Jesus Sends Out the Seventy-Two, 1-24

Lk 10:1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.

Only Luke records that, in addition to the sending out of the twelve, Lk 9:1-6, Jesus also sent out this larger group.  In neither case are we told how long the mission lasted, or exactly where they were sent.  Luke is much more interested in the teaching which it stimulated.  He also wants us to know that missionary activity was not restricted to the inner circle of disciples, and this prepares us for the post-resurrection worldwide mission of the church.

‘The three scenes in Luke 10 illustrate the threefold ministry of every Christian believer, and they answer the question, “What in the world does a Christian do?” To begin with, we are the Lord’s ambassadors, sent to represent him in this world. (Lk 10:1-24) we are also neighbors, looking for opportunities to show mercy in the name of Christ. (Lk 10:25-37) But at the heart of all our ministry is devotion to Christ, so we must be worshipers who take time to listen to his Word and commune with him. (Lk 10:38-42) Whether we are in the harvest field, on the highway, or in the home, our highest privilege and our greatest joy is to do the will of God.’ (Wiersbe)

Seventy-two – Some mss give the number as seventy.  In either case, we are reminded of the elders who helped Moses in Ex 24:1.  Although they probably only visited Jewish locations, there is a flavour of a universal mission here, and consequently a recollection of the table of nations in Gen 10.

Two by two – For mutual support and confirmation of their witness, Deut 19:15.  Two witnesses would have been required for the verdict mentioned in Lk 10:9-15.

They were sent ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go – This is a general, rather than specific, description of their itinerary.  We do not have to assume that they, and Jesus, visited 36 separate locations on their way to Jerusalem.

Luke 10:2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.

Luke 10:3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.

Luke 10:4 Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.

Lk 10:4–12pp—Lk 9:3–5

The instructions they are given are very similar to those given to the twelve, Lk 9:1-6.  They were to travel lightly, and to live simply.

Luke 10:5 “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’  Luke 10:6 If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you.

“‘Peace to this house”‘ – A simple”] greeting, in contrast to the more elaborate oriential greetings.

“A man of peace” – lit. ‘a son of peace’, i.e. a man characterised by peace.

Luke 10:7 Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.

They were to accept whatever simple hospitality was offered and not go from house to house seeking a better offer.  The practice of hospitality towards Christian ministers and missionaries is reflected in 3 Jn 7f; 1 Cor 9:14; 1 Tim 5:18.

Luke 10:8 “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you.

Luke 10:9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’

Luke 10:10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say,

Luke 10:11 ‘Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.’

Luke 10:12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

More bearable on that day for Sodom – ‘The Jews regarded the heathen towns of old as absolutely godless. To say that they would have given a warmer response to the gospel than these Jewish towns is a way of saying just how blind the Jews were to the gospel; their pride would experience a swift downfall.’ (NBC)

Luke 10:13 “Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.

Lk 10:13–15,21,22pp—Mt 11:21–23,25–27

Korazin – a town north of Capernaum.

Luke 10:14 But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you.

Luke 10:15 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths.

Lifted up to the skies…go down to the depths – Evans thinks that this is an allusion to Isa 14:13,15.  See note on v18.

Luke 10:16 “He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

Luke 10:17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”

'In his name'

‘Jesus’ disciples prophesied “in his name” (Mt. 7:22), cast out demons “in his name” (Lk. 10:17), performed miracles “in his name” (Mk. 9:39), etc. With the use of this expression it becomes evident that the disciples spoke and acted like Jesus, in His place and with His authority, as did the prophets of Yahweh in the OT (see Acts 4:7–10). Similarly, the gospel is to be preached in all the world “in his name,” i.e., by His authority, and thus be made effectual to save people (Lk. 24:47), justify sinners (Acts 10:43), and forgive people their sins (1 Jn. 2:12).’

G.W. Hawthorne, ISBE (2nd ed.), art. ‘Name’

Luke 10:18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.

