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First Presbyterian Church-Jackson, TN

MasterPeace Theatre-Drama & Puppetry Workshop

Mary and Martha – Finding the Balance!

This lesson created and copyrighted by State Street UMC, Bristol, VA, 2002.  Permission granted for non-commercial, local church use, provided credit is give to the source.

Scripture References:   Luke 10:38-42

Theme: Taking time for God is the most important thing!  The balanced Christian life includes spending time with God and serving others.

Memory Verse:   “Be still and know that I am God.”  Psalm 46:10

Objectives and Life Application:

  • Children will locate the story in the Bible.
  • Children will recall the events of the story and restate in their own words.
  • Children will identify Mary, Martha and Lazarus as good friends of Jesus.
  • Children will describe the role and everyday life of New Testament Jewish women.
  • Children will explore the meaning and importance of hospitality to Jewish families.
  • Children will describe service to others and worship of God as the two main components of the Christian life.
  • Children will discuss ways to balance these two items.
  • Children will identify things in their own lives which keep them from taking time to be with God.
  • Children will identify their own talents and discuss how they can best use them to serve God.
  • Children will memorize Psalm 46:10.

Preparation and Room Set Up:

Review the background information sheets and lesson materials.

General Tips for Drama Workshop Leaders
  • You may wish to organize costumes or puppets ahead of time to cut down on a flurry of activity and possible hurt feelings. Have props ready ahead of time. This is especially important for the younger children.  The older children often are very creative with props and costumes.
  • You will want to limit the amount of time the children are allowed to dress-up. (They can easily spend the entire class time selecting costumes!)
  • Be sure that all children are involved in some way. Some children are intimidated by the prospect of being on a stage. Offer them alternative roles as well as the children who do not have main parts. They can always be “sound effects” or “crowds” or stagehands to help change scenery, or video camera operators (for the older children). Remember as well that children can draw the backdrop for the drama on the blackboard or videotape the plays (older children).
  • To eliminate competition, you may wish to place the names of characters in a hat and have children choose their parts.
  • Be sure to explain the activity to the children and ask for questions to be sure you are clear.
  • Even though videotaping the activities may seem unnecessary, videotaping seems to encourage better behavior from the children.
  • Have fun and make this fun for the children!

Start on time!

Time Guidelines:

          Introductions/Opening Prayer:            10 minutes

          Bible Passage/Brief Discussion:          10 minutes

          Dramatic Presentation          20 minutes

          Which side is which?          10 minutes

          Reflection/Closing Prayer:          10 minutes

Welcome and Introductions:   Gather the children together in the chairs with their Bibles. Welcome the children and introduce yourself.  Always begin each class with introductions.  Remember that workshop leaders rotate often and the children may not know you.

Tell the children that today you will be learning about some of Jesus’ closest friends and about one time that he came to visit them.

Opening Prayer:  Pray something like this:  Dear God, Thank you for bringing us all here together.  We thank you for the stories in the Bible which teach us about you.  Help us to learn and understand more about you and your love for us.  In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Bible Study:  Luke 10:38-42

Important Teacher Notes:

Each workshop begins with a Bible story. One of our primary goals is to improve the children’s Bible literacy!  If children do not bring their Bibles from home, use the classroom Bibles.  You should help the children locate the stories.  Use the background information to help you introduce the story.

Remember, that as the rotation progresses, the children will become more familiar with the story.  When this happens, allow the children to tell you what they know.  The children should still locate the story in their Bibles every week. Use the bold headings in their Bibles to guide your discussion.  You may want to review some of the Bible notes as well. Be sure to fill in any missing information and add additional details using the Background Information to help you.  One of the greatest advantages of this model is that children who come regularly learn the story in great depth.

Grades K-2:  Help the children find Luke 10:38-42 and you read as the children follow along in their Bibles.  Some of the older children may want to read.

Grades 3-5 : Have them locate and read Luke 10:38-42

Discussion Focus: Refer to the background information sheet in preparation for classroom discussion.

