Keep My Commandments or Martha and Mary Window

Installed 1955, L. W. Lakeman, New York, 1942

Mary and Martha Window

John 14:15

“If ye love me keep my commandments.”

John 12:2  

“So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table.”

Luke 10:38-42

“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

The two panels of this contemporary window complement each other. One panel raises questions and the other directs us toward the answer. The theme of the upper panel is based on John 14:15, “If ye love me keep my commandments.”

Jesus stands as a commanding figure who is draped in a regal robe and has the halo or nimbus with the cross or radiant arms inside to signify his divinity. John’s gospel from which our verse comes is extremely important. It is Jesus’ instructions to his disciples. With a cursory glance, though, the verse raises problems: Is love to be measured by obedience? What commandments are we to keep?

The lower panel directs us toward the answer. Luke and John agree on the characters of Martha and Mary. Martha was the practical type; the mistress of the house; the one concerned that the proper things be done; the one impatient over her sister’s contemplative bent. It was Mary “who sat at the Lord’s feet. .. and listened to his teaching.” while Martha “as distracted with much serving.” Note the positions of the sisters in the panel. Finally, Martha complained to Jesus, “dost thou not care?”

Jesus loved both. But he was distressed by Martha’s bondage. Though the test of his reply to her has come down in several forms, his meaning is clear: The kingdom is a value beyond any other. Mary has set her heart on this. Martha, too, should seek first the kingdom where true value is found and other things will take their proper place.

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