The story of Mary and Martha is probably a very familiar one

Positive: comfort of familiarity

Negative: danger of complacency, not remembering depth of meaning

The set-up

Jesus and his friends (many? few?) on their way to Jerusalem

call in at the home of friends Mary and Martha

Mary sits at Jesus’ feet

Martha gets overheated with overwork and complains to Jesus

Jesus’ reaction

To Martha: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things

But few things are needed,

Or indeed only one.”

Martha may be overcomplicating preparations. Preparations and taking responsibility for getting them done isn’t a bad thing

But she may have been better simplifying things so she too could spend time with Jesus

Maybe there was too much busy-ness in her mind for her to think of that.

Think of a time it’s been like that for you, and recognise how hard it is, but also the benefit of seeing the higher priority

Remember we are human beings not human doings

About Mary: “Mary has chosen what is better

And it will not be taken away from her.”

Time with Jesus good, and when experienced, memory stays, builds her/us up

But a time and place for everything

But what are the lessons for us? Well, I think there were two of them.

First: sort out our priorities

Second: put them into action.

Easy? If it weren’t for our human nature it might be!


1. Stones and sand in a jar – if stones are important things, and sand all the little details that can preoccupy us, we need to make sure the stones go into the jar first, then sand will fit in – ensures most important things done first.

Make a list of things to do, pray, then order their priority, God helps us see what’s important.

2. “Stag do”: Jesus’ teaching about spending time with him, using the illustration of himself as a bridegroom. Luke 5: 34: “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, in those days they will fast.” Stag do only happens when bridegroom is present. Jesus’ actual ministry time was only three years, though they didn’t know that then. Maybe they would have acted differently if they had known.

This story can be seen as very black and white, Mary’s actions seeming whiter than white, as the one who prioritises Jesus, and whereas Martha’s actions are the opposite, often considered the wrong choice, being so concerned about provision for others that she didn’t have time to spend with Jesus. But later on in the gospel, when we read of Jesus coming to Mary and Martha’s house when he hears about Lazarus’s illness, it is Martha who comes out first to meet Jesus …. has she changed her priorities?

Can we change our priorities? We can try it on our own, but with God all things are possible!

Sort priorities, put them into action. With God all things are possible!

Sue Joyce,