both public and private)

D. Mary served AS A RESULT of her communion - John 12:3
NOTE - Proper communion with Christ LEADS TO service for Christ.


Martha is to be praised:

She loved Jesus, she was saved, and she was a servant at heart. Jesus said this was the way to be great. May we learn from Martha, though, the importance of having a right heart in our service!

Mary is to be praised:

She loved Jesus, and demonstrated that love in her submission to Him, communion with Him, and worship of Him. May we learn to so love our Lord that the distractions of this world, the voices of those around us, and even the disapproval of those we love will not diminish our communion with Him.

May God help us to be BOTH Mary and Martha!

Please direct questions, comments, and submissions to William E. Johnson
Copyright 1997 William E. Johnson.