Thanksgiving Sunday: Luke 10:38-42


Luke 10:38-42 intro

This is a familiar story for many of us. For those who grew up in the church it’s pretty easy to just switch on your Sunday school brain while reading this text. You read about Martha with all her striving, and Mary with all her faith. You know you should be less like Martha and more like Mary, and decide to read your Bible and pray more. Done.

But there’s so much more going on in this passage. Look at Martha being the socially acceptable woman, hosting and providing for the men, while Mary bucks gender norms by sitting at Jesus’ feet (Jewish Rabbis generally refused female disciples). And Jesus condones this! Look at Jesus using food metaphors in his dealing with Martha and Mary, saying Mary has chosen the good “portion,” indicating to Martha that what he has to feed her is more important than what she has to feed him. Look at Jesus’ double use of Martha’s name; he’s being incredibly tender with her in his correction (cf. Luke 13:34). If we pause from our application of the text to really look at what’s going on here, with all the social, behavioral, and relational commentary, we might actually see and savor Christ just like Mary did.

The most noticeable dynamic in this text is the comparison between Martha and Mary’s attention. Martha is distracted from Jesus by her service, but Mary is fixated on Jesus. Martha is engrossed in providing the kind of service that’s expected of her, or perhaps the kind of service that will win her praise, while Mary ignores expectations and simply sits at Jesus’ feet. The depiction here compares religious duties and affection. Martha was so busy doing what she’s supposed to that she didn’t have time to actually be with Jesus, to sit at his feet and receive from him. There’s a lot we can learn and apply from that, especially about our tendencies towards distractions and religious performance. But before we get to application, it might be helpful to put ourselves in Mary’s shoes, sit at Jesus’ feet, and receive from him. If we reflect, regularly, on just how steadfast, welcoming, and compassionate Jesus is towards us, it’ll be vastly easier for us to drop what we’re doing to be with him.

Questions for Discussion

• Can someone read Luke 10:38-42 for us?

• What stood out to you from the passage?

• How would you describe Martha’s disposition towards Jesus in this passage?

• What does it mean for you to choose the same “good portion” Mary chose?

• Why sit at Jesus’ feet? Why is that worth your time?

• What practical things did you learn from this passage about how to follow Jesus?