Friday, November 25, 2011

Women Walking Upright Bible Study

Martha & Mary: Working vs. Worshipping

“Mary…sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving.”
Luke 10:39-40

Both Luke and John record events regarding these two sisters; Martha & Mary {who also had a brother named Lazarus}. Jesus went to this family’s home on at least 3 occasions. It seemed to be a regular stopping place for Him. It is never mentioned how He met the family, but there seems to be a close, personal relationship between them.

These 2 women are a fascinating pair. They are different in so many ways but alike in a vital one—they both loved the Lord our God with all of their heart.

{Hopefully at this point you can see that this is the common link between each of the women we have studied—they all loved God with their whole heart, mind and strength and their hope and joy was found in the awaited Messiah. Everything praiseworthy about every woman thus far centered on Him.}

Scripture allows us 3 different chances to peak into the lives of these women.

1.       Luke 10:38-42 – {this is the one we will cover in depth}
        The women have a minor conflict over the best way to show their devotion to Christ.
2.      John 11 –
        Virtually the entire chapter is dedicated to the resurrecting of their brother Lazarus.
3.      John 12 (parallel accounts in Matthew 26:6-13 & Mark 14:3-9) –
        Mary anoints the feet of Jesus.
Luke 10:38-42 – In depth overview
        It is a common assumption that is made that makes Martha the elder of the two women. Luke’s description of her behavior leads many theologians to believe that the 3 siblings were young adults. Martha’s complaint sounds like one of a maturing young woman. Jesus’ reply has almost a grandfather tone to it. It is mentioned that Jesus came at Martha’s request; she was the one that welcomed him—signifying that she was the one that led the house. Martha was a conscientious and considerate hostess—admirable traits to possess. Despite Jesus rebuking her, much of her behavior was admirable.
        Jesus made himself at home as a houseguest—leading one to believe that they shared a personal friendship. He enjoyed fellowship with them, conversation. His contribution to the conversation was both instructive and enlightening.
        Mary’s instinct as they chatted was to sit at his feet. His disciples were undoubtedly asking questions and He was giving thought-provoking answers.
        Martha on the other hand was busy with the preparations. She didn’t come out right away and ask Mary for help. She probably (as many of us would have) made noise in the kitchen, clanged things around to tell of her distaste of her sister’s absence. When her subtlety didn’t work, she gave up civility and aired her grievances against Mary right in front of Jesus—in fact she complained TO Him. {I think we often do this as well; praying that someone would “do” more to help us instead of what we they may be already doing}.
        Jesus’ reply probably startled Martha—she was expecting affirmation of her irritation.
But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her." Luke 10:41 & 42
        Luke’s account ends here—a common assumption is that this rebuking resonated within Martha and she took His words seriously and in the kind nature they were meant.
Jesus’ gentle rebuke of Martha is a reminder for us all to honor others over ourselves. Romans 12:10 urges us to, “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another”.
1 Peter 5:5 “Be submissive to one another, and be clothed in humility, for God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Humility was a common teaching among Jesus’ ministry.
At first it seemed that putting on the apron by Martha was true servant hood. But, her treatment of Mary son revealed a crucial flaw in her heart. She allowed herself to become quick tempered. Her words in front of her guests were geared at humiliating her sister. She gave no thought to the hurtful effect of her words—or simply didn’t care.
{how often we do this!}
She was also wrong in her judgment of Mary. She assumed Mary was being lazy instead of seeing the glory Mary was giving to the kingdom.
Romans 14:4 “Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls.”
In reality, it was Martha’s heart that was in the wrong place, not Mary’s. Mary wanted to worship and fellowship with God—not cook and clean, making herself busy in the kitchen. Martha’s actions are an example of how subtly human pride can corrupt even the best of our actions.
What Martha was doing was in no way bad—she was serving her guests and the Messiah. It was her actions because of her irritation with her sister that caused the sin.
I often ask myself what I would do in this situation--& I hope you all do as well. It is my strong suspicion that far too many of us sympathize more with Martha rather than Mary. I think we would all agree that it would be rude to allow our sister to work in the kitchen serving guests while we sat chatting with someone in the living room. But, this wasn’t just any guest; this was Christ the Messiah.
We make ourselves so busy today that we lose focus on fellowshipping with Christ. We will put so many priorities before Him.
Mary “had chosen the good portion.” Luke 10:42
She had discovered the one thing we truly NEED; true worship and devotion of our heart to Christ. She established worship as the highest of all priorities and we each can learn from this as Christians.
There is nothing, and that includes service to Christ, more important than listening to and honoring Him with all our hearts.
Remember His statement to the Samaritan woman? “God is seeking true worshipers.” John 4:23
Mary was that.
It is a danger for even those that love Christ to become focused on doing things for Him as opposed to hearing Him & remembering what He has done for us.
Martha seemed to believe, momentarily, that her works determined how much she loved Christ.
We often as Christians believe that our work for Christ is more important that His work for us. Every major spiritual decline in the history of Christianity has come when the church has lost sight of the vital aspect of faith and they begin stressing what people can DO.
Martha & Mary are a beautiful reminder that God uses all kinds of people. He has gifted us differently for a reason, and we’re commanded not to despise one another based on those gifts. Just because we have different temperaments or contrasting personalities as Martha & Mary did doesn’t mean we don’t have a place in the kingdom.
John 11
        Virtually the entire chapter describes the event in which Martha & Mary’s brother Lazarus died and was brought back to life by Jesus.
        John gave detailed descriptions of how the 2 sisters were deeply affected by the death of their brother.
        He explains in detail how Jesus ministered to the both of them in a profound and personal way; and how he gloriously raised Lazarus from the dead.
        More than any other act during Jesus’ ministry; this one was the most dramatic and public miracle and it sealed the Jewish leaders’ determination to put Him to death.
        If He could raise people form the dead—they knew people would follow Him and they would lose their power.
“So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the Council and said, ‘What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.’" John 11:47 & 48

John 12

        Mary anointed the feet of Jesus with costly ointment and wiped His feet with her hair.
        Both Matthew and Mark describe this event as well, however neither of them mention Mary by name.
        Matthew 26:12 & John 12:7 indicate that Mary, in some sense, understood that she was anointing Jesus for burial.
        She may have suspected strongly that the resurrection of her brother would drive Jesus’ enemies into hatred, determining to put Him to death ( John 11:53-54).
        Jesus went to Ephraim right after raising Lazarus, but Passover brought Him back to Jerusalem (John 11:55-56).

Martha was a noble and godly woman with a servant’s heart and a rare capacity to work. Mary was esteemed as more noble—with a heart to worship and to seek wisdom. Both were extraordinary in their own ways. Together they give an extraordinary example of what God calls of His followers. 

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