Luke 10:38
Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
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(38) He entered into a certain village.—The identity of the two names that follow, and, we may add, of the characters connected with the names, leaves hardly room for doubt that the village thus spoken of was Bethany. (See Note on Matthew 21:1.) St. Luke’s reason for not giving the name is probably connected with the singular reticence of the first three Gospels as to the family of Lazarus. St. Matthew (Matthew 26:7) and St. Mark (Mark 14:3) narrate the anointing, which we learn from John 12:3 to have been the act of Mary, but suppress her name. St. Luke gives, in this section, a characteristic anecdote of the two sisters, but suppresses the name of the village in which they lived. None of the first three Gospels name Lazarus, though there seems some reason to believe that the first two narrate a fact in which he took a prominent part (see Note on Matthew 19:16), and that the third gives the name with a special reference to him. (See Note on Luke 16:20.) A probable explanation is that, both on spiritual and perhaps social grounds, reticence as to the family of Bethany was, for a time, generally maintained among the disciples of Jerusalem, and that St. Luke, coming at a later period, and finding his way, as a physician, into the company of devout women, named one fact that seemed of special interest. (See Introduction, and Note on chap Luke 8:1.)

Martha.—The name does not appear in the Old Testament, and is Aramaic rather than Hebrew. It has a point of contact with secular history in having been borne by the Syrian prophetess who accompanied the Roman general, Marius, in his Numidian campaigns. Its meaning, as the feminine of Maran (= Lord), and therefore equivalent to the Greek Kyria, suggests the possible identity of the sister of Lazarus with the elect Kyria (or elect Lady), to whom St. John addressed his second Epistle. (See Note on 2John 1:1.)

Luke 10:38-42. It came to pass as they went — As they journeyed to Jerusalem, whither it seems he was going to celebrate the feast of dedication: he entered into a certain village — Namely, Bethany, nigh to Jerusalem; and a certain woman named Martha received him — Martha was probably the elder sister, and, Grotius thinks, a widow, with whom her brother and sister lived. At least, she was now the housekeeper, and acted as the mistress of the family. And she had a sister called Mary — Who, with her brother Lazarus, doubtless made Jesus as welcome as Martha did. Who also sat at Jesus’s feet — On this occasion, Martha expressed her regard for her divine guest, by the care she look to provide the best entertainment in her power for him and his disciples; but Mary sat quietly at his feet, attending to his doctrine, for he embraced every opportunity of imparting the knowledge of divine things to such as were willing to receive it. But Martha was cumbered with much serving — The word περιεσπατο, here rendered cumbered, properly signifies to be drawn different ways at the same time, and admirably expresses the situation of a mind surrounded (as Martha’s then was) with so many objects of care, that it hardly knows which to attend to first. And said, Lord, dost thou not care, &c. — The burden of the service lying upon Martha, and she being encumbered with it, blamed Jesus for allowing her sister to sit idly by him, while she was so much hurried. And Jesus said unto her, Martha, Martha — There is a peculiar spirit and tenderness in this repetition of the word; Thou art careful, μεριμνας, anxiously careful, and troubled, τυρβαζη, disturbed, or hurried, about many things. The word is nowhere else used in the New Testament. It seems to express the restless situation of a person in a tumultuous crowd, where so many are pressing upon him that he can hardly stand his ground; — or of water in great agitation. But one thing is needful — Not one dish to eat of, as Theophylact, Basil, and many of the fathers explain the expression; but the care of the soul, or that spiritual wisdom and grace which Mary made it her chief care to seek and labour after. And Mary — Who now employs herself in hearing my doctrine, rather than in providing an entertainment for me, hath chosen a part which I approve of, and which I will not take from her. As if he had said, “There is one thing absolutely necessary, and of infinitely greater importance than any of these domestic and secular affairs: even to be instructed in the saving knowledge of the way that leads to eternal life, and to secure a title to, and meetness for it. And Mary is wisely attending to this; therefore, instead of reproving her, I must rather declare, that she has chosen what may eminently be called the good part, which as it shall not — Finally; be taken away from her — I would not now hinder her from pursuing it; but rather invite thee to join with her in her attention to it, though the circumstances of our intended meal should not be so exactly adjusted as thy fond friendship could desire.”

