this week @ housegroup we’re looking at Luke 10:38-42 – mary and martha, with the big question being WHAT IS THE ONE THING THAT IS NEEDED. 

i knew mars hill (mark driscoll) was going through Luke so looked up his message and transcripts and found an excellent unpacking on this encounter with Jesus so am filing it here as additional notes for our housegroup chat on wednesday night:




Some of you are like Mary, some of you are like Martha, okay? And you’re gonna need to pick a team. Who are you?

For those who are like Mary, Mary’s more contemplative. For those of you who are like Mary, you will gravitate toward the contemplative disciplines, silence, solitude, prayer, fasting, journaling.

For those of you who are more like Martha, active. You’re gonna do things. You’re a driver and a doer. You’re gonna gravitate toward those spiritual disciplines that are not contemplative but active: preaching, teaching, serving, healing, administrating, fighting for justice, getting things done.

Now, Mary is more Word based. She sits at the feet of Jesus, “Teach me the Bible. Instruct me. I want to grow in my knowledge of the Word.” Martha’s work based. Do something, get up, make something happen.

For Mary it’s all about being, being with Jesus, being teachable, being humble, being present, getting her time with Jesus, getting her connection with Jesus. It’s about being.

For Martha, it’s doing. Gotta do the dishes, do the laundry, you gotta do the chores, do the task. We’d say that Mary is Type B, Martha’s Type A.

Mary is worried about, to quote Brother Lawrence, “The presence of God.” Being in the presence of Jesus, growing in love with Jesus, listening to Jesus, being taught by Jesus, enjoying the presence of Jesus. She’s in the living room.

Now, Martha’s in the kitchen. What she’s working on is not enjoying the presence of God, but preparing presents for God. “Hey Jesus, I have a clean bed. Hey Jesus, I made dinner. Hey Jesus, I made a cake for you. I have a lot of presents for you. I don’t enjoy the presence of you, I’m creating presents for you.”

Mary worries a lot about the relationship. “Did I get my time with Jesus? Did I sit at his feet? Did I listen? Did I learn? Was I humble? Was I teachable? How’s my relationship with Jesus?”

Martha’s more worried about her responsibilities. She’s the gal with the never-ending checklist of things to do.

Now, how many of you gals, earnestly and honestly, you would be freaked out, like Martha, if you lived in a small village and, sort of unannounced, you heard Jesus is in town along with a whole lot of people, maybe eighty or a hundred of ‘em, and he needs a place to stay and they need something to eat? And you realize that probably is going to be your house. How many of you gals would freak out? Short notice, you would say, “Jesus can’t come over. I haven’t had a shower, I’m in sweats, we don’t have anything to eat, the house is not clean. There’s no Costco here, you know? I can’t just go pick up wontons, you know? This is very complicated, you know? A hundred people, you know? How are we gonna pull off dessert?” All of a sudden, she’s doing Dinner: Impossible. Right? This is a lot to ask of a gal, and all of a sudden she’s going through her cupboards, “I don’t have enough plates. I don’t have enough soup spoons. I don’t have enough napkins. Oh, it’s Jesus. I can’t give him food poisoning. If I kill him, what happens to the universe?” I mean, this is a lot of pressure. All right? And you don’t have a lot of extra food. This is a simple, rural village. Ahh! So she’s all worried about her responsibilities.

Mary’s all about a full heart. “Jesus, teach me, pray for me, love me, serve me, encourage me, help me, fill my heart.” Martha’s about a full schedule. “We could do this, then we could do that, and at 10:07 we’re gonna chop cucumbers and at 10:11 we’re gonna start making flan.” I mean, she’s just got this all figured out.

Good Mary

So we’re gonna look at Mary. Now, first we’re gonna look at Mary. For those of you that wrote down Mary, this is for you. This is what the Scriptures say here about Mary. Luke 10:39, “Mary . . . sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.” Here’s what the Marys like. Marys need time in the Bible. They need silence and solitude and prayer. They need to go to church. They need to go to community group. They need to go to Redemption Group. They need to be with God’s people and they need to sit at Jesus’ feet. That’s Mary. She wants to sit with her brothers and sisters in Christ and she wants to learn the Bible and she wants to pray and she wants to be equipped for ministry so that she can have a heart that is full of love for Jesus and a life that is filled with good works with Jesus. Amen? That’s Mary.

