This is the last post of the Biblical Womanhood series. Thanks for reading!
I’m so excited we’re here now. I’ve been chomping at the bit for this study and not because its done after this. But because everything I’ve been writing about in this series rises and falls on this. On Jesus. He is the hinge for which all this biblical womanhood stuff hangs from.
So let’s get into it. And lean in with me on this. We’re looking at Luke 10:38-42. First let me get you up to speed as to what has been happening so far in this book. Luke writes about the life and teaching of Christ. Jesus has been healing folks and sending out people to minister. He’s been walking with his disciples and now he is currently in the village of Bethany on His way to Jerusalem. So He’s on his way to the Cross. It’s getting close at this point.
But first He comes to the house of a family who he seems to know well. This family consists of three siblings, Martha, who’s the oldest and whose house this belongs too. And Mary. This is not Mary Magdalene, just yet another Mary. And their brother Lazarus, which is the Lazarus who died and was raised from the dead by Christ. So Jesus has a special relationship with this family. And so he goes to their house and the following ensues…
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
What we have here is a story in which the author Luke is setting before us two examples. He’s giving us two pictures.
And in the picture of Martha we see her distracted with much serving. That’s the language, which is better interpreted to say she was “dragging all around”. Meaning she was over-doing it and fussing about being unnecessarily elaborate in her service.
This over-doing it shows us that Martha might be in her own way trying to earn Jesus favor. But make no mistake, Martha loves Jesus. She knows who He is. She isn’t like one of the pharisee’s who doesn’t believe He is who he says He is. She believes. She’s His friend. In fact in the story of Lazarus dying and being raised from the dead in John chapter 11 it says in verse 5 “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” Which gives us a fuller picture of the relationship Jesus had with this family.
Yet even so, her response to Him coming over, like so many of us would do…was to be elaborately hospitable to the neglect of her guest.
However she believes what she’s doing is proper and right. In fact she’s so sure of this, that she goes as far as to get angry with Jesus, and goes up to Him and says “do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone!” She fully expects that she’s going to get His support with this one. But it doesn’t go that way.
And then we have the second picture in the story, of Mary. This is a woman in awe of Jesus. She just knows that she has to learn from Him while He’s there. She just can’t help but sit as His feet and hear from Him. Mary chose the one thing necessary in that moment. And that was closeness, intentional, meditative learning from Jesus. Mary is the one after-all who would later bust open very expensive perfume to anoint Jesus feet while worshipping Him to prepare Him for His coming death and burial.
She had a special desire to honor and worship Christ.
Often times we read this story and we see the two pictures it shows us and it makes us feel terrible. At least it makes me feel terrible, because I’m a Martha. I’m a doer by nature. I get things done.
So when I read this I can feel pretty terrible because I relate so much to Martha. And I think just in general for women we often feel like Martha. Because we live in a world where there’s a lot to do and get done. And sometimes if we don’t do, it just won’t get done. There’s laundry, and dishes and vacuuming and cooking.
Not to mention just the busyness of life. Your life in general probably consists of having a strict time-sensitive schedule. We all have it in us to keep ourselves endlessly busy.
But let me encourage you at least a little bit here because what Jesus doesn’t say in this text is “Martha, you got it wrong!” He just says, “Mary chose better.”
She just chose what was most important. Which doesn’t diminish the hospitality work Martha was doing. It’s a good thing to do those things. Especially when we do them with a desire to bless not to impress. It’s just that there is something even better that we must not sacrifice on the altar of busy. It says Mary chose the “good portion”. And the word Portion is the same language used to mean “lot of land” or even portion in terms of a meal.
Halloween has come and gone and many of us were probably faced with the same food conundrum I was. I had to choose between having 23 mini chocolate bars or having a healthy meal. What would be the good portion? Or more importantly, what would be the portion with the longest lasting benefits. We all know it’s the healthy meal.
And no matter how temporarily satisfying those mini mars bars are. Because they are delightful. Right? It’s not the good portion that will satisfy in the long run.
Mary saw the opportunity to seek first the kingdom of God, and she took it. She did what was most important first.
We usually hear this message preached at the beginning of a new year to be reminded to prioritize our lives better. We are reminded to put what’s most important first. Like the rocks illustration. You know, you put the big rocks in first. Like Jesus, studying the Word, and prayer. He’s the big rocks. He’s the best choice. The good portion that will have eternal value. Then the small rocks, like friends and family. And then the sand, like work and leisure. And that’s a good message and an important reminder for all of us.
But what I really want to look at in this story is what it tells us about Jesus.
We can see clearly what it means for us and what we need to do. But lets lean in and see what it shows us about Jesus.
We’ve just finished an extensive series on biblical womanhood here on this blog. We’ve tried to discuss it from every angle we can. We started in the beginning in the garden talking about the fall of man-kind. We talked about beauty, and marriage and motherhood and church governance and the sisterhood. And we’ve gone deep into what it means to be female in this world.
And now we are here with Jesus and two women.
What does this story tell us about Jesus and how he treats women? Does He respect these women? Does Jesus value these women?
This is what is so magnificent about this story. Because it answers those questions with a big YES. He’s in their house, which is a sign of mutual respect, and we know He has a deep love for them from John 11.
In this story we see so clearly just how Jesus interacts with and cares for women.
As I’ve written before, women were of very little value in the Jewish culture of this time. Especially if you didn’t have a husband. And there is no mention anywhere that these woman were married. So it could mean a few things for them. It’s possible these women were young and had been orphaned and not married yet. They also could’ve been older widows who had not remarried. Another possibility is that Mary and Martha belonged to a Jewish sect and had chosen singleness and celibacy.
