38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 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.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
The text tells us that Martha was distracted.
Think about it from Martha’s perspective. Martha is just trying to be a good host!
Jesus is at her house!
Wouldn’t you want to be a good host too?!
Wouldn’t you want to impress him too?!
Wouldn’t you want him to think well of you too?!
You’d want to make your best meal, you’d get the carpets shampooed, you’d like set out every Bible you owned. It’s not that Martha doesn’t also want to be with Jesus, but she wants to serve him first.
And Martha is thinking, “If my sister Mary wasn’t so lazy, I’d actually have more time and be able to visit with him.”
But no, Mary is just sitting around. For anyone who has siblings, clearly Mary is the younger one!
Not a care in the world, she’s just sitting with Jesus. Hearing pots and pans clanging together in the kitchen, Martha starting to slam cabinets so that they know how hard she’s working. Martha is muttering things under her breath.
Mary isn’t doing anything to be helpful. And so Martha decides to go up the chain of command. Maybe she knows Mary won’t listen to her, so she takes it up with Jesus.
She asks Jesus to tell Mary to help her.
“Lord, do you not care?”
Probably not the best ice breaker.
She looks at Jesus teaching and Mary sitting and receiving the teaching from Jesus, and Martha rebukes Jesus.
“Do you not care?”
“Do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?”
“Tell her then to help me.”
I don’t know if Martha was expecting Jesus to take her side and tell Mary to help out.
It’s hard not to feel some sympathy for Martha.
A lot of us are Martha’s.
Martha just wants to be a good host!
But she’s not being a good host! She’s not enjoying herself. She’s kind of causing a scene!
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” (Luke 10:41-42).
Jesus responds with gentleness.
Mary has chosen the one thing necessary. She’s chosen Jesus and his word, the better portion that won’t be taken away from her.
So many of the things that we make a big deal of aren’t things we’ll care about in the long term.
So many of us get so stressed over thing that are comparatively minor.
But there’s Jesus. There’s his promise of grace and forgiveness. The most precious thing, the most glorious truth, something which will not be taken away from you. What we need is the word of God. Knowing Jesus is where it all begins. At the feet of our teacher is where it begins. Everyday.
You’ll never be as effective at serving the Lord if you’re not first following the Lord. If you’re not being renewed and refreshed in the Lord.
Mary was at the feet of her teacher, Jesus. And that’s where we can be.
It can be easy to think, “but Mary was actually with Jesus. We aren’t.”
Jesus invites us into a relationship. Are you getting to know him?
1 John 5:20 says “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.”
Philippians 3:8 says “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”
God invites us to know him.
True life and meaning comes from knowing Jesus.
Knowing the grace that God offers comes from knowing Jesus.
God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). God promises that he will never leave us or forsake us. Psalm 100:5: For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.
God promises to complete the work that he has done through Christ.
Philippians 1:6 says: “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus.”
And on, and on, and on, and on. The Word of God. And what it means.
Those are just a few examples. What do those mean to you? Are these precious treasures to you? Do they lead you to worship of the Lord, affection for the Lord?
Or today, do they not really mean a whole lot to you?
Maybe you look at those promises, and think “Well yeah, that’ll matter someday,” but in all honesty, you’re stressed about what’s going on in your life today? You’re asking the Lord, “do you not car?”
It’s tough sometimes. I’m not trying to make you feel bad.
But if God’s goodness and God’s word isn’t stirring your love for God, I ask, are you focusing on the one necessary thing?
Mary has chosen Jesus and sitting at his feet. She’s chosen to hear the Word of God. God’s word is just as true for us as it was for Mary.
Listening to Jesus. Being with Jesus. The one necessary thing that will not be taken away.
Jesus tells Martha she’s worried about many things. He doesn’t say those things don’t matter. He doesn’t say those things are ridiculous or insignificant. But that Mary has chosen the only thing that is truly necessary. She’s chosen the most important thing.
The point isn’t to condemn Martha, but to show us that Mary has chosen that which is better.
Because, we so often get side tracked in the kitchen. Or the office. Or the church.
Serving Jesus needs to be from the overflow of knowing Jesus. It needs to be from the overflow of our love for Jesus.
Of course we need to serve, of course it’s good to work, to tend to others. But you have to take care of yourself too. You have to tend to your Spiritual needs too. You have to maintain your own relationship with Jesus too.
We won’t be as effective if we’re not also Spiritually healthy.
Martha misses out in this story.
She’s not enjoying Jesus as she should be, and that’s a true shame. But it happens all the time. It’s so simple, but we often make it so complicated.
But we also have opportunities everyday to enjoy Jesus, to meet with Jesus. To be still and sit with Jesus. How many days do we waste, caught up in our own projects, distracted by many things, when where we should have started was with Jesus?
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Josh Benner has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He has served churches in Minnesota and Illinois. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in St. Louis.