Mary is fantastic. She’s amazing. Luke 10:42, Jesus, in speaking of Mary to Martha, says this, “‘One thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.’” Here’s what Jesus is saying, “Martha, there’s a lot you can do, but there’s something that’s most important. In fact, Martha, you could take everything you’ve ever written on every to-do list and combine their importance and they’re not as important as getting time with me.”

Mary chose the good portion. And here he’s using curious language because what’s Martha been doing all day? Preparing a meal for Jesus and his friends, as well as his fans, and I’m sure she was going to serve Jesus the good portion. All right? He was gonna get the big piece of chicken, right? And everybody’d be like, “How come Jesus’ chunk of cake is always bigger than ours?” Because he’s God! So he always gets the chicken leg and the big piece of cake. That’s the good portion.

And what he tells her is, “You know what, Martha? You are trying to give me the good portion. Mary was wise, humble, teachable, and available and present. I gave her the good portion. She got the best feast of all because man does not live on bread alone, but every word that proceeds from God. Mary spent time with me and I taught her.” Jesus is her good portion. Jesus is our good portion, one that will never be taken away. Once you’re done with a meal, it’s over. Once you’ve spent time with Jesus, that gift lasts forever. You’re never the same. And so Mary is this gal who has her priorities straight, first things first.

Let me tell you what Mary’s not, ‘cause I know some of you. And some of you are lazy, selfish, disorganized, and ridiculous. And you will say, “Well, I’m like Mary.” No, you’re not! She’s not playing the Wii, right? I mean, she’s spending time with Jesus—just ‘cause you don’t do anything doesn’t mean you’re like Mary, okay? Okay, you’re like Judas. He comes up later in the story. That’s a totally different person in the story. So you can’t just say, “I don’t do things ‘cause I’m holy like Mary.” No, no, no, no. It’s not that Mary’s doing nothing, it’s Mary’s doing first things first. The good portion is Jesus. She’s getting time to be discipled by him. You get that?

Good Martha

And now we’ll talk about Martha. Now, let me say this about Martha. I love Martha and I don’t like the way she gets treated. Now that could be because I’m Martha and I’m sensitive here. Now let me explain this. The way it usually goes is Martha’s bad, Mary’s good. Be like Mary, don’t be like Martha. Then we all kind of get judgmental and religious and then we sort of condemn all the Marthas and then all the Marthas—this doesn’t help Marthas at all. All Martha does is says, “Well, then I gotta put more things on my to-do list. I need to read my Bible, and pray, and choke Mary. You know, I need to do these things.” And it doesn’t help Martha at all because it just degenerates it into a competition and it fuels the task-, chore-, list-, works-righteousness.

So I like Martha, okay? And I think Martha gets a little bit of a bad bum rap. And there is a good aspect to Martha. I’ll show it to you here in Luke 10:38, “a woman named Martha welcomed him [Jesus] into her house.” Jesus comes to town, who’s the only person that invites him over? Martha! That’s a good thing. There are benefits to hanging out around Martha. Ask Mary. All right? Apparently, Mary’s sitting in the living room and she’s, you know, I don’t know, getting her quiet time with the Lord, and because Martha invites him over she gets time to sit at Jesus’ feet. That’s a real bonus for Mary that Martha made possible.

Now, I don’t know for sure who owned the house, but her house—maybe this is Martha’s house. Maybe she picked it out and paid the mortgage and organized it all and she’s the queen bee and this is her nest. I don’t know. But she does welcome Jesus into her home. She’s not an atheist. She’s not a godless woman. She loves Jesus. Her whole life is open to him. Her home is open to him. She loves Jesus, Jesus loves her. She serves Jesus. She’s attentive to Jesus. She’s concerned for Jesus. She’s a mature believer and a godly woman who actually does some really wonderful things and as you read the rest of the gospels, including over into John, there are more occasions where she shows up. She’s an impressive gal, she’s an astute gal, she has some character defects, but Jesus is working on them. So let’s not dismiss Martha. That’s good Martha.