The meaning could either be “I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning”; or, “I saw Satan fall like lightning-from-heaven.” Stein (NAC) thinks that the former is more probable.  Either way, the emphasis is on the suddenness, rather than the brightness, of the fall.

Stein: ‘In the exorcisms of the seventy(-two), Jesus saw Satan’s defeat resulting from his coming.’

Garland argues that the success of the disciples in casting out demons should be understood as ‘the beginning of the complete overthrow of Satan’s rule.’

Godet (cited by Hendriksen): ‘[Jesus meant] While you were expelling the subordinates [the demons] I was seeing the master [Satan] fall.’ Hendriksen adds that the success of the disciples should be understood as one example of many similar events that would take place.

Evans thinks that this is ‘certainly’ an allusion to Isa 14:12, which is often understood as referring to a primeval expulsion of Satan from heaven.  Although Gen 6:1-14 is often recruited in support of this view, the imagery connected to it has more to do with Milton that with Scripture.  Moreover, a reference to such a primeval expulsion makes little sense in context.

Rather, Jesus is saying that in the expelling of the demons (Satan’s subordinates) he saw the ultimate overthrow of Satan himself.  See also Mt 12:27; Jn 12:31f.

‘He appears to have been speaking metaphorically. He had a vision of the spiritual defeat of Satan which took place at the cross; and the exorcisms, the defeat of Satan’s minions, confirmed his certainty of the coming victory over their master. (See Rev. 12:7–10.)’ (NBC)

Luke 10:19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.

‘The “snakes and scorpions” represent the forces of evil; thanks to the work of Christ, his people can trample them underfoot and gain the victory over them. The imagery may be borrowed from Psalm 91:13, where those who trust in God are promised that they “will tread upon the lion and the cobra.”‘ (HSB)

Snakes and scorpions are apt symbols of the domain of Satan, given his intention to poison minds and impart the sting of death to those who oppose him.  (Hendriksen)

Luke 10:20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

‘A cosmic battle is in place with the gospel. That battle is being waged yet today, though the question of victory was decided on Calvary’s cross. What we see in the seventy-two are the first moments of triumph, much like D-Day was for the allies during World War II. The war lasted long after that battle, but the outcome was essentially decided in those first few days. Our ministry for Christ plays out that cosmic struggle, and we rejoice and share Jesus because in him rests the truth that allows one’s name to be found in the Book of Life.’ (Bock)

The book of life

G.W. Hawthorne notes that ‘expressions such as “your names are written in heaven” (Lk. 10:20), “whose names are in the book of life” (Phil. 4:3), “whose name has not been written … in the book of life” (Rev. 13:8), and “I will not blot his name out of the book of life” (Rev. 3:5), crop up several times within the NT. The figure is taken from the OT (cf. Isa. 4:3; Ezk. 13:9; Dan. 12:1), or from the secular world where a criminal’s name was removed from the civic register to take from him all rights of citizenship.’

Hawthorne appears to offer tentative support for a doctrine of conditional immortality when he adds: ‘If one could argue from these statements that all names have been recorded in the book of life, thereby assuring existence for each person, and if one might also argue that for some reason, e.g., wilful disobedience to God’s commands, deliberate refusal to accept Christ as Savior and Lord, etc., one’s name could be removed from this divine register, “blotted out,” then one might argue that that person would cease to exist, for his name would no longer exist.’

ISBE (2nd ed.), art ‘name’

Lk 10:21 At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.”

See Mt 11:25n

Luke 10:22 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

The authenticity of this saying has been doubted.  But if the sayings recorded in John’s Gospel are those of Jesus, as well as those recorded in the Synoptic Gospels (and we believe that they are), then we can willingly accept Luke’s ‘bolt from the Johanine blue’.

Luke 10:23 Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.

Lk 10:23,24pp—Mt 13:16,17

Luke 10:24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”

The Parable of the Good Samaritan, 25-37

Lk 10:25–28pp—Mt 22:34–40; Mk 12:28–31

Luke 10:25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What must I do…?” – Edwards observes that the tense suggests the meaning, “What (one) thing must I do…?”; a single, specific action is implied.

