The Good Portion

Luke 10:41–42 (ESV) … “But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”


This event probably took place during the Lord’s brief visit to Jerusalem at the Feast of Dedication late in December. In the next spring, at the Feast of Passover, the Lord would be crucified. The scene is set in Bethany in Martha’s house. Bethany was on the Mount of Olives near Jerusalem, which stands at 2,500 feet above sea level. The Mount of Olives is slightly higher and stands as a screen between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, which is about 1,290 feet below sea level. In the course of about twenty-five miles, the land drops nearly 4,000 feet into the subtropical heat of the Jordan Valley. Down on one side was the sterile desert, a breeding ground for prophets. Over on the other side was Jerusalem, ever ready to kill the prophets (13:34). Martha’s house was a sweet resting place, a shelter in the time of storm. Jesus seems to have come to Martha’s house for a short rest before facing the storm ahead.


Martha had a sister named Mary and a brother named Lazarus. No mention is made of Lazarus at this time. Possibly he was away from home, probably in Jerusalem for the feast. The sisters welcomed the Lord into the home, and at once we get a glimpse of Martha’s hospitality(10:39–40). As soon as He was settled, Mary found a place at His feet where she could give herself wholly to hearing His words. Martha busied herself making a meal. Before long, she began to resent that Mary was making no attempt to help her. Now, alas for Martha’s haste(10:41) and impatience! She appeared before the Lord and blurted out, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” (10:40). We generally find the Mary’s of the world holed up in some corner with a book. They are a sore trial to the busy hustlers of this world, the ones who get things done.


The Lord, as always, was equal to the occasion. He gently chided His friend. “You are too anxious,” He said. “You are too agitated.” Her wonderful gift of service was being spoiled by a wrong spirit. “But one thing is needful,” the Lord added. As we would say it nowadays, “A sandwich will do.” Then He added, “Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (10:42). Martha had chosen to serve; Mary had chosen to sit. Both had chosen aright. And the Lord loved them both.

The Lord needs dreamers and doers. John was a dreamer; Peter was a doer. The church accommodates both types of people. Each must learn to respect the other. Blessed is the congregation that has plenty of room for both types of people. [1]





  1. [1]Phillips, J. (2009). Exploring the Gospel of Luke: An Expository Commentary (Lk 10:38–42). Kregel Publications; WORDsearch Corp.

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