Discuss with children the importance of hospitality in the time of Jesus.  How is this like the hospitality Abraham and Sarah showed to their visitors in the Old Testament?


Hospitality – To give someone a warm reception and make them feel welcome. Hospitality is an act of compassion and grace highly revered in the Bible.  True near-eastern hospitality included providing prompt attention to all the needs of guests including a lavish meal, and offering water to wash their feet.

Memory Verse:   Each rotation the children are asked to memorize one scripture verse.  Our goal is for the children to memorize one memory verse each rotation.  Locate and review the memory verse with them at this time.

“Be still and know that I am God.”  Psalm 46:10

Drama Activity:  Grades 3-5

A Tale of Two Sisters


Make copies of the script.

Gather together props:  large wooden bowl, large pitcher, sleeping mats-(rattan mats are in right hand corner of supply room), baskets, pans, broom, etc. (most of these can be found in the Costume room)

Make signs for each character to hang around neck or tape to their shirt front.

Mary and Martha:  A Tale of Two Sisters

(adapted from Bible Zone, Abingdon Press, 1998)






Narrator (teacher should serve as this)

Narrator:  Once long ago in New Testament Bible times, in the small village of Bethany, there lived some very close friends of Jesus.

Jesus:  (waves) That’s me; I’m Jesus!  And here are my friends:  two sisters Mary (points to Mary)

Mary:   (waves)

Jesus:  …and her sister, Martha (points to Martha)

Martha:  (waves)

Jesus:  …and their brother Lazarus (points to Lazarus)

Lazarus:  (waves)

Narrator:  Well, it was time for the Feast of the Tabernacles, one of the great Jewish feasts and the sleepy little town of Bethany was crowded with visitors all heading to Jerusalem to celebrate.  Bethany is just outside of Jerusalem, you know, so it was a frequent stopping place for travelers heading to Jerusalem.  Jesus often stopped at the home of Lazarus, Mary and Martha when he was near Jerusalem.   Just like today…only this time it isn’t just Jesus who is coming, it was Jesus and a bunch of his disciples!

Lazarus:  Mary!  Martha!  Come quickly!  I’ve got good news!

Martha and Mary:  (Mary and Martha come to Lazarus) What??? What news?

Lazarus:  Jesus is coming to dinner!

Martha: Oh, my!  I better get busy!  Jesus is so special!  He deserves absolutely the very best of everything!  I’ll have to look through my recipes and find his very favorite foods… I wonder if he would like my new bread recipe and what about that baked fish and olives and cheese… and oh, my look at this house!  It’s a real mess!  We better get to work!  (Martha rushes off with a broom and dust cloth and grabs a spoon and bowl and starts furiously stirring)

Narrator:   It looks like Martha is going to be REALLY busy cooking and cleaning before Jesus gets here… I wonder what Mary is doing? (pause and let audience respond…)

Mary:  Oh, I am SOOOOOOO excited!  Jesus is coming!  He is so amazing!  I have never met anyone like him before.  I can’t wait to see him again and listen to his teaching… (sits down on edge of stage, dreamily staring into space)

Narrator:  And so the week passed… Martha was busy with preparations.  Mary was dreaming about Jesus coming to see them again!

Jesus: (Jesus knocks on the door) Hello!  It’s me, Jesus!   Anyone home???  Mary!  Martha!  Lazarus!  Where is everybody?

Mary:  Oh, Jesus!  Welcome!   I am so glad to see you.  Please come in.  Here let me take your cloak and your sandals.  Let me get you some water to wash your feet.  You must be tired from all that walking!  Here, come sit down.  This is our best seat.  Are you thirsty?  Let me get you some water.

(Jesus sits down on the edge of the stage and removes his sandals – drinks from the glass Mary gives him)

Martha:  (banging pots and pans, calling from behind the curtains) Hello Jesus!  I’m finishing up with supper.  I’ll be out there in a minute!