Allegorical interpretations
Fee & Stuart show how such a ‘great and brilliant’ scholar as Augustine could fall into entirely unwarranted allegorisation:-

A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho = Adam
Jerusalem = the heavenly city of peace, from which Adam fell
Jericho = the moon, and thereby signifies Adam’s mortality
robbers = the devil and his angels
stripped him = of his immortality
beat him = by persuading him to sin
leaving him half dead = as a man he lives, but he died spiritually; therefore he is half dead
the priest and Levite = the priesthood and ministry of the Old Testament
the Samaritan = is said to mean Guardian; therefore Christ himself is meant
bandaged his wounds = binding the restraint of sin
oil = comfort of good hope
wine = exhortation to work with a fervent spirit
donkey (“beast”) = the flesh of Christ’s incarnation
inn = the church
the next day = after the resurrection
two silver coins = promise of this life and the life to come
innkeeper = Paul

Fee & Stuart comment: ‘As novel and interesting as all of this may be, one can be absolutely certain that it is not what Jesus intended. After all, the context clearly calls for an understanding of human relationships (Who is my neighbor?), not divine to human; and there is no reason to think that Jesus would predict the church and Paul in this obtuse fashion!’ (How To Read The Bible For All Its Worth, 4th ed., p155)

Trench, in his ‘Notes on the Parables’ offers the following mystical interpretation of this parable:-

The traveller represents human nature. He has forsaken Jerusalem (holiness) in favour of profanity (Jericho). He falls into the hands of Satan, who with his evil angels strips him of the robe of his original righteousness, leaving him (spiritually) for dead. The law and sacrifices ‘passed him by’, being unable to restore him. The ‘Great Physician’ came, and applied the anointing of the Holy Spirit (oil), the blood of passion (wine) and the sacraments (binding up the wounds). The inn represents the church. The leaving of the Samaritan represents the departure (ascension) of Christ. The two coins represent all gifts and graces, left by Christ as a provision of grace until his return.

There is, of course, something attractive and apparently spiritual about such a scheme of interpretation. But that is not what Jesus meant when he told the parable. The meaning is fixed by the question which prompted it (‘Who is my neighbour’ – focusing on human relationships), and by the command given by Christ at the close (‘Go and do likewise’ – showing that the compassion of the Samaritan is meant to illustrate how we should behave as followers of Christ).

Luke 10:26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

Lk 10:27 he answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

‘Swami Shivananda, a famous swami in India used to tell his disciples: Kill the mind and then, and then only, can you meditate. The Christian position is, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy mind – the intellectual nature; with all thy heart – the emotional nature; with all thy soul – the willing nature; and with all thy strength – the physical nature. The total person is to love him mind, emotion, will, strength. But the strength might mean the strength of all three. Some love him with the strength of the mind and the weakness of the emotion – the intellectualist in religion; some love him with the strength of emotion and the weakness of the mind – the sentimentalist in religion; some love him with the strength of the will and the weakness of emotion – the man of iron who is not approachable. But loving God with the strength of the mind, the strength of the emotion, the strength of the will that makes the truly Christian and the truly balanced and the truly strong character.’ (Stanley Jones)

Luke 10:28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

Luke 10:29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

He wanted to justify himself – As Stein says, ‘this indicates a less than sincere response on the part of the lawyer, reinforcing his negative attitude in 10:25.’

Nolland: ‘The lawyer wishes to appear in a good light, despite having lost the initiative to Jesus, and having been displaced from the position of challenger to that of the one being challenged.’

Luke 10:30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho” – A steep road, 17 miles (27km) long, descended the 3,300 ft. from Jerusalem to Jericho, which was a country dwelling of priests when not on temple duty (cf. 1:23).