Observe, reader, Martha’s care, if it had been moderate, and her work, were good, in their proper place and season: but now something more important chiefly demanded her attention, and should have been done first, and most regarded. She expected Christ to have censured Mary for not doing as she did; but he, on the contrary, blamed her for not doing as Mary did; and we are sure that the judgment of Christ is according to truth, and that the day will come when Martha will wish she had sat with Mary at his feet! Mary said nothing in her own defence; but since Martha appealed to the Master, to him she was willing to refer the matter, and to abide by his award. And he justified her against her sister’s clamours. However we may be censured and condemned by men for our piety and zeal, our Lord Jesus will take our part; and, sooner or later, Mary’s choice will be justified, and all who make that choice and abide by it. Happy, therefore, “the man or woman, who, in a pressing variety of secular business, is not so encumbered and careful as to forget that one thing, which is absolutely needful, but resolutely chooses this better part, and retains it as the only secure and everlasting treasure! O that this comprehensive, important sentence, were ever before our eyes! O that it were inscribed deep upon our hearts! One thing is needful: And what is this one thing but present and eternal salvation? What but an humble attention to the voice of the gospel of Christ? Yet, as if this were of all things the most unnecessary, for what poor trifling cares is it not commonly forgot? Yea, to what worthless vanity is it not daily sacrificed? Let the ministers of Christ, let the friends of souls, in every station, exert themselves, that all about them may be awakened duly to regard this great interest, accounting it their meat and drink to promote it. Let them be always solicitous, that neither they, nor others, may neglect it, for the hurries of too busy a life, or even for the services of an over-officious friendship.” — Doddridge.

10:38-42 A good sermon is not the worse for being preached in a house; and the visits of our friends should be so managed, as to make them turn to the good of their souls. Sitting at Christ's feet, signifies readiness to receive his word, and submission to the guidance of it. Martha was providing for the entertainment of Christ, and those that came with him. Here were respect to our Lord Jesus and right care of her household affairs. But there was something to be blamed. She was for much serving; plenty, variety, and exactness. Worldly business is a snare to us, when it hinders us from serving God, and getting good to our souls. What needless time is wasted, and expense often laid out, even in entertaining professors of the gospel! Though Martha was on this occasion faulty, yet she was a true believer, and in her general conduct did not neglect the one thing needful. The favour of God is needful to our happiness; the salvation of Christ is needful to our safety. Where this is attended to, all other things will be rightly pursued. Christ declared, Mary hath chosen the good part. For one thing is needful, this one thing that she has done, to give up herself to the guidance of Christ. The things of this life will be taken away from us, at the furthest, when we shall be taken away from them; but nothing shall separate from the love of Christ, and a part in that love. Men and devils cannot take it away from us, and God and Christ will not. Let us mind the one thing needful more diligently.A certain village - Bethany. See John 11:1. It was on the eastern declivity of the Mount of Olives. See the notes at Matthew 21:1.

Received him - Received him kindly and hospitably. From this it would seem that "Martha" was properly the mistress of the house. Possibly she was a widow, and her brother Lazarus and younger sister Mary lived with her; and as "she" had the care of the household, this will also show why she was so diligently employed about domestic affairs.

Lu 10:38-42. Martha and Mary.

38. certain village—Bethany (Joh 11:1), which Luke so speaks of, having no farther occasion to notice it.

received him … her house—The house belonged to her, and she appears throughout to be the older sister.

Ver. 38,39. Interpreters think this village was Bethany, and that this Martha and Mary were the same which are mentioned John 11:2. Inns probably were not so frequent then, and in those places, as they are now, so as strangers were often received in private houses. Christ loseth no opportunity of preaching the gospel; while they were preparing supper, he was entertaining the family with the glad tidings of the gospel, the feast of fat things made upon the mountain, Isaiah 25:6. The lips of the righteous feed many, Proverbs 10:21. It was their fashion to have disciples sit at their doctors’ feet, to hear their word; there Mary fixes herself.

