The Gospel of Luke - Part 47: Disciples Learn Luke 10:38-42
(These notes are based on lesson notes prepared by Rob Mahon for connection class leaders at Hoffmantown Church.)


Remember that in Chapter 10 of Luke Jesus teaches us some of the traits of His followers, the behaviors that naturally result from true faith in Him. In this chapter we have seen that:

A.   Disciples Labor
B.   Disciples Love God
C.   Disciples Love People
D.   Disciples Learn

We have now seen that True Followers of Jesus Labor, Love God and Love People. Jesus used the story of the Good Samaritan to make this last point.

Last week we made the point that we are to love all people, whoever we come into contact with, whether they are like us or not, and it is to be with agape love, the love of God.

Disciples Learn:

This morning we will see Jesus teach us that we are also to learn. Jesus teaches us this through the event where two sisters were hosting Jesus.

Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord's feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me." But the Lord answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her." —Luke 10:38-42
The last characteristic of a disciple that we're going to consider is that a disciple is a learner. In fact, the word "disciple" is the Greek word μαθετες [mathetes], which comes from the word μαθανω [manthano], meaning "to learn". So the word "disciple" literally means "learner".

What would you say are some keys to being a good learner?

Let's take each person — Martha, Mary and Jesus — and consider what we can learn about them and from them.


What are some observations you can make about Martha from this passage?   Probably the older sister

What positive qualities do you notice?

What negative qualities?   Had her priorities misplaced.

So first, Martha welcomes Jesus into their home. ...and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. —Luke 10:38

She welcomed Him — This is a positive quality. Martha made room for Jesus in her home; she just needed to learn to make room for Him in her schedule!

As you study this incident, remember that Martha loves Jesus, too. She just loses her perspective on things for awhile. Jesus apparently became good friends with Martha, Mary and their brother, Lazarus. The name of the village where they lived is Bethany.

We're told more about them in the Gospel of John:

Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, "Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick." —John11:1-3

Jesus, therefore, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they made Him a supper there, and Martha was serving; but Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him. Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. —John 12:1-3
After Jesus was there, in the house of Lazarus, Luke tells us:
But Martha was distracted with all her preparations. —Luke 10:40
The word "but" is important here. It contrasts Martha's response with that of Mary's. It's important to notice that they experienced the same circumstances but responded very differently.

The Greek word here for distracted is περισπαω [perispao]; literally "to draw away"; to draw mind, attention, affections away in another direction.

We get distracted easily. We get "drawn away" from Jesus by many things. Think about when your children were young and you took them to the mall — how easily they were "drawn away" by toys, pet store, many things. You really had to watch them or they would just wander off and you would lose track of them.

She was busy. This is probably the primary descriptor of modern living.

One writer said:  "Whenever two people meet today, one or the other is sure to mention how busy he or she is," observes author John Charles Cooper. "No one seems to have any free time."

But she was busy doing something that needed to be done. Luke tells us:

But Martha was distracted with all her preparations. —Luke 10:40
The Greek word here for preparations is διακανεω [diakaneo] which means "her much serving"; Martha was distracted from Jesus by service for Jesus

Someone has observed that, "Our greatest danger is letting the urgent things crowd out the important".

There was nothing wrong with what Martha was doing, except that it was the most important thing in this situation. She needed to see that listening to and learning from Jesus was more important.

...and she came up to Him... —Luke 10:40
The Greek word for "came up to" is stronger than the translation indicates. The Greek word is εφιστεμι [ephistemi] and is also translated "attack" and "confront" as in this verse:
On one of the days while He was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders confronted Him. —Luke 20:1
Word Pictures of the New Testament states that εφιστεμι [ephistemi] really means "stepping up to" or "bursting in or upon" Jesus. Another place this same word is used is in Luke 2:9, where it says the angel "suddenly stood before them" .

The picture here, then, is of Martha marching up to Jesus, maybe even interrupting Him, and saying what she does. She most likely said these words in front of everyone.

As we read the rest of this verse, notice how Martha appears to rebuke Jesus:

"Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me." —Luke 10:40
Lord, do You not care.