Undesigned coincidence?  ‘Why did Jesus set the Good Samaritan between Jericho and Jerusalem?  Luke 9-10 records the journey of Jesus from northern Israel towards Jerusalem, leading through Samaria. Jesus comes to the home of Mary and Martha, which John tells us is Bethany (11:1). Mark recounts a similar but different journey where he goes to Jericho first (10:46). So if Jesus took the same route multiple times it is plausible that Jesus travelled from Jericho to Bethany (which is the same road as between Jericho and Jerusalem), explaining why he chose that as the setting for the parable just previously. The priest and the Levite are also appropriate characters given Jericho’s religious history (2 Kgs 2:5) and that many Temple-workers would have lived there. The choice of a Samaritan also fitted as a rebuke to his disciples, since it was just previously that James and John asked Jesus to call down fire on the Samaritans (Lk 9:54).’ (See here)

Luke 10:31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.

Luke 10:32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

Lk 10:33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.

‘The story ‘works’ on the fact that the audience probably expected that the third character would now be a Jewish layman, thus giving it an anti-clerical point.’ (Marshall)

‘The main point of [this parable] is its racial twist.  It is not just that neighbour-love ignores racial and national barriers, but that in Jesus’ story a Samaritan did for a Jew what no Jew would ever have dreamed of doing for a Samaritan.’ (Stott, Issues Facing Christians Today)

Luke 10:34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him.

Luke 10:35 The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

Luke 10:36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

Lk 10:37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

‘The lawyer perhaps could not bring himself to answer the question by saying ‘the Samaritan’!’ (Marshall)

‘The main point of the parable…is its racial twist. It is not just that neighbour-love ignores racial and national barriers, but that in Jesus’ story a Samaritan did for a Jew what no Jew would ever have dreamed of doing for a Samaritan.’ (Stott, Authentic Christianity, 367)

At the Home of Martha and Mary, 38-42

Lk 10:38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.

The placing of this little incident after the Parable of the Good Samaritan is notable. That emphasised the 2nd table of the law – ‘Love your neighbour’. This is related to the 1st table – ‘Love the Lord your God’. Especially taught here is the necessity of giving heed to the word of God.

A village – The home of Martha and Mary is named as Bethany in Jn 11:1 12:1-3. This village is less than two miles to the east of Jerusalem.

Martha opened her home to him – Martha is named before Mary not only here but in Jn 11:19f; 12f. In Jn 11:5 she is even named before Lazarus. The picture of the two painted by Luke and John is entirely consistent.

Lk 10:39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.

Mary…sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said – She adopted the posture of a disciple, cf. Acts 22:3 (lit.). ‘Mary’s posture and eagerness to absorb Jesus’ teaching at the expense of a more traditional womanly role (10:40) would have shocked most Jewish men.’ (NT Background Cmt’y) It is these same feet that Mary was later to anoint, Jn 12:3; cf. Mt 26:6-7 Mk 14:3.

‘Mary of Bethany is seen three times in the Gospel record, and on each occasion, she is in the same place: at the feet of Jesus. She sat at his feet and listened to his Word, (Lk 10:39) fell at his feet and shared her woe, (Jn 11:32) and came to his feet and poured out her worship.’ (Jn 12:3) (Wiersbe)

‘Let us observe, for one thing, how different the characters and personalities of true Christians may be. The two sisters of whom we read in this passage were faithful disciples. Both had believed. Both had been converted. Both had honored Christ when few gave him honor. Both loved Jesus, and Jesus loved both of them. Yet they were evidently women of very different turn of mind. Martha was active, stirring, and impulsive, feeling strongly, and speaking out all she felt. Mary was quiet, still, and contemplative, feeling deeply, but saying less than she felt. Martha, when Jesus came to her house, rejoiced to see him, and busied herself with preparing a suitable refreshment. Mary, also, rejoiced to see him, but her first thought was to sit at his feet and hear his word. Grace reigned in both hearts, but each showed the effects of grace at different times, and in different ways.

