Thursday, May 16, 2024

Mary of Bethany: Choosing the Better! ... Lesson 1

Mary of Bethany:  Choosing the Better!

By Patsy Norwood  © 2024  All Rights Reserved!

Lesson 1

Luke 10: 38-42 (NKJV)

Last week in our introduction, we laid the foundation, the groundwork and background for this study.  This week we’re going to jump right in keeping in mind what we learned last week.

Let’s get started …

38 Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home.

This scene most likely took place during a short visit to Jerusalem at the Feast of Dedication and we know from last week’s lesson that the name of the village was Bethany and that it was located about 2 miles outside of Jerusalem.

Who are the ‘they’ mentioned in this verse? In Luke 10:23, we see that Jesus’ disciples were with Him, did they accompany Him into the house of Mary, Martha and Lazarus or did Jesus’ steal away for a visit with this trio?  The Bible doesn’t tell us.

Just like that, Martha opens the door and invites Jesus in???  While researching this verse, I kept asking myself if Jesus knew Mary, Martha and Lazarus before He appeared at their door.  By Martha’s response in this verse, it seems He did.  In fact, it seems that they were all very close friends and comfortable with each other. 

Those thoughts led me to ponder how long they had known each other, that kind of intimacy in relationships doesn’t develop overnight, it takes time.  The Bible doesn’t give us any of those details and neither does any secular history that I’ve found.  However, taking into consideration what we learned about Jewish hospitality in the introduction, it seems highly possible and probable that their relationship was a long standing one.  Could a chance meeting have thrown them all together at some point in the past for the first time or could Mary, Martha and Lazarus have ‘heard’ about Jesus and wanting to learn more opened their home to Him and possibly His disciples?  We simply don’t know how long they had known each other or how they met.  What we do know though is that their relationship resulted in providing a place for Jesus to rest and feel comfortable in, a base to come and go from as needed and an oasis from the crowds.

39 And she had a sister called Mary, who was also seated at the Lord’s feet, and was listening to His word.

We jump from Jesus being welcomed at the door by Martha to Mary being seated at the Lord’s feet. (This also makes me think that Jesus’ relationship with Mary, Martha and Lazarus was not a new one.)

Did they know Jesus was coming for a visit?  Had someone come ahead to let Mary and Martha know that He was on his way to their house?  We don’t know, the Bible doesn’t tell us. 

Did you notice that this verse says ‘who was also seated at the Lord’s feet’ … was there someone else sitting at the Lord’s feet besides Mary?  Again, the Bible doesn’t tell us, but we know that Mary was there seemingly eager to soak up every word Jesus said.

‘Seated at the Lord’s feet’ could mean two things: (1) the location where Mary was seated and/or (2) listening and taking in everything that was being said by our Lord.  Personally, I think it was both.

40 But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do the serving by myself? Then tell her to help me.”

“Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do the serving by myself? Then tell her to help me.”  … this statement adds to my thinking that Mary, Martha, Lazarus and Jesus were not new acquaintances. I can’t image going up to a first time, new acquaintance in my home and asking that question in that manner, can you?

Not everyone was ‘seated at the Lord’s feet!’  Martha was in ‘HOSTESS’ mode and not happy that Mary was not, so much so, that she reprimanded Mary for not helping her right there in front of whoever might have been there.  Do you think Mary cringed at Martha’s words; I can’t help but wonder about how she took the rebuke from her sister?

I understand Martha’s heart for wanting to do the very best she could for the Lord, but I think this would have been one of those times when a different plan for feeding and caring for those present would have been better.

41 – 42  But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; but only one thing is necessary; for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

While Jesus didn’t agree or disagree with what Martha said, He did draw attention to the fact that Mary was attending to a higher and more important duty … making time for the word of the Lord.  Let that sink in!

This excerpt from the Coffman commentary on Luke sums up the message of this whole passage quite well …

Much of the failure of modern Christianity lies in the fact that Christians are busy with all kinds of things, many of them important and necessary, of course; but yet they have no time for the word of the Lord.

Again, let that sink in!

Looking back over this passage of Scripture with Mary in mind we see that:

She had a choice, and she chose the better.

She was reprimanded openly in front of others.

She was willing to take rebuke in order to sit at the Lord’s feet.

The Lord intervened on her behalf.

She loved and was dedicated to the Lord. 

She was eager to learn.

This week we saw Mary ‘choose the better’ at a supper in her home, next week, we’re going to see Mary ‘choose the better’ in a completely different situation. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed today's lesson.  Don't forget to leave a comment and if you're enjoying this study, please share the link with other ladies who you think might enjoy it as well.

Until the next class …

patsy @ From This Heart of Mine

Sources used for this study:

Various translations of the Holy Bible

Various commentaries

Dictionary of New Testament Background, Editors: Craig A Evans & Stanley E. Porter

Archaeological Study Bible

All the Women of the Bible by Edith Deen

Daughters of Eve by Lottie Beth Hobbs

Halley’s Bible Handbook by H. H. Halley

Who’s Who in the Bible by Philip Comfort & Walter A. Elwell


  1. Thank you, Patsy. Much to think about and prayerfully consider! It ties in so well with a devotional book I'm reading this year, where the prayer yesterday was, "Lord, give me humility to seek Your kingdom and not be sidetracked by the rewards and distractions of this world. Amen." It can be a lifelong, daily struggle. I appreciate the time and prayer you spend on each blog post here. What a blessing it is. --Elise

    1. Elise, not getting distracted by the world's shiny tinsel IS a lifelong daily struggle and sometimes I do better at it than others. I have to remind myself that God gave us a tool for combating the world's lure, His word. Studying God's word helps me recognize the shiny tinsel and tells me how to avoid it.

      Thank you for your sweet words of encouragement.

  2. This passage has always gone right to my heart because I am Martha when there are people to feed and care for and I am focused on nothing else. I also think she is the older sister and that has a lot of her calling Mary out in front of others. Again that would be me. So God has allowed me a disease that has me grounded. You'd better believe He has my attention now but still not as much as He would indicate in this passage. Ugh. This is something I need to make a matter of prayer.

    1. This was Lana.

    2. Lana, I'm right there with you. While I feel like I have some of both Martha and Mary in me, the Martha in me is more prominent. My prayer is to focus on the things God would have me focus on and to step back from the things that are not mine to charge ahead in. Right now, I feel like I'm in a time of prayerful 'stepping back' and redirecting my energies to what God would have them directed to. Actually, I'm finding it to be a time of sweet release. I don't think I realized how hard I was holding on to what I thought was my path, maybe God has a different path for me, and I just need to slow down, step back, listen and wait on Him. My heart's desire is to be pleasing to the Lord and sometimes the Martha in me needs to be reminded that I am not in control/charge and that I need to be still and wait on Him.