Jesus was in Bethany! Martha sent word by a servant to Jesus that He was welcome to stay in their home while He was in town, extending all the appropriate courtesies as was customary to her people and indicative of their close friendship. There was so much that needed to be done. Jesus would bring with Him a crowd of followers, and they would be Martha’s responsibility to serve and entertain.
She immediately began making all the necessary preparations, sending servants to town to purchase the provisions needed for the large number of people she would be serving. She efficiently directed servants to prepare the food, clean the house, make room for their guests, set the table, and bustled about overseeing each person’s duties making certain all would be done in a manner fitting their honored guest. There would be no rest until all had eaten their fill and retired for the evening.
Mary quietly stood dutifully at the door receiving their guests. She collected bedrolls and directed a servant to put them in a corner and then begin washing the feet of their travel weary guests. As Jesus approached, her heart leapt with joy at the sight of Him.
“Hello, Mary!” Jesus embraced her gently as He came through the door. “How have you been?”
She returned the affectionate greeting of her close friend. Mary marveled at the relationship Jesus had with her, Martha, and Lazarus. They were truly blessed!
Mary heard Martha calling out to her from the kitchen and started to go to her when she stopped to direct one of their visitors to a seat. How she longed to be one of the men and sit at Jesus’ feet, however socially unacceptable it was. She hid her disappointment as she smiled graciously at her visitor’s utterance of thanks for her kindness.
“What is keeping her?” Tension was mounting in Martha’s voice as she spoke to one of the higher servants. “Surely she is aware of the magnitude of the preparations and the lack of time to get them accomplished.” The servant nodded her head in understanding and looked up to see if Mary was anywhere in sight before concentrating once again on the tasks at hand.
Mary heard Jesus begin to teach the men as they waited for the meal to be served. Unable to stop herself, she peered in and saw Lazarus sitting next to Him and once again felt the longing to be near Him, too. She moved closer completely unaware of the questioning glances of the men in the room.
Martha instructed a servant to hurry out with the wine and begin serving their guests. Mary seized her opportunity to go into the room by taking two cups and bringing them to those closest to Jesus. The servant’s lips curved up slightly in a smile, as he glanced over his shoulder toward the kitchen in anticipation of the reaction this might draw from Mary’s older sister.
When everyone was drinking the wine and listening intently to Jesus’ teaching, the servant returned to the kitchen to begin helping with whatever needed to be done. Martha looked up, the stress of the preparations beginning to take its toll on her nerves, and exclaimed, “Where is Mary?”
She attempted to recapture a loose strand of hair that had worked its way out of its confines on her head as she purposefully marched to the doorway of the room where Jesus was teaching. There she found Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet, intent on every word. A few of the men noticed Martha’s frustrated demeanor as she stood in the doorway.
Jesus noticed the looks on the faces of his audience and looked up at the doorway curiously.
"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 NLT)," said Martha close to tears at the sight of her sister doing the very thing she longed to do if she were not duty bound.
Martha felt a myriad of emotions at Jesus’ gentle rebuke to her plea. "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her (Luke 10:41 NRSV)."
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