We shall find it very useful to ourselves to remember this lesson. We must not expect all believers in Christ to be exactly like one another. We must not set down others as having no grace, because their experience does not entirely tally with our own. The sheep in the Lord’s flock have each their own peculiarities. The trees in the Lord’s garden are not all precisely alike. All true servants of God agree in the principal things of religion. All are led by one Spirit. All feel their sins, and all trust in Christ. All repent, all believe, and all are holy. But in minor matters they often differ widely. Let not one despise another on this account. There will be Marthas and there will be Marys in the Church until the Lord comes again.’ (Ryle)

Undesigned coincidence

Luke gives us a picture of two contrasting personalities: Martha, running around, stress by practicalities, and Mary, sitting, listening, thinking.  Jn 11:1-46 records a different event (the death and raising of Lazarus), that has no obvious connection with Luke’s narrative.  In John’s account, it is once again Martha who acts, going out to meet Jesus, while Mary remains seated at home (Jn 11:20).  Martha sends a message back to Mary, who then makes her way, not to Lazarus’ tomb, but to Jesus, falling at his feet (Jn 11:32; she had been at Jesus’ feet in Luke’s Gospel too).  After arriving at the tomb, Martha comments that her brother’s body would by now be causing a stench, because he had been dead for four days (Jn 11:39) – another very practical remark.

Peter Williams concludes: ‘there is no obvious reason to conclude that one author has copied the other, but the two narratives present the two characters in ways that accord with each other. This is so in the physical matters of Mary’s “sitting” and positioning herself physically at Jesus’s feet, but also in the practical concerns of Martha in both accounts. In both stories, she is also the more active. The easiest interpretation of this is that both Luke and John are describing true characters.’ (Can We Trust the Gospels?)

Lk 10:40 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 was distracted by all the preparations – lit. ‘distracted by much serving’ (diakonia). ‘We get the impression that she wanted to do something special for Jesus.’ (Morris) Remember, Jesus had brought all his disciples along, v38, and so there were about 16 to cater for. Martha’s problem was not that she served – we cannot do too much of that – but that she was ‘distracted’ by all these things. In performing the tasks, she forgot the purpose and the person they were for. Never allow service to God to override fellowship with him. Never be so taken up with going out for Christ, that you are too busy to come in and sit at his feet in prayer.

‘Let us observe, for another thing, what a snare to our souls the cares of this world may be, if allowed to take up too much attention. It is plain from the tone of the passage before us, that Martha allowed her anxiety to provide a suitable entertainment for the Lord, to carry her away. Her excessive zeal for temporal provisions, made her forget, for a time, the things of her soul. “She was cumbered about much serving.”…The fault of Martha should be a perpetual warning to all Christians. If we desire to grow in grace, and to enjoy soul-prosperity, we must beware of the cares of this world. Except we watch and pray, they will insensibly eat up our spirituality, and bring leanness on our souls. It is not open sin, or flagrant breaches of God’s commandments alone, which lead men to eternal ruin. It is far more frequently an excessive attention to things in themselves lawful, and the being “cumbered about much serving.” It seems so right to provide for our own! It seems so proper to attend to the duties of our station! It is just here that our danger lies. Our families, our business, our daily callings, our household affairs, our interaction with society, all, all may become snares to our hearts, and may draw us away from God. We may go down to the pit of hell from the very midst of lawful things.’ (Ryle)

Lk 10:41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,”

“Martha, Martha” – Repeating her name emphasises his concern, cf. 6:46; 8:24; 13:34; 22:31.

Martha was “worried and upset about many things,” as if to say, ‘Such an elaborate meal was not at all necessary. Besides there are things which in excellence and importance far surpass eating.’ (Hendriksen)

Lk 10:42 “but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

“Only one thing is needed” – 1 Tim 4:8; Mt 6:33. Some have thought that Jesus meant, “Only one dish would have sufficed,” but this seems artificial. Probably he meant, “The thing that matters most of all is what Mary has chosen – to listen to my words.” The lesson would then be parallel to that of Deut 8:3 “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”

Martha fretted and fussed over many things. But there is only one thing that is really needful.