It's interesting how quick we are to question God's love when He doesn't do what we think He should. People do this when God doesn't answer our prayers the way we think He should.

The disciples did this when the storm came up suddenly and Jesus was asleep.

Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, "Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?" —Matthew 4:38
We may not understand God's actions but we should never question His love.

Then Martha says, "My sister has left me..."

We can learn a lot from Martha's word here: "my sister has left me ... tell her to help me..."   Notice how self-centered this verse is. Martha views Christ and others (such as her sister Mary) in light of her goals, priorities. We do the same thing. We want Him to help us with our goals rather than us help Him with His goals.

This verse (v.40) can challenge us to think about our praying. What do we pray about? Do we come to Jesus with our own agenda, things for Him to do for us? Or do we come to Him to seek His will?

Martha said, "Then tell her to help me!"

Martha's words are in the aorist imperative — a command! Should she be commanding Jesus to do something? Or should she be asking Jesus to command her?

What would have been a better, more godly way for Martha to handle this situation?

Martha could have handled this in a much better, much more humble way. She could have waited until Jesus was free and then quietly, respectfully explained her concerns to the Lord and asked Him what she should do.

Remember, we don't go to God to give Him instructions; we go to God to receive instructions from Him!

Now notice Jesus' response:

Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary. —Luke10:41-42
"You are worried and bothered about so many things" — indicates a lack of perspective; a failure to identify what is really important.

"Only one thing is necessary" — comes from the Greek word χρεια [chreia] which means "indispensable, essential; that which must be done."

What we are worried and bothered about is a measure of what is really important to us. Martha's worries showed that she had lost sight of what was really important here.

What do you think we can learn from Martha's mistakes here?

Mary ... was listening to the Lord's words, seated at His feet. —Luke 10:39
What are some things we learn about Mary from this passage?

Disciples are Learners.. Learners listen to Jesus' words.   Mary models the heart of a learner in this passage:

There's an interesting contrast between Martha and Mary here: Martha wanted Jesus to listen to her, while Mary wanted to listen to Jesus.

Remember what God said in Luke 9:35
Then a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!" —Luke 9:35
Ken Blanchard in the "The One-Minute Manager" puts a new twist on an old saying when he says, "Don't just do something   sit there!" (the importance of time to reflect, make sure you're headed in the right direction, spending your time on the right things).

God is still speaking to His people; the question is, are we listening?  How important are Jesus' words to you?  God doesn't just want His word on your coffee table; He wants it in your heart!

Your words were found and I ate them,
   And Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart;
For I have been called by Your name,
O Lord God of hosts. —Jeremiah 15:16

I have not departed from the command of His lips;
    I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food. —Job 23:12
Learners sit at the Lord's feet:

What does the fact that Mary was "sitting at His feet" suggest about her?

Mary wanted to be as close to Jesus as she could get!

Mary took the place (at Jesus' feet) that was normally reserved for the disciples of a Jewish Teacher. That's because she was a disciple! Learners seek out teachers. Learners understand that learning is an active, not passive, process.

What are some different ways that God teaches us?

Notice what Jesus said about Mary: "...for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her."

Martha and Mary both had the same opportunity, both faced the same choice. Martha chose to serve, which is great; we all need to be servants.

But Mary chose to learn. There's a time to serve and a time to learn. We need to be sure we're setting aside daily time to learn from Jesus. He will speak to us, teach us, as we spend time in His Word.

Someone has observed that "You are as close to God as you choose to be, not want to be!" Your relationship with God is simply a reflection of the choices you have made up to this point.

"One of the tenacious paradoxes of technology is that we have more choices, but less time to choose." (Richard Swenson, M.D., "The Overload Syndrome").

A number of years ago, Lorne Sanny (president of The Navigators) asked an older, well-known Christian missionary, "Does having a quiet time get easier as you get older?" His response: "Well, Lorne, I find that we generally make time for the things that are really important to us."

Despite what Martha and others expected of Mary, Mary chose to sit and listen to Jesus. Jesus said: "for Mary has chosen the good part..."