Jesus: Thank you Mary for your hospitality.  This cool water tastes so good and washing my hot, dusty feet feels great!

Mary:  You’re welcome, Jesus.  I am so glad you are here.  I have been looking forward to you coming all week!  (Mary sits down at Jesus’ feet)

Narrator:  So, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to him as he told stories and explained wonderful things about God.  And where do you think Martha was this whole time? (pause to let audience react)

You guessed it!  In the kitchen.  She was busy still cooking and cleaning the pots and pans and trying to finish the dinner.  And she was getting louder and louder about it, too!

Martha:  (banging pots and pans, grumbling loudly)  Where is that good-for-nothing sister of mine?  Who does she think she is?  Sitting at Jesus’ feet like that and leaving me to do all the work!  It’s not fair!  I can’t believe Jesus is just letting her do that!  He should make her come help me.

Narrator:  Uh, oh!  It sounds like Martha is really starting to get mad!  What do you think she is going to do?  (let audience react)

Martha:  (stomps out to where Jesus and Mary are sitting).  Jesus!  It’s not fair!  I am doing all the work and Mary is just sitting there!  Tell her to come help me!

Jesus:  (gently)  Martha, Martha.  You are worried about many things.  Mary has chosen to stop her busyness and listen to my teaching.  She has chosen the better part.


Narrator:  Boy, Mary and Martha sure are different!  Can you believe they are sisters? Let’s find out a little more about them…

(Mary and Martha come to the front of the stage and stand back to back in front of the audience)

Mary’s turn:  (turns to face the audience) You have to understand what it is like to be Martha’s sister.  I love my sister, she is my sister after all, but sometimes she is a real pain!  She has always been this neat freak!  Even when we were little, her part of the room was always spotless!  She was always perfect – perfect hair, perfect clothes, perfect everything!  Everyone always loved her because she was just so perfect all the time.  Me, I’m just the opposite.  No matter how hard I try, I just can’t keep things clean – I’m just naturally messy and disorganized!  Keeping things clean just isn’t that big a deal to me.

But it sure is to Martha, so I wasn’t surprised that she spent the whole week cooking and cleaning before Jesus came.  I thought the house looked fine, but not for Martha!  It had to be PERFECT!   And she expected me to help her get it that way!  I really tried to help out, honest, I did…but Martha sees dirt that nobody else can see!  I think she has x-ray vision or something!   And besides, we live in Bethany!  Our houses are made of mud bricks.  Our floors are dirt!  You’re only going to get it so clean!   But not Martha!  She thinks we ought to be able to make it shine!

Martha’s turn: (Mary turns to the side and Martha turns to face the audience)  You have to understand what it is like to be Mary’s sister.  I love my sister, she is my sister after all, but sometimes she is a real pain!  Even when we were little, Mary was always doing different stuff.  She never cared what her room looked like, or if her chores were done.  She was always daydreaming and making up silly stories and songs.  Everyone thought she was so cute!  Nobody seemed to care that her room was a disaster area.  And who always ended up cleaning it up!  Me, of course!  While Mary was off writing poetry or some other nonsense, I had to do my chores and hers, too!  It’s so unfair!

So, when we heard Jesus was coming for a visit with all his disciples, I wasn’t a bit surprised that Mary was absolutely no help!  She spent the whole week walking around like some dreamy-eyed fool, leaving me to do all the work – as usual!  Even when I asked her to help me, she would get distracted and forget… I had to remind her over and over again.  You know sometimes it is just easier to do it myself!   Besides, I think there is something wrong with her eyes.  That girl can’t see dirt if it’s right there in front of her nose!  Even dirt floors can be swept clean.  And cobwebs can be dusted.  After all, Jesus is coming!  It’s not just anybody!  It’s Jesus!

