WONDER WOMEN — MARTHA & MARY
by Pastor Mike Fortune
August 20, 2011
BlueFish TV Vid "Christina"
- Prepare to share (Luke 10:38; John 11:20)
- Are willing to listen (Luke 10:39; John 12:2)
- Know God cares (Luke 10:40; John 11:5; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
Christina asked God to show her the needs of those around her. And He did. She prepared to share and was willing to listen just like a couple of the wonder women we’re studying this morning the Bible identifies as Martha and Mary. They lived with their brother Lazarus in the small village of Bethany about two miles southeast of Jerusalem just beyond the Mount of Olives. Both Luke and John record that Jesus enjoyed the hospitality of this family. The Bible doesn’t say specifically why. Some commentators suggest it’s because they were orphans since you never hear about their parents. Because in that time, it was very unusual for a woman to be identified as the owner of the house as Luke 10:38 says. Unless the parents had died and the only male heir was much younger. As was likely the case with Lazarus since his name always comes last in descriptions of the family in John 11:5 for example. Whatever the reason, Jesus had a soft spot in His heart for this caring family of siblings. We’re going to take a longer look at one of three episodes Scripture includes about them and briefly talk about the other two this morning so please open your Bibles to Luke 10:38-42.
“38 As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord's feet, listening to what he taught. 40 But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, "Lord, doesn't it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me." 41 But the Lord said to her, "My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! 42 There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her."
Luke’s account follows after the description of the parable of the Good Samaritan. Which was about a certain man traveling from Jerusalem downhill east to Jericho. In this case, Luke says they were traveling uphill to Jerusalem, probably from Jericho and doing so you would pass through Bethany on the way. Though Luke doesn’t record the name of the village this siblings lived, John 11:1 does. And when they came to this village of Bethany a certain woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her name in Aramaic means lord. So a woman named lord welcomed the Lord into the home she owned. If this was the first time Jesus was invited there, as some commentators suggest (Desire of Ages, p.525), she wanted Jesus and his disciples to feel welcome and special. Like Christina in our video clip, Martha was prepared to share. And this is point number one. Wonder women prepare to share.
But honestly, if you’re going to have the Lord over, you’d want your home to be ready for it right? You wouldn’t want the place looking like a dump on that day right? Every Friday @ 4:00pm my kids know that even if mom isn’t home yet. we’re going to come inside or unplug from our technology and start cleaning the house. At first they thought I was insisting we do this because Sabbath was coming. But as they’re growing older, I hope they’re beginning to understand what we’re really doing is preparing to welcome the Lord of the Sabbath. We want to spend time with Jesus. And we want to do so in ways that convey purpose and intent. So we can focus on worship instead of working when He arrives.
A few years ago, when we purchased our first home in Canton, Ohio, Mayor Watkins of Canton and our Congressman at the time Ralph Regula came to our home. As politicians, they had made helping first time home buyers a significant part of their campaigns and platform. And they asked us if they could come over and talk about that. We agreed and hosted a little press conference right on our front porch. Here’s a picture of Jackie even doing a little spiel about it and another pic of the Congressman holding Josh. That’s what politicians like to do. They shake hands and kiss babies. But we prepared for their arrival. We went out and welcomed them when they arrived. Just like Martha had a habit of doing even on bad days.
Remember the second episode Scripture records where Martha went out to welcome Jesus? It’s recorded in John 11:20 so turn with me there. This is the chapter that describes the death of Lazarus. And the heartbreak that undoubtedly reigned in that home and probably the entire village. But notice that even on her worst day, Martha is prepared to share. John 11:20 says, “20 When Martha got word that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him. But Mary stayed in the house.”
There will be days for even the most sincere followers of Jesus that you will not feel like extending hospitality—even to Jesus. Mary didn’t. She stayed home. But notice Martha doesn’t. She goes out to greet Jesus on her worst day the same way she does so on her best day. Why? Because wonder women prepare to share. Every day not just on Sabbath. Even on the days they don’t feel like it. Like Christina, they pray for God to increase their circle of influence. And they aren’t surprised when He does.
Moving on, Luke 10:39 says that after Martha welcomed Jesus into her home, “39 Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord's feet, listening to what he taught.” This leads us to point number two. Wonder women are willing to listen. To sit at someone’s feet is really about a frame of mind not a specific posture. Though back then everyone did eat on pillows around a low table. So she could have been literally at Jesus’ feet as well. When her brother Lazarus died, Mary didn’t want anything to do with Jesus. He hadn’t come in time. And Lazarus had died. So when her heart was hurting, she did what many of us do, she avoided Jesus. And his followers.
