c 38 Now as they went on their way [he was journeying through Judæa, attended by the twelve], he entered into a certain village [It was the village of Bethany ( John 11:1 ), which was on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, less than two miles from Jerusalem]: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at the Lord's feet, and heard his word. [Sitting at the feet was the ancient posture of pupils ( Acts 22:3 ). Martha honored Christ as a Guest, but Mary honored him as a Teacher.]
40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving [she was evidently preparing an elaborate repast, and was experiencing the worry and distraction which usually accompanies such effort]; and she came up to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister did leave me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. [Martha so forms her appeal to Christ as to make it a covert insinuation that Mary would not listen to her requests.]
42 but one thing is needful [I.e., one duty or privilege is pre-eminent. Bread for the body may be important, but food for the soul is, after all, the one thing needful]: for Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. [The expression "good part" is an allusion to the portion of honor sent to the principal guest at a banquet. Its expression "one thing is needful," and that he was contrasting spiritual nourishment with physical. The description of the two sisters here tallies with that given at John 12:2 John 12:3 , for there Martha serves and Mary expresses personal devotion. Our Lord's rebuke is not aimed at hospitality, nor at a life full of energy and business. It is intended to reprove that fussy fretfulness which attempts many unneeded things, and ends in worry and fault-finding. It does not set a life of religious contemplation above a life of true religious activity, for contemplation is here contrasted with activity put forth with a faulty spirit. The trend of the New Testament teaching shows that a man must be a doer as well as a hearer of the Word.]