But any of these scenarios put these women in very low standing because they’re unmarried women.
Yet, Jesus is still there. Giving them His time. He knew how precious His time was at this point. He knew how little of it He had left.
Shouldn’t He have spent all of it with the men? I mean, just practically speaking they were the ones with all the influence and clout in the community. You know, time is precious at this point. Shouldn’t he have spent it with the ones with the most cultural value so that He could have gained their support?
If He was a politician that’s what He’d be doing. He’d be hobnobbing with the ones with influence.
But No! He’s not a politician. And thank God for that.
In His wisdom He saw to it to spend time with every kind of person. Male and female. Lowly and rich. There was no prejudice or favoritism in His heart. And it’s miraculous to me that He spent so much of His life caring for the lowliest of women.
And add to that, He gave them the opportunity to be discipled by Him. They weren’t considered one of the 12 disciples, but he is shown here spending time teaching Mary. A woman. In such a counter-cultural way, Jesus taught whomever would desire to be taught. Breaking all the rules.
Jesus’s interactions with women are usually the same in the gospels. He’s gentle, tender, straight-forward about the sin in their lives and he calls them to repentance and faith. This goes for the woman at the well, the unclean woman who touches the hem of His garment, this Mary and Martha story, the widow who lost her son, the woman crippled by a demon in the synagogue. Just to name a few.
And it was women who He first revealed Himself to after he was resurrected back to life!
You see Jesus places value on almost every woman He meets in the gospels. After coming off of a series like this that discusses the difference between men and women, it can make you feel like women have less value. But please, oh please, do not take away a message like that. That is so far from truth and it’s not a message I’d want you to take from me. Are their distinct roles? Absolutely. But value is without a doubt equal.
So what does this mean for us?
Well it means we need to be like Mary, which is obvious. We need to be women of the Word! We don’t have God incarnate Jesus in front of us like these women had. But we do have His Words. So we need to be women who just feast at God’s Word. There should be no one here that is accused of being shallow. Because Christ is the teacher and we ought to sit at His feet in humble submission to all He has for us.
Romans 12:2 says,
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
We live in a biblically illiterate age…and we women should desire to turn that tide.
I want so much for us to walk away from this study, desiring to mimic Mary by prioritizing Christ so intentionally that we become Scripture eating beasts.
Women who can pick up books from the book store and read it with piercing discernment. And know when an author is trying to pull the wool over our eyes and sell us something counter to what the Scripture’s say.
Women who watch a movie and not just let every cultural message that comes through the screen just be absorbed into our psyche like little sponges. But who can wisely sort through the good and bad because Scripture is written on our hearts.
Women who listen to preachers of all kinds and lovingly weigh their words and can look at the Bible and know when what’s being said is right or wrong.
Women who seek first the kingdom of God and find our peace at the foot of the Cross and in the hope of heaven!
Listen I don’t want us to fill our heads up with information just for the sake of it. Just to puff ourselves up and make us feel super-spiritual and become irritating little know-it-alls. I want women to be in the Word so that we get to know this Jesus more and more and more. As Romans 12:2 says, that we would be transformed by the renewal of our minds.
Because we can’t love what our minds don’t know. And there is always more to know about Christ. We never just know enough.
2 Peter 3:18 says,
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
That’s our job, to grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.
But when we do, what we find when we grow in grace and knowledge is we start to see our own sin more. And we start repenting more. And we begin to see how glorious Jesus is in providing what we need. And we recognize just what that need is. What our biggest need is.
And it’s not that we get paid more at our job. Or that we lose 10 more pounds (because we ate 23 chocolate bars on Halloween). Or that we find a spouse. Or that our kids behave better. Or that our marriages be fixed. Or that all our specific problems go away.
We see that our biggest, most pressing need is that we just sit at His feet. That we silence the noise around us and find our strength and our peace and our rest and our wisdom and our identity there.
Mary knew her need. She needed Jesus. And so do we.
We need Him to give the breath to everything else we endeavor to do in this life. Be it a wife, a mother, an employer, a minister of Jesus. You see, learning about biblical womanhood is so important. But it’s nothing unless it’s infused with the Christ’s strength.
When my daughter was a little younger she loved to push the cart when we went grocery shopping. She was like 3 or 4 and didn’t quite have the best upper body strength yet. So she’d stand in between me and the cart and push with all her might. And she’d grunt and moan at how heavy it was. It was adorable, of course, because she thought she was pushing the cart. But who was really pushing the cart?
She sure thought she was. She was proud of herself pushing the cart. But I was the one standing behind her, guiding and pushing it forward.
And it’s the same thing with God, isn’t it? We hear His commands about everything we just studied about motherhood, being wives and true inner beauty and we try and try and push and sweat and we think we’re doing all the work. But it’s Him. In the same way that the second I let go of the cart, that cart stops moving, no matter how hard my daughter pushes.
So it goes with Christ. When we invite Him in and ask Him to, He will give all the movement to our work for Him. And that’s why we must return to Him, with whom all our strength is found and like Mary fall at His feet.
I’m so glad that we end this series on the verge of Advent. Because for the next several weeks we have the opportunity to marvel at the mysterious beauty of the incarnation of Christ. We have the chance to mimic Mary, and meditate on the coming King. The one with whom will crush the head of the snake that helped start the mess in this world. He’s our long-expected snake-crushing Saviour, born to set the people free; from our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in Thee.
And I hope our soul’s can be refreshed by that wonderful truth in this coming season.