Mary’s turn:  (Martha turns back to side and Mary faces audience)

Well, Martha fussed and fumed all week. She spent the entire week yelling at me and ordering me around.  She kept saying that I was daydreaming and trying to get out of working.  But that’s not true…I just was so excited that Jesus was coming again.  I kept remembering all the stories Jesus told.  He was the most amazing teacher!  When he told stories they came alive.  It was like he touched my heart and spirit like no one ever had before.   I guess I’m different from other Jewish women.  I would rather read, study and write, but Jewish girls don’t get to do that.  I guess I really should be more like Martha, but it just doesn’t come naturally to me. (sigh!)

Anyway, finally the day came!  Jesus was coming and I could hardly wait.  I woke up early and watched for him all morning long.  Martha was still at it.  She STILL  didn’t think we had enough food prepared or that the house was clean enough or whatever!  She kept sending me off to do things:  fetch more water, put more wood on the fire, bring me some more grapes, set the table, on and on and on.  All I wanted to do was wait by the door for Jesus.  I wanted to be the first one to see him coming up the street to our house!

Martha’s turn:  (Mary turns back to side and Martha faces audience)  Well, finally the day arrived.  I was exhausted!  I had cleaned and cooked and worked all week.  But there was still more to do!  And where was that Mary?  She’s standing at the door, letting flies in, waiting for Jesus!  I kept trying to tell her that if she would just stay busy, the time would pass quicker, but she wouldn’t listen to me.  What else is new?  Mary never listens to me!

Mary’s turn:  (Martha turns back to side and Mary faces audience)  Finally I saw him!  Jesus was here!   I was so excited!  I ran to greet him and showed him the kind of hospitality that is so important to our people.  I took his cloak, gave him water to drink and to wash his feet.  I showed him to the best seat in our house.  Martha was nowhere to be seen – I guess she was still cooking.  She didn’t even come out to say hello to Jesus.  We could hear her though!  She was banging and clanging those pots and pans!  It was so loud that I had to lean over really close to hear what Jesus was saying.  I didn’t want to miss a word he said.  Then Martha came stomping into the room.  She was really mad, I could tell by the way she looked!   She came over to Jesus and told him that he ought to make me help her with the cooking.   Jesus just took her hands in his and told her in a quiet, gentle voice that she was too worried about the meal…and those weren’t the most important things.

Martha’s turn:  (Mary turns back to side and Martha faces audience)

Finally, Jesus arrived!  At last, now maybe Mary would settle down and help me finish the meal!  After all, we’ve got all these people to feed – Jesus plus dozens of his disciples and followers!  But, did Mary finally come help me finish up?  No way!  She didn’t even look at me!  She just plopped herself down there right at Jesus’ feet, just like she was one of the men!  Who does she think she is anyway?  You know, I’d like to have time to sit down for a little bit too!  Mary can just sit there and give Jesus all her attention.  The only way I know to show Jesus I love him is to clean the house and cook a great meal for him.  I’ve got to be doing something.  It’s just not fair!  Mary should be helping me!  Finally I just couldn’t stand it anymore!  I had been working all week while that lazybones Mary goofed off!  I had had it!  So, I went over to Jesus and I told him that Mary should be helping me.  But Jesus didn’t tell Mary to come help me…instead he just told me to settle down.  He said I was too worried about all the cooking and cleaning.  He said Mary had chosen the better part.  What in the world does that mean?  Someone has to fix the food or nobody will be having dinner!

Mary’s turn:  (Martha turns back to side and Mary faces audience)

Later on, Jesus told me that I was really blessed to have a sister like Martha.  She really is a good housekeeper and she is the best cook in all of Bethany!  Everyone knows that!  Jesus always enjoys his visits here with us and I guess all Martha’s work is part of the reason.  I know Jesus really loves my sister Martha!

Martha’s turn: (Mary turns back to side and Martha faces audience)

Later on, Jesus told me that I was really blessed to have a sister like Mary.  She really is a special person.  She is so smart and wants to learn everything that Jesus is teaching.  I know Jesus really loves my sister Mary.

