A major shift in Luke’s Gospel occurs at Luke 9:51 (and goes to Luke 18:14), as Jesus turns his attention from ministry in Galilee to a resolute focus towards Jerusalem and his coming suffering. Despite opposition (Luke 9:51-56), Jesus calls for personal sacrifice, even of family responsibilities, in order to concentrate completely on serving the Lord (Luke 9:57-62). Accordingly as Jesus moves toward Judea and Jerusalem, he sends 72 disciples ahead with a warning that God’s Kingdom is near (Luke 10:1-12). Despite his great sadness toward those who have rejected it (Luke 10:13-16), Jesus focuses his joy over those who have received salvation (Luke 10:17-24). Questioned by an expert in Torah, Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan to show the full extent of the Law’s demands of the believer. Authentic spiritual life is defined by love for God and others (Luke 10:25-37). Authentic spiritual life is also defined by the priority of God’s Presence (Luke 10:38-42) and prayer (Luke 11:1-13).
Key Truth: Luke wrote Luke 10:38-11:13 to teach believers the importance of the priority of His Presence.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about your relationship with Jesus.
Pray and Read: Luke 10:38-11:13
1. Jesus calls you to the priority of His Presence (Luke 10:38-42)
Exposition: Note well,
1. JESUS CALLS YOU TO THE PRIORITY OF HIS PRESENCE (Luke 10:38-42)
a. The story of the Good Samaritan illustrates love for neighbor. The Mary and Martha story illustrates love for God. While Martha was busy preparing a large meal, Mary ignored her sister and sat at Jesus’ feet, the traditional place of a disciple.
b. The story of Jesus’ visit to Mary and Martha’s home points out the importance of learning from Jesus and being in relationship with him. Relationship with Jesus takes priority over even serving him. When Martha complains to Jesus that her sister Mary is neglecting her household duties and leaving all the work to her, Jesus gently corrects her. While Martha is occupied with things, Mary is occupied with Jesus. She has chosen the better, which “will not be taken away from her.” The “better” is the privilege of learning at Jesus’ feet as a faithful disciple.
c. Luke 10:38 – Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazarus are well known in the Gospel of John as good friends of Jesus, but they appear only here outside John. They live in Bethany, only 2.5 miles southeast of Jerusalem (Luke 19:29). The name Bethany means “house of poverty,” and may indicate the socio-economic status of the town, perhaps also is prophetic of Jesus emptying of Himself at the Cross just days away. Jesus may be in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles (same time as John 7:2-5, 10-15), and if so, then this is an autumn time of camping outside in leafy lean-tos, remembering Israel’s pilgrimage, and taking time to read, study the Scripture, and reflect on what is most important.
d. We know from John’s Gospel that the Lord frequently made Bethany and this home his dwelling place while he was in Jerusalem. The invitation to Jesus is identified with Martha, who seems to be more or less in charge. Perhaps because she was the elder sister or perhaps because she owned the house or perhaps she was the wife or widow of Simon the Leper (Matt 26:6; Mark 14:3; John 12:1-2).
e. Luke 10:38 – Let’s face it: Martha knew her invitation was going to be a lot of work. She was inviting a rabbi and twelve young men to eat! Hosting that many would mean a lot of food and work. Martha offers her best, but it is misguided. In our culture we still value hospitality. We value a well-prepared meal and a clean house and a gracious reception for guests, but often we miss the relationships. Martha was missing the relationship with Jesus Himself. How many even in that day would have longed to have Jesus as their dinner guest, but Jesus was just looking for relationship.
f. APPLICATION: Henry Blackaby in his study, Experiencing God, says that “a love relationship with God is more important than any other single factor in your life. Everything in your Christian life, everything about knowing Him and experiencing Him, everything about knowing His will depends on the quality of your love relationship with god. If that is not settled, nothing in your life will be right. Your walk with the Lord is the single most important aspect of your life. If it is not as it should be, nothing else will function properly. So make sure you are investing your life, your time, your resources in things that will last, not in things that will pass away. You must recognize that God created you for eternity, or you will invest in the wrong priorities (Matt 6:33).
g. Luke 10:39 – Mary sat: This Mary is the same one who anointed Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair (Matt 26:6-7; John 11:1-2; 12:3; To sit at the feet of a respected rabbi was the position of a disciple. In Acts 22:3 Paul says he was instructed at the feet of Gamaliel, a leading rabbi of Jerusalem (Luke 8:35). Mary’s initiative in taking such a position at Jesus’ feet and learning was actually shocking for most Jewish men, surely for the disciples. Rabbis did not have female disciples. Girls did not receive a formal education.
