Posted by: donnatallman | January 12, 2013

Martha, Martha

Considering Jesus Challenge

Luke 10:38-40

Day 12, January 12, 2013, Saturday:

Come and Dine

Photo by Donna Tallman

“Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-40

Whenever I read this passage it somehow feels like a scene from a reality TV show. Jesus comes to town and Martha, the initiator, welcomes him into their home. Martha, the captain of her domain, then expects everyone else to help her accomplish the hospitality she initiated whether they are given to it or not. Mary is not. Mary is a responder. She sits entranced by their amazing guest while Martha works herself into a self-absorbed snit because Mary’s not helping. Listen to what Martha says to the God of the universe, “Do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.”


First Martha insulted Jesus by implying he didn’t care, and then she commanded him to obey her orders. I cannot imagine issuing an edict to Jesus like she did, but this woman wanted action, and she wanted it immediately. To make her point, Martha lobbed another one of those imperative, implied “you” statements we’ve talked about before on this blog. “You tell her to help me then,” was what Martha was saying to Jesus. It was commanding, demanding, and accusatory.

Not to mention bossy…

Martha had nerve.

She also had history. Martha and Jesus knew each other well, so Jesus was familiar to her. She was talking to a friend.

When Mary and Martha’s brother, Lazarus, became ill, Martha sent for Jesus. John 11:5 says, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister, and Lazarus. So when he heard he was sick he then stayed two days longer in the place where he was.” Okay, that’s an odd combination. Jesus loved this family so he intentionally delayed coming to them when they needed him.

Don’t you hate it when that happens?!

Why did Jesus delay? Because he wanted to do something greater than just heal Lazarus – he wanted to bring him back to life. So Jesus waited until Lazarus was dead and buried before showing up. When Jesus finally did come, it was Martha who ran out to meet him on the road. As soon as she saw Jesus, Martha blurted out a highly profound statement of faith in John 11:21 & 22 “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died. Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give you.”

Martha had faith in Jesus. She understood the power of Jesus and was not afraid to give witness to his power. Yes, sometimes her need for action collided with Jesus’ encouragement to listen and be still, but that’s what I love about Martha. She’s very much like one of us. Martha is very ordinary.

Mary, on the other hand, was the polar opposite of her sister. She was a not a doer, Mary was more interested in “being” than doing. She sat and listened at Jesus’ feet, she anointed him with oil, and when he arrived after Lazarus’ death, Mary did not immediately go out to meet him. She waited until he called for her. Mary was a responder.

So, back to Jesus’ response after Martha complained about Mary not helping her serve the others. Luke says she had been distracted by all her preparations. What was she distracted from?


Martha allowed her wonderful gift of serving others to distract her from Jesus. Is this not the bane of every servant of Jesus Christ? In seeking to serve him, we can be easily distracted from him.

I totally hate it when that happens!

But I love how Jesus addresses her. “Martha, Martha,” he says. You can almost hear the lighthearted, playful nature of Jesus in his statement. To me, it sounds like two old friends talking. “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered by so many things.” Jesus, Martha’s friend, had evaluated her emotional condition and reflected it back to her. A good friend, a close friend, can do that in a way that provides encouragement and that’s exactly what Jesus did here.

Jesus gently encouraged Martha to release her self-induced anxiety and consider what Mary had to offer her. Mary, for her part, had chosen the right thing, but Martha tried to steal that from her sister. Martha insulted Mary, took honor from her, and then tried to get Jesus to agree with her. Martha’s service should have been a joyful experience for her to perform and for all who were benefitted by it, but there was something operating behind the scenes. Jesus’ confrontation with her revealed Martha’s true motivation; she wanted to be noticed and valued for her efforts.

Jesus loved Martha too much to let her get away with it, and he loved Mary too much ignore the damage Martha’s control issue was having on her. I can be every bit as bossy as Martha was, so I was left with two questions this morning…

When I get distracted from Jesus by my obligations, do I resort to trying to control others and make them help me finish my tasks?

When I’ve allowed anxiety to spin me into a snit, how do I reclaim the “Mary” in my life and return to a place of focusing on Jesus, adoring Jesus, and responding to Jesus?

Considering Jesus Challenge Passage for Tomorrow January 13, 2013:

“The king sent and had John beheaded in the prison. And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. His disciples came and took away the body and buried it; and they went and reported to Jesus. Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself; and when the people heard of this, they followed Him on foot from the cities.” Matthew 14:10-13

© Copyright, 2013 by Donna Tallman.




  1. Until I began this journey, I was unaware of how many things I was “sweeping under the rug”. I think The Lord has been speaking to me in that still small voice, and I have been Martha…too busy to listen. I want to be more like Mary.

    • Here’s my challenge with Mary and Martha: They both have wonderful qualities that we all need. Martha has incredible faith in Jesus’ identity and in his abilities – They challenge for me is how to retain the great in Martha while adding the precious that is in Mary…

      • Amen!

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