Luke 10:38-42 – Jesus encounters Martha and Mary



Luke 10:38-42; John 11:1-44; 12:3-8.




Most of what we know about Jesus is related to his teaching, his miracles and his death and resurrection. Don’t you sometimes wonder what he was like as he was relaxing with his friends? Wouldn’t you like to know the kind of food he enjoyed eating? Did he enjoy a good joke? – I am sure he had a sense of humour! We don’t know those details about his life – we don’t even know what he looked like. {Although I am sure he didn’t have fair skin, blonde hair and blue eyes!}


Those who knew him and spent time in his presence would have known these things. Martha and Mary and their brother Lazarus were a family with whom it seems Jesus spent a lot of time.


What can we learn from their encounters with Jesus?


This family lived in the village of Bethany about 2 miles from Jerusalem. It seems that Martha was the elder of the two sisters and Lazarus was their younger brother but this is purely assumption.


Scripture tells us that it was Martha’s house – which probably meant that she was the legal owner. However, you get the impression that Martha ran things in the house no matter who owned it.


From the little we are told about these two women it is possible with some imagination and a few guess to build a picture of these two.


MARTHA – the fussy type. When she entertained she wanted everything to be just so. We all know people like that – the living room must be perfect, the curtains must hang straight. The flowers must be in the right place and the colours mustn’t clash. The best plates and knives an forks must be used. The meal must be just right.


MARY – was a bit carefree. It didn’t matter to her that the house looked lived in.  If the cushions were crooked or the toys were on the floor of yesterday’s newspaper was lying on the couch. When people came Mary would rather sit and chat than stand stirring the gravy.


Two very different personalities and Jesus enjoyed being in their home.


1. A FAMILY WITH AN OPEN HOME. [Luke 10:38; Matt.21:17]


Luke 10:38

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. (NIV)

Matthew 21:17

17 And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night. (NIV)

For Jesus ‘the son of man who had no place to lay his head’ would surely have appreciated this open home.


During the Passover week before his death we know he did not stay in Jerusalem but went to Bethany – it seems safe to assume that he stayed in Martha and Mary’s home. They had a hospitable home


Q. What is it that makes a home or a person hospitable?

– let’s try to be practical.


Hospitality has been defined as “the art of making want to stay without interfering with their departure”


1 Peter 4:9 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. (NIV)



                                                                                                John 11:1-44]


a. Tensions


We have seen some of the differences between Martha and Mary i.t.o. their personalities and temperaments.


READ Luke 10:39-42 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (NIV)


What happened when Jesus can to their home?


ILLUS. I know what happens in our home when someone comes unexpectedly – we try desperately to cover up any tensions.

One minute you have a face like thunder and the next you are covered with smiles!!


Has this ever happened to you?

I’m sure that never happens in your house!


When Jesus came to the home of Martha and Mary were all their tensions suddenly resolved? Did Mary suddenly help more with the dishes and Martha become less fussy?


We know that that is not true. Mary was sitting a Jesus’s feet and Martha complains to Jesus “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

You can feel the tension building – Martha busy with the house and the cooking and Mary is just sitting there!


ILLUS.:  It is such a familiar scene.

Washing up time – It is not fair that I have to wash up when Suzie reading in her room? Tell her to come and help me.

Why should I take the garbage out, Harry isn’t doing anything?


Jesus doesn’t comply with Martha’s request.

Jesus’s reply – some texts ‘one thing is needful’ and others ‘few things are needful’


Whether it is one thing or a few things is not that important.  Jesus is saying “Martha you are fussing too much and Mary has chosen that which is of more value.”


Jesus doesn’t condemn Martha for being busy nor does he commend Mary for not helping.

The point he wants to get across is that in the busyness of life there ought to be place for learning at Jesus’s feet.


Q. How do we apply that principle in our modern day context?


b. Tragedy


John 11:1-44 Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.


Here is a family who are some of Christ’s best friends. Here is a crisis – Lazarus is sick and about to die.

You would think that their closeness to Jesus would have prompted him to come at once. But he delays and Lazarus dies.

This must have puzzled if not angered the two sisters.


Have you ever asked the Lord for something and found that he has failed to respond immediately to your need? It can be very difficult to cope with such things.

Why Lord?

Remember God’s delays are not necessarily his denials! Martha and Mary got the answer to their request but not in a way they could have expected.


We don’t always understand why God takes us through certain experiences in life. Sometimes they are hard and painful. Through them all God is working out his purposes. God’s dealing with us are always for our eternal good and for his glory.


BREAK – to pray for those who are at the moments coping with tensions and tragedies in their families.




During the Passover week while Jesus was spending the nights in Bethany – this was after Lazarus had been raised form the dead – Jesus was eating in the house of Simon the Leper [in Bethany] –

John 12:2-3

2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honour. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

It is Mary who brings the bottle of nard – the equivalent of a year’s wages – but I wouldn’t be surprised if she did this with the knowledge and encouragement of Martha and Lazarus – esp. in the light Lazarus being raised to life.


Judas questions the wisdom of Mary’s actions but Jesus defends her and commends her for this deep act of devotion. What an encouragement it must have been to him as he moves towards Calvary!

In terms of symbolism Mary’s act at the very least signifies the utmost in self-humbling love and devotion – regardless of the cost or of what others might think.

The two things that often hold us back – it is too costly! – and What will  people think of me?




This is the family that Jesus loved so much. Where he could relax and also where he performed him greatest miracle. This family was blessed with his presence.

BUT they didn’t escape from the trials and tragedies of life. There were the normal quarrels and jealousies of any home; there were illnesses and worries; there was death and grief.  The presence of Jesus in the home did not exempt that family from these things.


The presence of Jesus in your home and your life will not remove the realities of life BUT he will help you to live through them.


Jesus doesn’t want more of our money, our time, our abilities – at least not on there own – He wants me / you – he wants our love, our devotion, our lives.


Let’s respond by singing :-

All I am will sing out as a praise song

every note, every tone is for you;

whether days will be hard or be easy,

I will live every moment for you.

                    You have all of the praise I can offer…..


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