Jesus the Guest of Martha and Mary.
(Bethany, Near Jerusalem.)
C Luke X. 38–42.
c 38 Now as they went on their way [he was
journeying through Judæa, attended by the twelve], he entered
into a certain village [It was the village of Bethany (John xi. 1), which was on the eastern slope of
the Mount of Olives, less than two miles from Jerusalem]: and a
certain woman named Martha received him into her house. 39 And she
had a sister called Mary, who also sat at the Lord's feet, and heard his
word. [Sitting at the feet was the ancient posture of pupils (Acts xxii. 3). Martha honored Christ as a
Guest, but Mary honored him as a Teacher.] 40 But Martha was cumbered
about much serving [she was evidently preparing an elaborate repast, and
was experiencing the worry and distraction which usually accompanies such
effort]; and she came up to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care
that my sister did leave me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help
me. [Martha so forms her appeal to Christ as to make it a covert
insinuation that Mary would not listen to her requests.] 41 And Jesus
answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art anxious and troubled about
many things [By thus repeating the name, Jesus tempered the rebuke. See
also Luke xxii. 31; Acts ix. 4]:
42 but one thing is needful [I.e., one duty or privilege is
pre-eminent. Bread for the body may be important, but food for the soul is,
after all, the one thing needful]: for Mary hath chosen that good
part, which shall not be taken away from her. [The expression “good
part” is an allusion to the portion of honor sent to the principal guest
at a banquet. Its use shows that Jesus had food in mind when he used the
479expression “one thing is needful,” and that he was
contrasting spiritual nourishment with physical. The description of the two
sisters here tallies with that given at John xii.
2, 3, for there Martha serves and Mary expresses personal devotion.
Our Lord's rebuke is not aimed at hospitality, nor at a life full of energy and
business. It is intended to reprove that fussy fretfulness which attempts many
unneeded things, and ends in worry and fault-finding. It does not set a life of
religious contemplation above a life of true religious activity, for
contemplation is here contrasted with activity put forth with a faulty spirit.
The trend of the New Testament teaching shows that a man must be a doer
as well as a hearer of the Word.]