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Mary and Martha- Discovering Purpose and Values



What does living out our purpose and design look like? Living out your purpose and design isn’t always big and flashy. Most of us dream about being the hero in a grand story. We don’t want to be the lowly supporting actor who only shows up during 5 minutes in one episode and is immediately killed off. Most of us don’t get rich and convert thousands by living out our purpose and design. We tend to base our value on our perception of the bigger picture. The things is, we don’t get to see the whole picture. We see a tiny piece of a much larger story that is being told by God. We usually don’t see the threads that weave in and out of our story or the impact we have on the people in our areas of influence. We are blinded by our need to be more than we are and miss what we are and what we do offer.


Let’s look at the story of Martha and Mary. Jesus tired from his travels and accompanied by a large group of followers enters the small town of Bethany and is welcomed into the home of a woman named Martha.

Luke 10: 39 “As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.”


When Martha opened her home to Jesus it wasn’t just Jesus she welcomed in. She welcomed all the people with him! Can you imagine? I can get overwhelmed having friends come over for dinner and here Martha was inviting at least 20-30 people into her home to feed and care for. Martha acted with an amazing amount of generosity. Nothing earth shattering compared to the larger picture but definitely impactful in the lives of those she welcomed in with open arms. The story continues.


Luke 10: 40-42 “She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 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!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

This is where most of us are more familiar with this story. Martha is pictured as the one who is busy bustling around getting things done caring for everyone and possibly obsessing about every detail and Mary is the one who is sitting at Jesus’ feet learning and soaking in every word. We hear Jesus rebuke Martha and commend Mary and make judgment calls about the value and worth of each of them not only as followers of Jesus but as people in general. We immediately assume that Martha is the villain and Mary is the righteous one. Sometimes we even take this story as a personal rebuke or challenge. Let's take another look at what Jesus said, “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one” His “rebuke” was a call to deeper relationship with him. It was an invitation to rest. And Martha listened and learned. Let’s look at another story that involves both Mary and Martha after their brother Lazarus has died.


John 11: 17-33 “On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there. When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.”

I love how Martha approaches Jesus in this story. She doesn’t wait with Mary for Jesus to come to her. She goes to him. She’s confused and grieving yet approaches him with openness, respect and assurance of who he is and she asks boldly for a miracle “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” Then she follows it with this bold proclamation “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” Martha isn’t pursuing perfection and performance here she’s pursuing Messiah. I see in Martha a woman who is warm, hospitable, unafraid to learn and grow and a woman of unshakable faith even in the midst of the grief of losing her brother. I see someone who is living out her faith through action. Mary responded differently from her sister.


“When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.”

Mary was a woman of deep feeling and emotion. Someone who wore her feelings on her sleeve. Someone who loved deeply and fiercely to the depth of her soul. She lives out her faith through relationship and connection. She wasn’t afraid to risk rejection and humiliation in order to sit at Jesus’s feet as a disciple (something women in this patriarchal society would never have done.) Value is lived out differently through different people. Martha and Mary were very different people. We can see in the story how having different values affected their relationship and possibly caused some tension in their home. They obviously relate to their friends differently (why wasn’t Martha surrounded by people comforting her?). Mary fell at Jesus’ feet weeping but Martha didn’t, does that mean she wasn’t grieving as much as Mary? Probably not, we all grieve differently. As we read these passages with a different lens and look for what these two very different women valued and how they lived those values out we can see that these are two women who have a deep abiding faith in Jesus. They express it differently in ways that are unique to each of their personalities but are still very real expressions of faith and love. We see the depth of their devotion to Jesus and the support they were to him as he neared his final days. He chose to stay in their home for the last days of his life on this earth. In fact I think that it’s a beautiful thing that again Martha served her Lord and Savior


“Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him.” John 12:2.


These women lived their lives and interacted with others in a way that spoke of deep personal purpose that reflected their deeply held values. Are they the heroes of the story or just lowly supporting actors? We could say that they’re the heroes because the story is centered around them but we could also say that they were the supporting actors and that Jesus was the real hero in the story. I would say that both are true. Jesus is always the hero of our stories. He gives us purpose and the opportunity to use it to make an impact in the lives of those who surround us. He gives us opportunities to love, serve, support, challenge, affirm and bring life to others but the choice is ours. Just like Jesus invited Martha to rest and challenged her to do something that may have been uncomfortable, he invites us in as well. We have a vital role to play in the story of our lives. We don’t know how living out our design and purpose will affect the larger story. However, just an observation, I’ve noticed, that often the supporting characters in a story are usually the ones who makes the whole story possible.

Questions for reflection

What do you think Martha valued most? How can you tell?

What do you think Mary valued most? How can you tell?

What personal challenge can you take away from this story?

Who is someone you see living out their values and how does that impact you?

What do you personally value?

Where and how do your values show up in your life?

It was a risk for Mary to sit at Jesus’ feet and it was a risk for Martha to go meet Jesus. What do you need to risk in order to live out your values?

Mary wasn’t afraid to ask Jesus for a miracle because her faith made her bold.

What do you value that gives you boldness to pursue your dreams and goals?

What specifically holds you back from living from those values?

 

If you'd like more information about living on purpose or learn more about how I can help you live from your values you can find me at www.pathwaycoaching.net When you visit, make sure to schedule a complimentary discovery session!

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