Bad Martha

Now we’ll go to bad Martha. Martha has a Martha moment here. Luke 10:40–42, “But Martha was,” what’s the word? “Distracted with much serving.” Can you be overextended, overcommitted? Yeah. Can you reach the point where you have nominated yourself to do too much and you get distracted?

“And she went up him,” who? Jesus. “And said, ‘Lord, do you not care—’” ooh. That’s not right. “‘Do you not care?’” Here’s what happens to those who have a Martha heart. They become resentful. Now, outwardly it looks like they’re worshiping. Inwardly they’re seething. “No one ever helps. No one does their part. No one follows through. I can’t depend on anyone. No one ever helps me. I love the Lord the most! I’m working the hardest! I’m burned out and frustrated! How come you never help?” How many of you moms, you’re like, “We shouldn’t say that to our kids?” Right? You feel self-righteous and judgmental and holy because you’re responsible. You see needs and you work hard to meet them. Be careful, Martha.

She walks up to Jesus, “Do you not care?” Jesus would say, “Yeah, I created the heavens and the earth and I’m on my way to Jerusalem to atone for the sin of the world. I care. Thanks for the cake.” You know? We show our care maybe a little differently. How many of you have felt this way? “No one cares.” This can even happen when you’re involved in ministry. You’re involved in community groups? “No one cares about community groups.” You’re in Redemption Groups? “No one cares about Redemption Groups.” Whatever it is, “No one cares as much as me. It’s all up to me. Woe is me. I’m the only dependable, faithful one and I’m burnt out and frustrated.” And sometimes our prayer life can even sound like Martha’s, “Lord, do you not care?”

And we start bossing God around. You can read it, “‘Do you not care that my sister has left me to serve all alone?’” This is tattletale-ing. You can tell they’re sisters, right? Right? You can see this. It starts when they’re little. You can see Martha, stomping in, “Mom! Mary’s just in there dancing and singing worship songs. She’s not setting the table! She’s not helping! She’s doing it again! She’s got a tutu on, she’s just playing. She’s not!” “What are you doing, Mary?” “I’m singing to Jesus, woo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo.” Right? You can see Martha running in, “I did her chores. I set the table. I did it all myself, Mom.” Ahh, the Martha heart.

And so, it continues, “‘Tell her then to help me!’” Who is Martha bossing around? Jesus. That’s a bad day. Right? “Do you not care? Jesus, if you would just do what you were told, I would have this all knocked out! I have a plan! And you and Mary just sitting in there like singing songs and memorizing verses, hey, that does not get meals made!”

Now, she should have already heard that Jesus makes food. He’s already—right? I mean, a little earlier in the book, a little boy came up to Jesus with a Lunchable and he fed a stadium. Right? She could have went in there and sat down and said, “Hey, Jesus, you know what? Everybody’s hungry. “Do that free lunch thing and I’ll be taking notes here at the Bible study.” She doesn’t do that. Instead, she nominates herself for something that Jesus didn’t appoint her to and then she’s frustrated when Jesus doesn’t do what she tells him. Doh! What a Martha am I? How many of you are burned out, frustrated, doing things that Jesus didn’t ask you to do in the first place?

And all the Marys are sitting next to Marthas going, “This is the best sermon ever. This is the best sermon ever.” I can tell you why Martha’s single. She nags a lot! She’s a nag. Right?

“But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha,’” which is a term of endearment. This is, “Come on, Martha. Hello. I’m God. Martha, please. Think this through with me here.” “‘You are,’” what? “‘Anxious.’” Stressed out, freaked out. Furrowed brow, grumpy, grouchy, and troubled. “Oh, we’re never gonna get this done. This’ll never work. There’s too much to do. I can’t believe he dropped in on me. How come he has to have so many people with him? He didn’t call in advance! This is not acceptable.” She is “troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.” “Martha, I know you’re freaked out. You got a million things to do. You’re never gonna get ‘em all done. So how about if we start with this? Spend some time with me.”