(Mary and Martha turn back to back again)

Narrator:  You know this story tells us some pretty important things about Jesus and the way we should live our lives as Christians.  Both sisters wanted to serve Jesus in their own way.  They both had gifts and talents given to them by God.  What Martha was doing was important – she was serving Jesus and his disciples by cooking and cleaning for them.  But Martha got so busy with her cooking and cleaning that she didn’t have time to spend any time with Jesus. Jesus wanted Martha to understand that the busy-ness of life must not keep her from the most important thing – which is to spend time with God.  These two things:  spending time with God and serving others are the most important things for Christians to do.  Jesus wanted Martha to keep those two things in balance.  He wants us to keep them balanced, too.

The End!  (All actors take a bow!)


God gives each of us special gifts or talents which he wants us to use to serve others.  What is a talent?  (something that we are naturally good at, that we like to do)

Mary and Martha were different and had special gifts.  What do you think Mary’s gifts and talents were? (she was a good student, liked to learn, liked to dream up ideas)

What about Martha?  (she was practical, neat and organized, a hard worker)

How did Mary use her talents?  (she listened to Jesus, learned, showed him hospitality)

How about Martha?  (she prepared the house, cooked for him)

Do you think one talent is more important than the other?  (no, they are both important)

What are the two things Jesus taught us we should do?  (spend time with God and serve others)

Why do you think Jesus told Martha to not worry and to settle down?  (she was overdoing it – she had gotten it out of balance, she was ignoring spending time with God and just focusing on serving)

How do you think Martha felt when Jesus told her she was worrying too much?

What do you think Martha did after Jesus spoke to her?

(Later on, after Lazarus’ death, we hear of Martha’s great faith – in this story she is the one who runs to greet Jesus when he arrives -- so we know that she must have taken Jesus’ words to heart… you can explore this with the children if the discussion heads in that direction)

What are ways you spend time with God?

What are ways you serve others?

Which is easier for you to do?

Drama Activity Grades K-2

A Tale of Two Sisters

(Two Sisters by Sharilyn S. Adair, BibleZone #3 – Younger Elementary, Abingdon Press, 1998)

We used the same play as above for this activity.  The children act out the various actions of Martha as she busies herself getting ready for Jesus’ visit, such as sweeping, dusting, washing, cooking, stirring, etc.  We added some extra actions to the story.  Listed below are the actions we added to the story.  We also used rhythm instruments to help create some of the sound effects.

Grinding grain:  Make a fist with one hand and pound it into your other hand.

Sound effect:  Crunch, crunch, crunch

Picking fruit:  Hold one arm in a circle in front of you as if you are holding a basket.  With your other arm, reach up as if you are picking fruit, then pretend to drop it in the basket.

Sound effect:  Plop, plop, plop

Filling water jugs:  Bend over and pretend to be scooping water out of a well and pouring it into a jug that you are holding with your other hand.

Sound effect:  Splash, splash, splash

Martha went and got more water for the water jugs (splash, splash, splash)  Then she decided she might need even more so she filled another jug (splash, splash, splash)  On the way back to her home, she stopped in the garden and picked three baskets of fruit for the meal (plop, plop, plop…plop, plop, plop…plop, plop, plop)


What were some of the things Martha was so busy doing?

What was Mary doing while Martha was busy working?

Why do you think Martha was doing all those things (because she wanted everything to be perfect for when Jesus came, because she loved Jesus)

How do you think Martha felt when Jesus told her to not be so busy and to sit down?  (embarrassed,  upset, sorry)

Say:  Jesus teaches us that there are two things we should do as Christians – first we must spend time with God.  Second we must do things to serve others.

Say:  Jesus was concerned about Martha because she had these two things out of balance.  Martha was so busy serving others that she wasn’t spending any time with God.  She needed to keep them in balance; she needed to do both things, not just all one thing!

What are ways you can spend time with God?

What are ways you can serve others?

Additional activity if there is time:

Keeping the Balance!