“Mary has chosen what is better” – Many practical people have a sneaking sympathy for Martha. After all, somebody had to prepare the food and do the dishes! Moreover, hospitality is celebrated in a variety of ways in the NT. But we need to take seriously our Lord’s gentle rebuke. Martha had chosen what is good; Mary, what is better. This story should not be taken as exalting the contemplative over the active life. The problem was not Martha’s hospitality, but the fact that she was distracted by it. Like Martha, we need to learning the difference between the urgent and the important.

‘Few things are as damaging to the Christian life as trying to work for Christ without taking time to commune with Christ. “For without me ye can do nothing.” (Jn 15:5) Mary chose the better part, the part that could not be taken from her. She knew that she could not live “by bread alone”.’ (Mt 4:4) (Wiersbe)

‘The point is not that activity like Martha’s is bad. The choice Jesus discusses with Martha is between something that is good and something that is better. Life is full of tough choices, and Jesus is stressing the relative merits of good activities here. For conscientious people, such choices are often the most difficult and anxiety-filled.’ (IVP Commentary)

‘Jesus did not blame Martha for being concerned about household chores. He was only asking her to set priorities. It is possible for service to Christ to degenerate into mere busywork that is no longer full of devotion to God.’ (HBA)

‘The story is not meant to teach the value of a contemplative life compared with a life of action, but to show that service to Jesus must not fill people’s lives to such an extent that they have no time to learn from him. One honours him more by listening to him than by providing excessively for his needs.’ (cf. Jn 6:27) (Marshall)

‘Martha was gently rebuked by Jesus, not because she worked hard to prepare his dinner but because she neglected a more important concern. She had been so busy making a perfect meal that she failed to nourish her soul with the spiritual food Mary was receiving through fellowship with him. The fact that Martha was anxious about her work indicates that her priorities had gotten out of line. Mary, however, had chosen that good part, which would not be taken away from her. (Lk 10:42)

This little incident teaches us the danger of neglecting our souls whilst engaged in commendable duties. We should then make a special effort to organise and discipline our lives so that we can attend to the Lord and the affairs of the Spirit. It may be wise to plan on a daily and weekly basis time when other activities can be suspended so that we can do so.

An unknown author has captured the lesson of Luke 10 in these poetic words:

Martha in the kitchen, serving with her hands,
Occupied for Jesus with her pots and pans.
Loving him, yet fevered, burdened to the brim,
Careful, troubled Martha, occupied for him.

Mary on the footstool, eyes upon her Lord,
Occupied with Jesus, drinking in his word.
This one thing was needful, all else strangely dim;
Loving, resting Mary, occupied with him.

So may we, like Mary, choose the better part:
Resting in his presence, hands and feet and heart;
Drinking in his wisdom, strengthened by his grace;
Waiting for the summons, eyes upon his face.

When it comes, were ready, spirit, will, and nerve;
Mary’s heart to worship, Martha’s hand to serve;
This the rightful order, as our lamps we trim:
Occupied WITH Jesus, then occupied FOR him!’

(Our Daily Bread)

It is a sign that Martha learned this lesson well that two of Scripture’s most profound confessions of faith would come from her lips, Jn 11:21f, 27.

‘According to Jn 12:1-2, Martha must have learned her lesson, for she prepared a feast for Jesus, the Twelve, and her brother and sister-that’s fifteen people-and did not utter one word of complaint! She had God’s peace in her heart because she had learned to sit at the feet of Jesus.’ (Wiersbe)

‘The cares of this life are dangerous, even when they seem to be most lawful and commendable. Nothing of a worldly nature could have been more proper than to provide for the Lord Jesus and supply his wants. Yet even for this, because it too much engrossed her mind, the Lord Jesus gently reproved Martha. So a care for our families may be the means of our neglecting religion and losing our souls.’ (Barnes)