Luke doesn’t tell us this, but Mary and Martha were the sisters of Lazarus of Bethany, who was raised from the dead by Jesus. Bethany was about two miles outside of Jerusalem, and it seems likely that Jesus stayed with this family often while He was in the area. Because the text says “Martha welcomed Him into her house”, this is probably the first time Jesus has visited.
We see two different responses from the sisters. Mary sits under Jesus’s teaching and Martha is busy trying to be a good hostess. We can’t know exactly how many of Jesus’s disciples were there at the house at the time, but likely more than a few, so it is reasonable&emdash;even commendable&emdash;for Martha to want them to be comfortable and cared for at her house. Let’s not take this story to mean we shouldn’t be hospitable.
But Luke tells us that Martha is “distracted” with her efforts and tries to get Jesus to tell her sister to help with her work. Jesus gives her a gentle rebuke by telling her that she is trying to do too much, and what Mary has chosen to do is a better use of her time. Food is good and necessary, but you only eat it the once, and it’s gone. Truths we learn from studying God’s Word last forever.
This sounds a lot like the lesson my wife and I learned over Thanksgiving this year. In the weeks leading up to it, our family was hit with a stomach virus. Each of us got it, one after another, and while the first day was the worst, recovery was slow and it took several days before we felt normal and able to do as much as we’d like. It was also the plan that we host Thanksgiving at our house, as in every year. There were turkeys to smoke, clutter to put away, floors to clean, tables and chairs to set up, and not enough time and energy to get it all done. So we didn’t. Not all of it, anyway. We were very close to cancelling as I still didn’t feel 100% better on Wednesday, but we realized that being with family was more important than not letting them see an imperfectly kept house. And God was gracious to us because the turkey and everything was delicious, we enjoyed each other’s company, and we all were thankful for what the Lord has done for us.
Let us keep the main thing the main thing, with our eyes focused on You and on eternal things that cannot be taken away from us.