Mary First, Martha Second

Here’s my conclusion. Not to the sermon. That’s gonna be a long time from now. But to the issue. I think the point of the Bible here is Mary first, Martha second. Spend time with Jesus, then get stuff done. To worship like Mary and then to work like Martha. If all Mary ever does is sits there and studies and never does anything, she’s sinful in a completely different way. All right? This would be like the guy who’s on his thirty-second year of Bible college. It’s like, “Dude, seriously, go do something.” But if all she does is Martha, do, do, do, do, do, go do, go do, go, go, go, go? She’s gonna end up distracted, anxious, troubled. And so the key is Mary first, Martha second.

Worship, then work. Worship God before you work so that you could worship God in your work. And do the work that God has called you to do, not chasing your potential, but pursuing your calling. Not volunteering yourself as the savior of the world to plug every hole and meet every need. That job’s already taken. And instead to spend time with the savior of the world, asking him what portion of the mission he’s entrusted to your service. So we want Mary’s heart and we want Martha’s hands. Amen? That’s what we want. We want Mary’s heart, Martha’s hands.

We Live in a Martha World

Now let me ask you this. Do we live in a Mary world or a Martha world? We live in a Martha world, friends. We live in a Martha—the Marthas rule the world. America is now the most overworked country in America. Americans work more hours every year than any other nation on earth. We take our laptops on vacation if we go on vacation. We have our phones and our technology connected at home, on our day off, late into the night. Work, work, work, work, work, work, work, work. And what happens? We’re troubled. We’re anxious. We’re distracted. And it leads to all kinds of difficulty. Stress, anxiety, depression, bouts with anger, heart disease, much of it attributed to playing by the rules of a fallen, sin-filled, cursed, Martha world.

God has intended this world to be Mary first, then Martha. God built this world to be a Mary world with Martha moments. Now, in Genesis 3, when sin enters the world and our work becomes cursed and laborious toil, it turned into a Martha world in which we have to fight for Mary moments.



And the truth is, Martha, you’re never gonna get everything done that you’ve got on your list. And if Jesus is last, you’ll never get to him. And so you make sure that time with Jesus is first. Going to church, sitting, first. Going to community group, sitting, first. Getting time with Jesus and his people, first things first.

Additionally, for us Marthas, we need to know that Jesus here is not condemning her, but he’s inviting her. Now, when he comes to her and looks at her and he says, “Martha, Martha,” do you think it’s with a furrowed brow? Do you think Jesus is giving her the stink eye? “Martha.” You know, grinded teeth. You know, like, “Martha, Martha, Martha,” you know? You think it looks like a standoff before a cage fight? You know, you think he’s giving her the stare down? No.

I see Jesus smiling, maybe even being a little bit playful. Right? A little goofy ‘cause she’s so serious. “Oh my gosh, I have to put together a thousand hors d’oeuvres.” “Martha, Martha, Martha.” All right, I think Jesus has got a friendship with her. She’s like a sister and he’s drawing her out inviting her out. “Hey, Martha, let’s refocus this. Martha, Martha, you know I love you. Come on, let’s talk about this. Let me pull you out of your funk.” You Marthas, we Marthas need to know Jesus is smilin’ at her. He loves her. He’s not condemning her. He’s not just trying to put another thing on her to-do list so she can check quiet time. He’s inviting her into relationship. He’s drawing her out, loving and encouraging her. That’s Jesus with you today, Martha. He loves you, not mad at you. But he has some things he needs to tell you. So sit at his feet.

Here’s what we need to do as well, Marthas. We need to apologize to the Marys, right? “Sorry. Man, the whole time I’ve been nagging and frustrated and bitter and bossy. I was trying to make you like me, huh. You were trying to be like Jesus and I was trying to make you like me.” The point of discipleship is not to make people like us, but to make people like him, by the grace of God.