This Scripture presents a plain statement of our Lord Jesus having entered the house of Martha, and of her troubles, and of her complaint against her sister Mary, who had taken her position at the feet of Jesus to hear his word, leaving Martha to serve alone, and the reply of Jesus to Martha.
Whatever instruction we may receive from the record of this incident in the history of our Lord in the days of his incarnation, in reproving us as his disciples for worldly mindedness, or sacrificing our spiritual privileges to our worldly cares and labors, we will venture to give, as our view of the subject, that this case and circumstance bears a striking analogy to the two branches of the Redeemer’s church, under the two covenants. Martha representing the people of God under the old, and Mary representing the church in her gospel organization under the new covenant.
1. It was Martha’s house into which Christ had entered, and in which this incident occurred. If then, Martha represented the church under the law, or legal covenants, it was into her house that he entered, for in his advent to our world, he was made under the law, came under its obligations, was circumcised and assumed the obligation to do the whole law, and declared that he had not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it; and that heaven and earth should pass away, but not one jot or tittle of the law should pass away until all was fulfilled.
2. Martha had a sister Mary in the house. So it was said by the people of God under the old dispensation, “We have a little sister, and she hath no breasts,”&c. - Songs viii. 8. The people of God were all under the law, and all required to be redeemed therefrom, that they might receive the adoption of sons, and the original constituents of the church in her gospel organization were found in Judea and Jerusalem, and in the regions round about Jordan. Lost sheep of the house of Israel.
3. Martha was careful and cumbered with much serving; so were all the Old Testament saints under that testament or covenant; for it was a covenant of works, and allowed no time to rest, or to sit down at the feet of Jesus to feast on his words. The rigid demands of the law called for all their mind, might and strength; nothing less than a perfect and perpetual obedience would suffice, and therefore Martha had no leisure.
4. Mary, or the gospel church, under the new covenant, has entered into rest. As all who possess a vital faith in Christ, do cease from their own works, as God did from his. They are redeemed from under the law, and delivered from the works thereof, and are no more under the law but under the grace. The Son has made them free, and they are free indeed. Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to all them that believe; to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile. They sit down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit is sweet to their taste. They live on every word that proceedeth out of his mouth, for his words are spirit and they are life. Therefore the disciples could well say, “Unto whom shall we go, thou hast the words of eternal life.” To them his words are like apples of gold in pictures of silver. He stays them with flagons, and comforts them with apples, or with his words.
5. Martha complained that Mary had left her to serve alone, and desired the Master to bid her to help her serve. This was the case with the legalists, at that time, and all legalists from that day to this, have been fretting and worrying because those “Do Nothings,” as the new covenant saints are reproachfully called, are seated at the feet of Christ, where they can receive his word. Great and bitter complaints were at that day made against the disciples of Jesus because they adhered not to the traditions of the fathers, because they kept not the law. The same complaints are still made by the children of the bond woman, against the children of the free woman, unto this day.
6. Martha seemed honestly to believe that Christ would disapprove of Mary’s indolence, if his attention was called to it, and therefore she suggested that he should reprove her. Just so the Arminians of our day seem soberly to believe that there is something wrong in depending alone for salvation on the Lord Jesus Christ. And they sometimes go as far as Martha did, in praying our Lord to set his people to work.
But our Lord’s words are full of consolation to the weary and heavy laden saints. While Martha’s mind was divided in the drudgery of many things, One thing only was needful. That one thing was worth more than Martha’s many things; and Mary had chosen it, and it should never be taken from her. It is the choice of all who are experimentally delivered from the works of the law, and brought to the feet of Jesus to learn of him, and they do find rest to their soul who retire from the thunders of the law, and rest at the feet of the blessed Redeemer.
March 1, 1857.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 3
Pages 436 - 438