Mary and Martha

Bible base:

Luke 10:38-42

Teaching objectives:

To show that Christians believe Jesus wants us to get to know him better and wants us to be his friend. The Bible says that this is more important than anything else.

You will need:

  • In advance, put together a pop quiz based on current songs being listened to by primary school children. You can find this out from any pop music magazine, listening to the charts, on the Internet at, or by looking at the most recent pop compilation CD. Either play a snippet of a song and ask the children to name the title and the band, or give the pupils the name of a band and ask them to name their current hit. Be sure to check titles and lyrics carefully in advance for swearing and appropriateness!
  • Acetates or posters of the words ‘What did his friends think?’ and ‘What do you think?’

Introductory activity:

Conduct your pop quiz.

How do they know the answers to this quiz? They listen to music. Why do they listen to music? Because they like it and they think it’s worth it.

Optional extra activity: invite about eight pupils to come to the front, divide them into two teams and put them at either side of a line in the centre of the assembly hall. Give each team a supply of paper balls made out of newpaper and allow them one minute to throw as many as they can into the other team’s area. They can pick up balls thrown by the opposition and fire them back over the line. Encourage the rest of the assembly to cheer for their side.

Make the point that they were all very busy for a minute, but the best way of winning would have been to save the newspaper balls at their own side until a couple of seconds before the end. Then they wouldn’t have been so busy and would also have achieved a better result.

Display the acetate or poster, ‘What did his friends think?’

Today’s story is about someone called Mary. Mary may have liked listening to music too, but there was something the Bible says she really enjoyed doing, and that was listening to Jesus. He told fantastic stories and was always interested in people.

When you hear the name ‘Mary’, be very quiet and put your finger to your lips.

Mary had a sister called Martha, and while Martha enjoyed listening to Jesus too, she thought it was really important to make nice food for him and offer him a comfortable home to visit. Sometimes she was so busy doing this that she didn’t have time to stop and listen to Jesus.

When you hear the name ‘Martha’, we are all going to do different things, because she was so busy!

Divide the assembly into four.

  • Group 1: mime cooking
  • Group 2: mime cleaning
  • Group 3: mime setting the table
  • Group 4: mime washing up

On the occasion we are thinking about today, Jesus had gone to visit his two friends, Mary and Martha. As usual, they were both delighted to see him, and Mary sat down at his feet to listen to the stories of where he had been and what he had been doing. Martha was delighted to see him too, but she was worried about what the house looked like and what they would eat for their dinner, and so while Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, Martha rushed around, cooking and cleaning and setting the table and washing the dishes. Martha was exhausted!

Eventually, Martha went to Jesus and complained.

‘Jesus,’ she moaned, ‘don’t you think it’s unfair that I’m doing all the work while Mary sits and does nothing to help me?’

But Jesus spoke gently to Martha, who was still thinking about all the things she had to do, and told her that actually, Mary had got it right. Mary was doing the most important thing – listening to him – and that was really how to please him.

Tell the pupils that you have finished the story, so they should stop doing the actions when they hear ‘Martha’ or ‘Mary’.

What did Jesus’ friends think? They both wanted to please him, but Martha had got the wrong idea. She was worried about lots of unimportant things, like how the house looked and making him the best meal ever, whereas Mary had chosen to do something much more valuable: she was listening to what he said.

Display the acetate or poster, ‘What do you think?’

What would you have thought if you had been there? Would you have been like Martha, too busy doing other things to spend time with Jesus, or would you have been like Mary, eager to hear all that he had to say?

Christians believe that the most important thing for anyone to do is to get to know Jesus better by reading the Bible and praying, but sometimes people are too busy doing other things.

Optional prayer time:

Give thanks that Jesus is more interested in us than in what we do. Pray that each of us might get to know him better.

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