Now it came to pass as they went,.... As Christ and his disciples went from Jerusalem, having been at the feast of tabernacles, John 7:2 or at the feast of dedication, John 10:22 to some other parts of Judea:

that he entered into a certain village; called Bethany, which was about fifteen furlongs, or two miles from Jerusalem, John 11:1

and a certain woman named Martha. This is a common name with the Jews; hence we read of Samuel bar Martha (y), and of Abba bar Martha (z), and of Isaac bar Martha (a); and of Martha, the daughter of Baithus (b), who is said to be a rich widow; and this Martha here, is thought by Grotins to be a widow also, with whom her brother Lazarus, and sister Mary lived: though sometimes, this name was given to men; so we read of Martha, (c) the uncle of Rab, who had five brethren; and the same writer observes (d), that it is not known whether Martha is, a man or a woman, but this is determined here:

received him into her house; in a very kind and courteous manner, she being mistress of it; and having known Christ before, or at least had heard much of him, and believed in him, as the true Messiah.

(y) T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 13. 2. & 25. 2. & Pesachim, fol. 106. 2. Yoma, fol. 19. 2. Juchuin, fol. 76. 2.((z) T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 121. 2. Juchasin, fol. 72. 2.((a) T. Bab. Pesachim, fol. 33. 2. Juchasin, fol. 91. 1.((b) Misn. Yebamot, c. 6. sect. 4. T. Bob. Yoma, fol. 18. 1. Succa, fol. 52. 2. Cetubot, fol. 104. 1. Gittin, fol. 56. 1. Juchasin, fol. 57. 1.((c) Juchasin, fol. 99. 1.((d) lb. fol. 105. 1.

{10} Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.

(10) Christ does not desire to be waited upon in a delicate manner, but to be heard diligently; this is that which he especially requires.

Luke 10:38. Ἐν τῷ πορεύεσθαι] to be understood of the continuation of the journey to Jerusalem. See Luke 9:51; Luke 9:57, Luke 10:1. But Jesus cannot yet be in Bethany (see Luke 13:22, Luke 17:11), where Martha and Mary dwelt (John 11:1; John 12:1 f.), and hence it is to be supposed that Luke, because he was unacquainted with the more detailed circumstances of the persons concerned, transposed this incident, which must have occurred in Bethany, and that on an earlier festal journey, not merely to the last journey, but also to some other village, and that a village of Galilee. The tradition, or the written source, which he followed had preserved the fact and the names of the persons, but not the time and place of the incident. If we regard Luke as unacquainted with those particulars, the absence of all mention of Lazarus is the less surprising, seeing that the substance of the history concerns the sisters only (in opposition to Strauss, I. p. 751).

καὶ αὐτός] καί is the usual and after ἐγένετο, and αὐτός brings Jesus Himself into prominence above the company of travellers (αὐτούς). He, on His part, without the disciples, went into the village and abode at the house of Martha.

The notion that Martha was the wife (Bleek, Hengstenberg) or widow (Paulus) of Simon the leper, is based upon mistaken harmonistics. See on Luke 7:36 ff. and Matthew 26:6 f. Whether she was a widow at all (Grotius) does not appear. She was the housekeeper and manager of the household, and probably the elder sister.

Luke 10:38-42. Martha and Mary.

38-42. The Sisters of Bethany.

. into a certain village] Undoubtedly Bethany, John 11:1. Both this and the expression “a certain woman” are obvious traces of a tendency to reticence about the family of Bethany which we find in the Synoptists (Matthew 26:6; Mark 14:3). It was doubtless due to the danger which the family incurred from their residing in the close vicinity of Jerusalem, and therefore of “the Jews,” as St John always calls the Pharisees, Priests, and ruling classes who opposed our Lord.