Today, when people are going through a rough time, we are tempted to do the same thing. By skipping church and avoiding the people in it. But if you keep reading John 11, you’ll notice that Jesus notices when we do. John 11:28 and 30 says that Martha returned to Mary and told her “The teacher is here and wants to see you. Jesus had stayed outside the village at the place where Martha met him.” Jesus isn’t going to barge your door down. Revelation 3:20 (quoting Song of Songs 5:5 by the way) says, “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” Martha had welcomed Him on her worst day. But Jesus wanted to be welcomed into Mary’s as well on her best day. We’ll come back to this in point number three, because Jesus really does care, and notices when we’re hurting, but for now let’s focus on point #2. Wonder women are willing to listen. Isn’t that what verse 39 says?
In this first encounter with Jesus, Martha makes a beeline for the kitchen but Mary makes a beeline for the feet of Jesus. Just like she would reluctantly later in John 11:32 when Lazarus died. And there she listened to the teachings of Jesus. One of the most significant reasons for coming to church is to listen to the teachings of Jesus. We are His followers right? But how will we know how to follow Him in the complicated world we live in today if we don’t listen to His words applied to our lives? Hebrews 10:25 says, “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” So we gather to worship Him and listen to the teachings of Jesus and to encourage one another. I forget who said this, but it periodically shows up on Facebook posts, “Be kind to one another. Because every one of us is fighting a hard battle.”
Martha learned to listen to the teachings of Jesus too. Though it doesn’t look like it in Luke’s account. Because verse 40 says, “But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, "Lord, doesn't it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me. But the Lord said to her, ‘My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! 42 There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.’”
The words Jesus used to describe Martha’s request in verse 41 convey an inside and an outside condition. Worry is an inside condition that Jesus had previously taught about in the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 6:25-31 which says, “"And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don't work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? 31 "So don't worry about these things, saying, 'What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?' 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. 34 "So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today.”
After Jesus told the Samaritan wonder woman by the well about the water of life, he told his astonished disciples in John 4:32 32 “I have a kind of food you know nothing about.” They wondered if someone had brought him food while they were gone. But Jesus explained to them, “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work.” Mary had learned to seek first the Kingdom of God. And that worship and listening to the teachings of Jesus and encouraging others are just as important as food. Which is something all of us struggle with as well sometimes when Eat-n-Greet is getting set up in the foyer or the smells from the potluck down the hallway come floating into the sanctuary. I can see when you guys are getting anxious and your blood sugar starts dropping and you’re tuning me out. You’re like, “When is Mike gonna be done? Which point is he on again? I wonder if Rose made mushroom patties for potluck...”
That’s okay, I know how it is. But seriously, if you’re not diabetic, incontinent, or have toddler squirming on your lap, what is the problem with listening a little longer to the teachings of Jesus? We’ve got padded pews right? You’re not sitting on some root on the Mount of Olives. Mercy! Wonder women are willing to listen to the teachings of Jesus. I’ve plugged these resources before but will do so again because they’re so helpful. Purchase for your kids or grandkids the Bible in Living Sound CD’s. And listen to them on Friday evenings with your kids for worship. Leave them in the car when you’re traveling and listen to God’s word as you go. Fall asleep with them as you go to bed. My brother Mark still claims most of what he knows about the Bible he learned from those CD’s as a child. For you grown ups, download in iTunes the Bible Experience MP3’s. You can also purchase the CD’s in any Christian bookstore. Hearing God’s word read out loud with sound effects and dramatic voices like Denzel Washington’s make the teachings of Jesus memorable. Leave the ear buds by your beside and just pop them in before you roll out of bed in the morning. You don’t have to read the Bible to learn the teachings of Jesus. You can just listen to the Bible instead. But are we seeking first His kingdom church? Or are we so busy in the kitchen packing lunches for school and work that we neglect the same things Martha did? Jesus said, “Stop worrying about that stuff. I’ve got food you don’t know about. Doing the will of God is more important anyway.”
But when we don’t, the worry on the inside effects the outside. Jesus says in Luke 10:42 that Martha was worried on the inside and upset on the outside. She was anxious and troubled. And in this world, we will have trouble. That’s true. Jesus told his disciples that in John 16:33. But He also said in John 14:1 not to let our hearts “stay troubled.” You will have good days. And you will have bad days. Full of incredible heart break and loss. But even on your worst day, Jesus will be looking for you. He loves you like crazy even if you’re not in a lovable mood. He loves you even if you don’t love Him back. But Martha eventually learned to listen to all the teachings of Jesus including this one. We know this is true because there’s a third episode in Scripture involving Jesus, Mary and Martha and that is recorded in John 12:2 which says, “A dinner was prepared in Jesus' honor. Martha served, and Lazarus was among those who ate with him.”
