Any given day, I’m concerned about a lot of things.
Most of those things are trivial, as those of you who follow me on Twitter can attest to. (I’m just trying to expose you to quality music, entertain you with funny things my kids say, and wow you with heart-shaped pizza – if these things aren’t worthy of your time and attention, I mean, honestly, I don’t know what is…)
A handful of the things I’m concerned about are weightier in importance, like health and happiness of my family, for instance.
This all seems very normal and understandable.
Until I read a conversation between Jesus and Martha.
I typically read the NIV (1984) Bible. But this year I am reading through the NLT, so some of the phrasing is
In Luke 10 we read that after she welcomed Jesus into her home, Martha went to work making sure Jesus’ visit was enjoyable. She flitted around the kitchen making a “big dinner”, concerning herself with treating her guest well. Martha knew Jesus was God, which is evident when she addressed Him as Lord (Luke 10:40). I’m sure she felt just a little bit stressed cooking for GOD. She wanted everything to be top-notch.
Meanwhile, Martha’s sister, Mary, “sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what He taught,” (Luke 10:39).
I can imagine, as the minutes turned into hours, Martha grew irate over her sister’s lack of help preparing the meal. I can picture Martha stewing internally as she stirred food, chopped vegetables, and stressed over the perfection of it all alone, while Mary kicked back with Jesus.
Martha’s emotions finally escalated to a point she felt she had to voice them or she’d burst. “‘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,'” (Luke 10:40).
Martha complained to (and possibly against) God. Then she asked Jesus to choose sides. She also told Him to use His authority as a man, as a rabbi, and as God to correct her sister.
Clearly, Martha should have kept her mouth shut.
Nevertheless, she asked Jesus a question, and He answered it, just not how she would have liked Him to.
“My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her,” (Luke 10:41-42).
Apparently, Jesus would have been satisfied with some cold leftovers. Good to know if I ever find myself having to cook for Him in Heaven.
What struck me even more, though, is the middle sentence, “There is only one thing worth being concerned about.” Really? Just one? Cause I can think of at least 10 right now.
The statement begs the question, “Well, what is it?! What’s the one thing? Tell me so I can concern myself with it.” Jesus doesn’t define it out rightly, but He gives us clues about “it”.
- Mary has discovered it.
- It will not be taken away from her.
If we go back up in the text, we can figure out what Jesus is talking about.
The only thing Mary did in this story was sit at the Lord’s feet and listen to what He taught (Luke 10:39). What is she concerning herself with? The things Jesus was teaching. And when she learned those teachings, they could never be taken away from her. They’d be in her memory forever.
To be clear, I don’t think Jesus considers it “bad” that we concern ourselves with things like our families’ safety and Instagram pizza. Those things have their places, and we certainly can’t all be monks and nuns who spend their whole days studying Scripture. But the lesser things should receive lesser attention than the greater things, and Jesus is the greatest thing.
Further, in addition to focused Bible reading and prayer, I think Jesus is inviting us to concern ourselves with Him and what He’s saying throughout the day by keeping our spiritual ears open to what the Holy Spirit may be saying to us at any given moment.
If Martha had been listening to Jesus teach while she prepared the meal, I don’t think she would have been focused on the food or the labor. Her heart wouldn’t have gotten angry at her lazy sister. Instead, she probably would’ve been energized and encouraged by what Jesus was saying and cooked all the more joyfully.
And we can do that too. No matter what task we are completing or what concern we have at the moment, He ought to be our heart’s focus in the midst of those things, transforming them into opportunities for closeness with Him.
Very well said. Glad I r reading NLT.
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Kelly, this is really good! And interestingly enough it coincides with something I discovered about myself recently….I am writing about it and this post of yours is a perfect match!
This is so good.
If Martha had been listening to Jesus teach while she prepared the meal, I don’t think she would have been focused on the food or the labor.
Never thought about it that way, and I am definitely a Martha not a Mary! Thank you!
I really like this. I’ve had so many conversations about this passage recently with a lot of “Marthas”. What would it look like for us to concern ourselves with only one thing? I think you nailed it when you said that Martha, had she also been listening to Jesus while she cooked (assuming that was physically possible), would have had an entirely different attitude and response. Good stuff.
One little point, and I hate to nitpick, But I encourage you to consider further whether Martha really knew Jesus was God.
Thanks, Stephen. I welcome the nitpicking 🙂
Martha called Jesus kyrios in 10:40. You’re the Greek student, not me, but my understanding is kyrios is very often used to indicate divinity.
Strong’s offers 3 possible meanings:
1) an owner of a person or a state official
2) a title of honor with which servants greet their master
3) a title given to God, the Messiah
Jesus was not #1, and, in the physical sense, he was not #2 (he was not the master, proper, of Mary and Martha). It could be argued he was the spiritual master of them, but that would only validate accepting #3 as the “best” intent of Martha calling Jesus kyrios.
Would they have simply been giving him respect as a human, non-divine Rabbi with this term? With your knowledge of the language, is kyrios ever used that way?
In John 11:27, Martha straight up confesses she believes Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of God”.
Chronologically, I can’t tell which came first – the house incident, or the raising of Lazarus. Any thoughts?
Obviously, if He raised Lazarus first, Martha’s belief in Jesus as the Messiah would’ve still been true during the house incident. It is clear Martha believed in Jesus’ deity before He raised Lazarus, how long before, we don’t know…
Thinking is fun!
Jesus is called Lord (gr: kyrie, when used as an address) by many in the Gospels. The centurion, a leper, various disciples from the beginning of his ministry, a blind man, Peter when he walked on water, the Canaanite woman, the father of a demon possessed boy, 2 other blind men – and that’s just in Matthew alone. It was a very common term of respect for a rabbi or other leader. That’s the first point.
Secondly, it is highly unlikely that anyone thought of the Messiah as God. So even if Martha recognized Jesus as the Messiah, thinking that she knew he was God would be a much further stretch. When Peter is rebuking Jesus for going to his death, he has just confessed that Jesus was the Messiah. It would seem odd to find Peter rebuking Jesus if he thought Jesus were God.
It seems that the entire thrust of the Gospels is that people did not understand who Jesus was until after his death, though the women in his life do seem to be remarkably sharper on his identity than the men. So, I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it seems unlikely that any person really looked at Jesus before his resurrection and thought, “That man is God.”
Thanks for the info.
So it’s very possible in the Luke 10 house incident, “Lord” meant an honorable term for a rabbi.
But in John 11:27, where she admits she believes Jesus is not only Messiah but also Son of God, what are we to make of that? What did Jews mean when they called Jesus “Son of God”? Was divinity not implied with that title?
Easton’s Bible Dictionary says:
“It occurs thirty-seven times in the New Testament as the distinctive title of our Saviour. He does not bear this title in consequence of his miraculous birth, nor of his incarnation, his resurrection, and exaltation to the Father’s right hand. This is a title of nature and not of office. The sonship of Christ denotes his equality with the Father. To call Christ the Son of God is to assert his true and proper divinity. The second Person of the Trinity, because of his eternal relation to the first Person, is the Son of God. He is the Son of God as to his divine nature, while as to his human nature he is the Son of David (Rom 1:3,4; Gal 4:4; Jhn 1:1-14; 5:18-25; 10:30-38), which prove that Christ was the Son of God before his incarnation, and that his claim to this title is a claim of equality with God.”
This kinda of makes it seem to me anyone who called Jesus Son of God was implying divinity.