Portraits Of Two Sisters -- By: Patricia A. Halverson

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 10:3 (Summer 1996)
Article: Portraits Of Two Sisters
Author: Patricia A. Halverson


Portraits Of Two Sisters

Snapshots Of A Devout Woman

Patricia A. Halverson

Patricia A. Halverson received both a Master of Divinity and Master of Theology degree from Bethel Theological Seminary. She is currently Pastor of First Baptist Church in Iowa City, IA.

As I read the gospels, I feel as if I am slowly turning the pages of a photo album of the life of Jesus. The opening pages contain snapshots of the events surrounding his birth: a picture of the angel appearing to Elizabeth, one of Simeon holding the newborn Savior in the temple. I can also see his baptism and his lonely sojourn in the wilderness. The album fills with pictures of the Lord and those who knew him—people who followed him, challenged him, served him, abandoned him.

A picture of a certain woman appears on three of the pages. A closer look reveals that in each of these three encounters between Jesus and this woman, she is at his feet. In two of the pictures, people are angry with her—but not Jesus. In only one photo is she speaking, and that through tears.

She lives in Bethany with her brother and sister. She is, of course, Mary. Martha appears in these scenes with her, but my primary focus is on Mary.

The first picture shows Martha welcoming Jesus (and probably his entourage) home for a meal (Luke 10:38-42). Martha is a hospitable person and known for her energy, but this time she feels overburdened. Finally in exasperation she interrupts the group gathered around Jesus and asks him, “Do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Tell her to help me.”

Jesus zeroes in on Martha’s real need. Her plea for help in and of itself is not wrong, but her sense of frustration is. Her mind has become muddied1 by that which, Jesus says, is not all that important. “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things....”

He points her to Mary who sits at his feet listening to his word, unencumbered by the domestic tasks at hand. The text does not specify whether or not the group consists merely of the three siblings (Martha, Mary, and their brother Lazarus) and possibly other relatives, and Jesus and the twelve disciples, or if there were also present the other men and women who traveled with him (Luke 8:1-3, for example). Therefore we do not know the scope of Martha’s preparation. Nevertheless, in essence Jesus simply tells Martha to follow Mary’s example. “Mary has chosen the good part which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38-42, NASB). Under ...

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