JESUS VISITS MARTHA AND MARY
PERSISTENCE IN PRAYER IS VITAL
On the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, about two miles (3 km) from Jerusalem, lies the village of Bethany. (John 11:18) Jesus goes there and enters the house of two sisters, Martha and Mary. They and their brother, Lazarus, are Jesus’ friends, and they warmly welcome him.
It is an honor to have the Messiah as a visitor. Martha is eager to provide well for Jesus, so she sets to work preparing an elaborate meal. While Martha works, her sister, Mary, sits at Jesus’ feet and listens to him. In time, Martha says to Jesus: “Lord, does it not matter to you that my sister has left me alone to attend to things? Tell her to come and help me.”
Rather than criticizing Mary, Jesus counsels Martha for being overly concerned with material provisions: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and disturbed about many things. A few things, though, are needed, or just one. For her part, Mary chose the good portion, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41, 42) Yes, Jesus points out that it is not necessary to spend a lot of time preparing many dishes. Just a simple meal will suffice.
Martha’s intentions are good. She wants to be hospitable. But her anxious attention to the meal means that she is missing out on valuable instruction from God’s own Son! Jesus emphasizes that Mary made a wise choice, one that will be of lasting benefit to her as well as a lesson for all of us to remember.
On another occasion, Jesus provides a different but equally important lesson. A disciple asks him: “Lord, teach us how to pray, just as John also taught his disciples.” (Luke 11:1) Jesus had already done so about a year and a half earlier in his Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 6:9-13) However, this disciple may not have been present then, so Jesus repeats the key points. Then he gives an illustration to emphasize the need to be persistent in prayer.
“Suppose one of you has a friend and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, because one of my friends has just come to me on a journey and I have nothing to offer him.’ But that one replies from inside: ‘Stop bothering me. The door is already locked, and my young children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even if he will not get up and give him anything because of being his friend, certainly because of his bold persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.”
Jesus is not implying that Jehovah is unwilling to respond to petitions, as was the friend. Rather, he is showing that if an unwilling friend will respond to persistent requests, certainly our loving heavenly Father will respond to the sincere petitions of his faithful servants! Jesus continues: “I say to you, keep on asking, and it will be given you; keep on seeking, and you will find; keep on knocking, and it will be opened to you. For everyone asking receives, and everyone seeking finds, and to everyone knocking, it will be opened.”
Jesus then underscores his point by making a comparison to human fathers: “Which father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will hand him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he also asks for an egg, will hand him a scorpion? Therefore, if you, although being wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more so will the Father in heaven give holy spirit to those asking him!” (Luke 11:11-13) What a fine assurance that our Father is willing to hear us and respond to our needs!