A Mary Heart in a Martha World

As I ponder the events of Holy week, I’m drawn to Mary of Bethany.

What motivated her to break an expensive jar of perfume and pour it over Jesus’s feet? 

We are first introduced to Mary seated at the feet of Jesus listening to his teachings. Meanwhile, her sister Martha scurried about serving their guests. 

Martha appealed to Jesus. “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” (Luke10:40 NIV).

“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” (Luke 10:39-42 NIV).

I’m pretty sure this wasn’t the answer Martha anticipated. She probably felt overwhelmed and maybe annoyed by her sister’s lack of help. 

As I ponder Jesus’s reprimand, I’m convicted of my own patterns of busyness. Like Martha, I’m also distracted and fret about many things. I’m a task-oriented person, and my to-do list is very important. I scamper from one activity to the next. I try to focus on the Lord, but soon my imagination skips along on another tangent. Random thoughts flit through my mind and intermingle with my to-do list. 

Then I’m reminded of Mary who once again defied cultural norms and chose to be in the Lord’s presence. This time Jesus was the guest of honor at another dinner Martha served shortly before his crucifixion.  

“Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance” (John 12:3 NLT).

Jesus surprises me with his response. “Leave her alone. She did this in preparation for my burial” (John 12:7 NLT). He valued Mary’s gift, a reflection of her love and devotion. 

How does a task-oriented person like me approach Jesus with a heart like Mary’s in a Martha world?

  1. Humble myself. When Mary pressed in and sat at the feet of Jesus, she laid aside the expectations and the cultural norms of her day. Did she care what the others thought? I wonder if the men encircling Jesus noticed her. Did they glower? Am I willing to draw near and humble myself before the Lord even when others don’t understand? 

2. Stop and listen. Mary refused to be distracted. She stopped, pressed in, and listened to Jesus. I wonder if she heard Martha calling for help. Sometimes I need to stop what I’m doing, sit quietly before the Lord, and wait.

“Be still, and know that I am God!” (Psalm 46:10 NLT).

I brush aside cobwebs of distraction: my to-do lists, random thoughts, and past regrets. As I refocus on the Lord, distractions will fade away. I have an image of the Lord taking my face in his hands and turning my face to his as one would a child’s. “Look at me,” he says. “Look at me. Stay in my presence.” In his presence is the fullness of joy. (See Psalm 16:11). 3.

3. Give Jesus my all. Mary held nothing back when she poured out her devotion and that extravagantperfume on Jesus. Mary gave her all. She gave her best. What is my best that Jesus asks me to lay at his feet in worship?

“For God has proved his love by giving us his greatest treasure, the gift of his Son” (Romans 8:32 TPT).  

4. Maintain a pure heart. Mary’s actions created quite a stir. Even her own sister didn’t understand. Simon and the disciples not only misunderstood Mary’s extravagant gesture of love, but they were offended and deemed her act of worship a waste. Am I willing to endure the accusations and the disappointment from others who do not understand my love for Jesus? I need to be careful that I in turn do not become offended or bitter because of the actions or harsh words by others. Unhindered devotion to Jesus requires me to walk in forgiveness.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8 NKJV).

Seeking the Lord with a heart like Mary’s is a challenge to my Martha mentality. But the joy I experience in his presence is worth any price.

What helps you to lay aside the distractions of daily life and be in the Lord’s presence?