Judas was present. And after Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with perfume, he freaks out about how much it costs saying the perfume was worth a year’s wages and should have been sold and the money given to the poor. He goes postal on Mary in front of Jesus and everyone else. But notice this time, Martha says nothing. She’s not adding to the noise. She is happy to simply serve. She, like Mary, learned not to “Store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.” Now the teachings of Jesus from Matthew 6:19-21 are being lived out in life life. Now, she’s storing “Treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.”
Because she was willing to listen, Martha learned to love “With genuine affection” and to “Take delight in honoring each other” as Romans 12:10 says we should. Because she was willing to listen, she quit comparing herself with others. Like 2 Corinthians 10:12 says, “Oh, don't worry; we wouldn't dare say that we are as wonderful as these other men who tell you how important they are! But they are only comparing themselves with each other, using themselves as the standard of measurement. How ignorant!” And when she quit comparing herself with others, she became less critical of others. Romans 14:4 says, “Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval.” Judas never learned these lessons. Martha did. Wonder women prepare to share and are willing to listen.
And finally, wonder women know that God cares. Before she figured this out, Martha implied that Jesus didn’t. In Luke 10:40 she whines to Jesus, “Lord, doesn't it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” Our modern NLT doesn’t do this verse justice. The KJV more accurately captures her exasperation and bad theology. “Dost thou not care?” Yes, Martha was worried about fairness. But what the premise behind the question reveals is that she didn't think Jesus cared. She was accusing him of not caring in fact. And who wouldn’t want some help in the kitchen? Lord knows I need it. Some of you know Jackie started a full time job in pediatric home health care this summer. For the last decade she has worked full time at home for part time pay. But now she’s working full time away from home for full time pay. Prior to that, I made the mistake one time of saying she didn’t really work because she wasn’t employed outside the home. What I meant was she didn’t really work for a paycheck but it was too late and I got rightfully hammered for that remark later on because being a mom is very hard work. Anyone else care to testify? Anyway, now that she’s working full time, I’ve been doing much more cooking. And though I’ve learned to use the steamer and rice cooker and even made some very tasty Indian curry the other day, aside from that and spaghetti and bangers and mash, I need a lot of help. So if you have any easy recipes you can share or email me that your family likes, please share. I need all the help I can get.
So I sympathize with Martha. As I’m sure if we’re honest, most of us do. But if in our sympathizing we’re tempted to conclude on our busiest day that God doesn’t care about us or the situation we’re in just because we’re going through it at the time, please note point number three: Wonder women know God cares. There’s a great song in our hymnal #181 entitled Does Jesus Care? I read the lyrics sometimes at funerals. But they’re good for all occasions. Let me share a few with you. “Does Jesus care when my heart is pained too deeply for mirth and song? / As the burdens press and the cares distress and the way grows weary and long? / Oh yes, He cares / I know He cares / His heart is touched with my grief / When the days are weary the long nights dreary / I know my Savior cares.”
John 11:5 (NIV) says something similar. “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” Wonder women know these words are true. He cares like crazy! And that’s why we should too. What breaks the heart of God should break our hearts as well. When we don’t get what we want or what we think we deserve, we need to remember that neither did Jesus and that some of Jesus is more than enough because God still cares. Jeremiah 29:11 says He has a plan for our lives and a hope for our future. Proverbs 3:5-6 says if we trust Him, He will make our paths straight. But if we forget this, we can develop a very critical nature of God and man. We can become jealous of others. And can become hurtful toward them. Hurt people hurt people right? Martha was hurting and her question was really an accusation of Jesus. But even when His followers falsely accuse Him, Jesus cares like crazy. We know this is true because on the cross his enemies taunted him and mocked him and falsely tried and condemned Him. But here, Martha, one of Jesus’ most ardent supporters is doing the same thing!
But forgiving and living grace is what Jesus is all about. So He gently reprimands Martha and gets her all sorted out so at the next dinner she doesn’t say a thing. She’s prepared to share and serve God. His grace was sufficient for Mary. And Martha. And it’s sufficient for you as well. Let’s read one more verse from 2 Corinthians in closing. And may God bless you this week as you prepare to share in your circle of influence His love and care. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NIV) says, “9 My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” For more info see John MacArthur’s book Twelve Extraordinary Women pp.155-170.