The Greek word here is μερις [meris] and is also translated "portion," as in a portion of food served to someone. Jesus uses a little play on words in talking to Martha. Her concern is about the meal so He uses a meal-related word picture!

Mary made the good choice; it may not have been the popular choice or the choice others (Martha, for example) thought she should make, but it was the right choice. ...which shall not be taken away from her."

No one can take away our relationship with Jesus; and what we gain in intimacy with Him, we keep for eternity!


What are some things we can learn about Jesus in this passage?

S. D. Gordon said in Quiet Talks On Prayer "The great people of the earth today are the people who pray. I do not mean those who talk about prayer; nor those who can explain about prayer; but I mean those people who take time and pray. They don't have the time. It must be taken from something else. This something else is important — very important and pressing, but still less important and less pressing than prayer." The choice is yours. Imagine how Martha must have felt years later realizing she had wasted a priceless opportunity to sit at Jesus' feet, look into His face and listen to His words.

Looking back on the few years Jesus was on earth, do you think Martha wished she spent more time with Jesus or more time in the kitchen?


My Heart — Christ's Home

(Note: This is an excerpt from a devotional classic which compares the human heart to a home, with different rooms representing various parts of our life — e.g. the kitchen represents our fleshly appetites. This section is a conversation between the author and the Lord Jesus.)

We moved next into the living room. This was a quiet, comfortable room with a warm atmosphere. I liked it. It had a fireplace, sofa, overstuffed chairs, a bookcase and an intimate atmosphere. [Jesus] also seemed pleased with it. He said, "This is indeed a delightful room. Let's come here often. It's secluded and quiet - we can have good talks and fellowship together."

Well, naturally, as a young Christian I was thrilled. I couldn't think of anything I would rather do than have a few minutes alone with Christ in close companionship. He promised, "I'll be here every morning early. Meet Me here and we will start the day together."

So, morning after morning, I would come downstairs to the living room. He would take a book of the Bible from the case, open it and we would read it together. He would unfold to me the wonder of God's saving truth recorded on its pages and make my heart sing as He shared all He had done for me and would be to me. Those times together were wonderful. Through the Bible and His Holy Spirit He would talk to me. In prayer I would respond. So our friendship deepened in these Quiet Times of personal conversation.

However, under the pressure of many responsibilities, little by little, this time began to be shortened. Why, I'm not sure. Somehow I assumed I was too busy to give special, regular time to be with Christ. This wasn't a deliberate decision, you understand; it just seemed to happen that way. Eventually, not only was the time shortened, but I began to miss days now and then. Matters of urgency demanding my attention were continually crowding out the Quiet Times of conversation with Jesus. Often I would miss it two days in a row or more.

One morning, I remember hurrying downstairs, on my way to an important appointment. As I passed the living room, the door was open. Glancing in, I saw a fire in the fireplace and the Lord sitting there. Suddenly, in dismay, it came to me, "He is my guest. I invited Him into my heart! He's come as my Savior and Friend to live with me. Yet here I am neglecting Him." I stopped, turned and hesitantly went in. With downcast glance, I said, "Master, I'm sorry. Have you been here every morning?"

"Yes," He said, "I told you I'd be here to meet with you." I was even more ashamed! He had been faithful in spite of my faithlessness. I asked Him to forgive me and He did, as He always does when we acknowledge our failures and want to do the right thing.

He said, "the trouble is that you have been thinking of the Quiet Time, of Bible study and prayer, as a means for your own spiritual growth. This is true, but you've forgotten that this time means something to me also. Remember, I love you. I have redeemed you at great cost. I value your fellowship. Don't neglect this time if only for My sake. Whether or not you want to be with Me, remember I want to be with you. I really love you!"

You know, the truth that Christ desires my companionship, that He loves me, wants me to be with Him and waits for me, has done more to transform my Quiet Time with God than any other single fact. Don't let Christ wait alone in the living room of your heart, but every day find a time and place when, with your God's Word and in prayer, you may be together with Him. —Robert Munger