Make two signs:  “Spend time with God” and “Serve Others”

Tape the signs up in opposite sides of the room.

Move the chairs to the edges of the room to make a large clear area in the center of the room.

Say:  We’re going to play a game that will help us see how to keep these two most important things in balance:  spending time with God and serving others.  The shepherd will keep track of the number of activities we have in each category.  Can we keep our lives in balance?  Let’s see.

Say:  I will call out different activities.  You must decide whether it is a way to spend time with God or a way to serve others.  Then everyone must run to the correct sign.

Call out the first activity from the list below.

Ask:  Is this a way to serve others or a way to spend time with God?

Have children run to the correct sign.

Have children return to middle of room.

Repeat with the next activity on the list, alternating between both columns.

Continue until all the activities have been used or you run out of time.

Count the activities and decide if you were in balance or not.

Option:  Let the children contribute activities.

Note:  some of the activities might actually fit in both categories.  Allow time for discussion and opinions about where the activities fit.

Activities list:

Spend time with God:          Serve Others:

Attend church.           Help with a mission project

Come to Sunday School        

Read a story out of your Bible each day           Make cookies for new                     neighbors

Pray before meals           Make a get-well card for your sick t                    teacher

Pray each morning before you go to school           Clean up your room without                     being told

Pray before you go to bed each night          Help your mom set the table

Memorize your Bible verse           Do your brother’s chores for                     him

Learn to say the Lord’s Prayer by heart           Rake the leaves in your                     neighbor’s yard

Come to Wednesday night BLAST          Empty the dishwasher for your                     mom

                    Clean your room without being told

Ask God to help you with a problem          Take out the trash

Bring a friend to church with you           Weed the flower beds in your                     yard

Write in your prayer journal each week           Walk your neighbor’s                     dog

Talk to God about things that are bothering you          Give your outgrown                     clothes away

Thank God for things in your life that are good          Give some of your                     allowance to help others

Ask God to help you get closer to Him                   Help babysit the younger                    children at church


Discuss the following questions with the children:

Were we balanced?

Which of these activities are you more likely to do?

Are you more like Mary, wanting to spend most of your time with God?

Or are you more like Martha, wanting to be busy serving others?

Remember, it is important to keep the balance between both of these things because both are important to being a good Christian.

Reflection and Journal Time:  Reflection/Journals: The last 10 minutes should be reserved for Journal and Reflection time. This is an opportunity for processing and reflection about what the children have learned.  Pass out the journals and pencils/pens and the journal sticker for the day-put date in journal.  Workshop leaders should sit down with children in small groups to facilitate discussion and writing in Faith Journals.  Memory verse stickers are also included for each lesson, give one to each child to take home. Children may also copy the memory verse and illustrate.

Journal Questions:

Grades K-2:  Draw a picture of Jesus coming to visit Mary and Martha.  Who sat by Jesus’ feet?

Grades 3-5:  Christians should balance two things in their lives:  spending time with God and serving others.  How do you spend time with God?  How do you serve others

Closing Prayer: Encourage the children to come back next week and bring their Bibles.  Remind them to share the love of Jesus with others by bringing a friend to Sunday school, especially a friend who doesn’t have a church.  Ask for prayer requests and pray together.  You may ask one of the children to say the closing prayer, or you may pray something like this, Dear Lord, you have given us a lot to think about today.  We ask you to help us as we learn to balance spending time with you and serving others.  Help us to be the people you know we can be.  In Jesus’ name,   Amen.

Clean up:  Encourage the children to take responsibility for putting away costumes, props, and other supplies to help keep our rooms neat and orderly.

After your rotation is completed, please:

  1. Remember to return all supplies to the proper storage areas in the classroom or the kitchen. Please help us keep our rooms neat!
  2. Return un-used journal questions and lesson materials (you may leave them in the classroom).
  3. Thanks for being part of our Journey to the Holy Land!
  4. Let us know if you would like to teach again!
  5. Please turn in any receipts to the church office.


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