By the time that St John wrote, after the destruction of Jerusalem, all need for such reticence was over. It is mere matter of conjecture whether ‘Simon the leper’ was the father of the family, or whether Martha was his widow; nor can Lazarus be identified with the gentle and holy Rabbi Eliezer of the Talmud. This narrative clearly belongs to a period just before the winter Feast of Dedication, because Bethany is close to Jerusalem. Its introduction at this point by St Luke (who alone preserves it, see Introd. p. 27) is due to subjective grouping, and probably to the question “what shall I do?” Luke 10:25.

Luke 10:38 Αὐτὸς, He Himself) Sometimes He did not enter.

Verses 38-42. - The sisters of Bethany. The following points are noticeable. A close intimacy evidently existed between the brother and his two sisters and Jesus. They evidently were prominent friends of the Master, and during the years of the public ministry were on many occasions associated with Jesus of Nazareth, and yet a singular reticence evidently existed on the part of the writers of the first three Gospels in respect of the brother and sisters. His name is never mentioned by them. Here, for instance, Bethany is simply alluded to as "a certain village." There was some reason, no doubt, why the three synoptical evangelists exercised this reticence. We have before explained that these Gospels more or less represent the "texts," so to speak, upon which the first preachers of the religion of Jesus based their sermons and instructions. The long recital of John 11. gives us the clue. For the disciples of Jesus publicly to call attention in their sermons and addresses to Lazarus, on whom the Master's greatest miracle had been worked, would have no doubt called down a ceaseless, restless hostility on the Bethany household; for it must be remembered that for years after the Resurrection the deadly enemies of Jesus and his followers were supreme in Jerusalem and the neighbourhood. There were reasons, no doubt, now unknown to us, which rendered it important to the welfare of the early Church that the Bethany family should remain undisturbed and in comparative privacy. The peculiar and unique position of Lazarus. During those four days what had he seen and heard? Much curiosity, no doubt, existed to question the risen one:what fierce hostility, what morbid useless speculation, might not have been easily aroused? St. John's Gospel was not written for long years after the event. It probably represents no public preaching, rather a private and esoteric teaching. The home of St. John, too, for years prior to putting forth his Gospel, was far distant from Jerusalem. Probably Jerusalem had ceased to exist as a city and the Jews as a nation well-nigh a quarter of a century before St. John's writing was given to the Church. There were no reasons then for any silence. Jerusalem and Bethany were a heap of ruins. Lazarus and his sisters and well-nigh all their friends had probably then been long in the presence of the loved or hated Master. Verse 38. - Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village. The scene here related took place, no doubt, at Bethany, and, most probably, during that short visit to Jerusalem, at the Feast of Dedication, in the month of that December which preceded the Passover "of the Crucifixion." This visit to Jerusalem, as has been suggested above, was made in the course of that solemn progress the account of which fills up the long section of St. Luke's Gospel, beginning at Luke 9:51. The characters of the sisters here mentioned exactly correspond, as do their names, with the well-known Bethany family of that Lazarus for whom the great miracle, related at length by St. John, was worked. There are several mentions of this family in the synoptical Gospels, besides the long and important notice in St. John. A certain woman named Martha. The name is rather Aramaic than pure Hebrew. It is equivalent to the Greek Kyria, and signifies "lady." It has been suggested that the Second Epistle of St. John was addressed to this Martha. It was written, we know, to the elect kyria, or "lady" (2 John 1). Various identifications, more or less probable, have been attempted in the persons of the Bethany family. Martha has been supposed to be identical with the wife of Simon the leper (Matthew 26:6; Mark 14:3). One hypothesis identifies Lazarus with the "young ruler" whom Jesus loved (see Dean Plumptre, in Bishop Ellicott's Commentary); another, with the saintly Rabbi Eliezer (or Lazarus) of the Talmud. These are, however, little more than ingenious, though perhaps not quite baseless, fancies. Luke 10:38Received (ὑπεδέξατο)

From ὕπο, under, and δέχομαι, to receive. Received him under her roof. Martha is marked as the head of the household. It was her house. She received the guest, and was chiefly busy with the preparations for his entertainment (Luke 10:40).

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