h. APPLICATION: Jesus shatters cultural expectations by affirming the status of a woman as his disciple. Jesus is the greatest liberator of women the world has ever known.
i. Luke 10:40 – Martha was distracted: Literally distracted by much service (diakonia). So distracted was she that not only did she resent Mary’s apparent idleness, she even scolded Jesus for not sending Mary to help. Hospitality was a high value in Jewish society, and a woman’s honor and reputation depended on her ability to manager her household well. Since service was a woman’s highest calling, Martha’s complaint against Mary is legitimate. Yet for Jesus, all that hard work was just a distraction for Martha. Mary’s desire was to sit at the Master’s feet as a disciple and learn from him. Notice that Martha calls him “Lord,” a designation of Messiahship.
j. Luke 10:41-42 - Jesus answers her gently, “Martha, Martha,” a kind way of addressing someone. He must have been smiling. He appreciates all she is doing, but he points her toward what is most important. “You are filled with inward anxiety and outward agitation about many things in the preparation of too much.” One thing is needed: One simple dish would have sufficed, not a whole banquet (Prov 15:16-17)! But Jesus is using wordplay in double entendre. One material thing to eat would have been sufficient, and also one spiritual thing, focusing on Him, would have been sufficient. After all, He will not be with them much longer. Fret and fussiness, even in this lovely woman, he must reprove. At the same time, He exalts fellowship with Him to a very high place of excellence and permanence for the disciples. It is the principle thing, and it will not be taken away. The revered Dallas Seminary professor J. Dwight Pentecost said that “to be occupied with Christ is more important than to be occupied for Christ.”
k. Luke 10:42 – Mary has chosen the better: Notice Jesus’ tact. He commends Mary without condemning Martha.
l. APPLICATION: Let’s look at the context for a moment. Luke has gradually led his hearers to see Jesus as he is, the Christ of God, but also to a point of decision. Jesus entered our world and displayed his love to us, and we must make a choice for or against Jesus as Savior. Luke calls on us to respond to Jesus as the long awaited Messiah, the Lord. The parable of the Good Samaritan introduces the difference between living religiously and living righteously, living under judgment or living in Jesus. To Jesus’ question, “What is written in the Law?” concerning eternal life, the expert in the law gave the same answer any education Jew would give to such a question (Luke 10:25). The priest and the Levite in the Samaritan story (looking but passing by on the other side) deny the most basic principle of the Law in their indifference to the suffering man who had been attacked by robbers. The expert in the law proves by his answer that the only real alternative to a loving relationship with Jesus is a cold, dead ‘religion of the Book,’ a religion that has lost sight of mercy, a religion which like the law expert does acts of kindness only as a means to “justify himself” (Luke 10:29).
m. APPLICATION: Love for God is best expressed in listening and responding to Jesus’ words, not in busily ‘doing’ for him. The story of Mary and Martha is a warning. Even Jesus’ own followers will fare no better than the first generation that followed Moses if like Martha they place priority on ‘doing.’ Remember that generation? They did not operate on faith. They operated on fear. They did not trust the Lord to lead them into the Promised Land, a place they had never been. They didn’t know if they had the resources, but they did not trust the Lord to provide them, either. They died in the Wilderness. Their bones bleached in the desert sun because of their unbelief (Heb 4). Luke says that Jesus’ followers will fail too if they don’t put their priorities on the right things. Like Mary, we must emphasize the disciple’s duty to maintain an intimate personal relationship with God (Luke 10:38-42). Jesus’ teaching on prayer brings that relationship into clear focus (Luke 11:1-13). What choice do we have? We can either accept Jesus by faith or be spiritually blind (Luke 11:33-36). The Queen of Sheba and Nineveh acted in faith with a lot less information about Jesus (Luke 11:29-32). Unless we give our love relationship with Jesus priority, the loving service we give Him now may just deteriorate into the sterile religion of the priest and the Levite in the Samaritan story.
F.F. Bruce, gen. ed. The International Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986), 1206.
Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1993), .
Craig Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove: Intervarsity, 1993), 218.
Dwight J. Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), 301-303.
Lawrence O. Richards, The Victor Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Wheaton: Victor, 1994), 178-180, 183.
Lawrence O. Richards, The Bible Reader’s Companion (Wheaton: Victor, 1991), 661-2.
David W. Pao and Eckhard J. Schnabel, “Luke,” G.K. Beale and D.A. Carson, gen. eds., Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007), 322.
A.B. Simpson, The Christ in the Bible Commentary. Vol. 4 (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1993), 4: .
David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary (Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996), 122.
Strauss, Mark. “Luke.” Vol. 1. Clinton E. Arnold, gen. ed. Zondervan Illustratied Bible Backgrounds Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 1: 416-17.