From the desk of Francisco Peralta:
A few weeks ago, our pastor preached on Luke 10: 38-42, describing an interaction between the sisters, Mary, Martha, and Jesus. Our pastor, Danny Box, raised excellent points that brought thoughts to my mind about the condition of Martha’s heart and our heart.
This passage evokes response from some individuals more than others. Often, I have heard a sister in Christ say something like: “well… who’s going to make the punch, cut the sandwiches and bake the cookies!? Someone has got to do it; we all can’t be with our heads in the bible reading and praying! There’s work to do!” Obviously, they are right, there are things to be done in service. And a person can be right and wrong simultaneously. How one serves and the condition of their heart is the issue, not the service. Jesus is always looking at our heart for he desires to give us rest, not burdens as noted in Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” So, with a tip of the hat to the people who serve, let us also remember how we serve is of importance to Jesus.
Mary and Martha Worship and Serve
Luke 10: 38-42 (NKJV)
38 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house.
39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word.
40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”
41 And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.
42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.
First, we will look at bit at dear Martha’s psyche. We note in verse 38 that Martha invited Jesus to her home. She seems to have taken the initiative to invite him. This was no small matter because at this time Jesus was in the crosshairs of the Jewish religious elite. It took courage and boldness to invite the itinerant rabbi that was upsetting the world to her home. And, she obviously had a home to welcome Jesus. We can infer it was adequate in space, and in amenities for Jesus and his party of disciples and others who often accompanied him. We can also assume she had adequate supplies (think Costco bulk items!) for her invited guests. She may have been the head of the house and given her comments may have been the older sister of Mary. Martha and Mary are sisters of Lazarus who Jesus raised from the dead. If you are the youngest of your family, then you know your older siblings often exert influence (nice word for bossiness) because they are older. Human nature has not changed much since.
Martha’s sister Mary takes a quite nontraditional role for Jewish women. She does not get up to serve Jesus, but instead plops down literally at his feet to listen to him. Jesus was always preaching, so he was certainly explaining something about the Kingdom. Here we can see two potential reasons why Martha was upset with her sister.
Reason #1: Mary is not a male. In those days only males were taught. Girls stayed at home. Boys went to school. Women could only be present in the Women’s Court of the Temple, away from the men. Martha may have thought something like “who does she think she is, sitting at his feet!”
Reason #2: Mary is sitting. She is not standing up making sandwiches, baking cookies, getting the table ready. So, she may have thought her sister was just being lazy and unhelpful. Just guessing here having been on both ends of this dilemma.
Starting in verse 40, we see some of Martha’s previously mentioned boldness. She has the nerve to first accuse Jesus “Lord, do you not care …?” Let that sink in a minute. Accusing Jesus of not caring? I wonder if our thoughts drift in the same way when amid serving, working, or doing something, looking at others, and wondering “when are they going to pitch in to help?”
And then she takes it up a notch. She has the double nerve to give orders to the King of the Universe, Jesus Christ, the Lord of Life, Creator, Son of God, Redeemer, the Alpha and Omega! Wait a minute! Who does Martha think she is? Granted, she may not have known all of Jesus then, but we do now. When have we had the same nerve to “tell” him what to do? And maybe not to order Jesus around but to silently complain, accuse, become controlling or harbor a resentful heart? And here we see Jesus seeking Martha’s heart.
Jesus responds in verse 41, saying “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen the good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
When someone calls out your name twice, they are trying to get your attention, to get you to focus, to get you to listen. This is Jesus being patient with impatient Martha. This is Jesus seeking to give her what Mary has already received. And he correctly diagnoses the condition of her heart. Martha is “worried and troubled about many things” Martha’s worry, trouble is like an engine check light indicating the symptoms of a distracted and anxious soul. She is distracted (v 40) with much serving. Think for a minute, you can replace the word “serving” with anything else that is good: work, kids, laundry, vacuuming, cleaning, lawn work, golf, exercise, baseball practice, even bible study groups! The focus is not the serving (or anything else) but the heart.
In verse 42, Jesus tells Martha that only one thing is needed, “that good part” and that part will not be taken away from Mary. And what is that good part? It is the source. It is the main thing, not the secondary thing. If we get this part right, then all else falls into place. Knowing God is the “good part.” It is the foundation, the essential, the best God has for us, knowing him.
Our culture today is one of busyness. It is one of doing more, having a sense of production, of efficiency, multitasking our way in all areas. It is a culture of working more, doing more things, improving our time management so we can be more! Another Red Bull (or coffee) please so I can stay up later and be more alert when I wake up! Do you find it difficult, even laborious, or counterintuitive to sit and just and wait on God? Is it a struggle to meditate on His Word and wait for him to show up and be present?
Look at it this way. The point of this message is not to criticize Martha but to recognize how she, frankly, missed the bus! Mary got on the bus! Do you want to be on the bus? Our takeaway is to get on the bus. To be in the journey of learning what Jesus is saying to us in His Word. If you feel you are busy like Martha and feeling troubled, and distracted; if you feel your life is too busy for Jesus, please consider the following thoughts:
Busyness robs relationships with God. When study of God is first, the soul is satisfied. When serving or anything else is first, the soul suffers.
Where are you looking for satisfaction? If it is in other things, they will not satisfy. We are made by God, for God (Colossians 1: 16). The enemy of God’s best can be the “good” we choose for ourselves.
As you read scripture, are you reading to receive or reading to just finish and move on? The goal is to learn continuously because knowing God is our primary pursuit.
Is your heart, your desire, your love for Jesus growing?
As your counselor, I want to encourage you to spend time in His Word, to not run past it. It is spiritual nutrition for our spirit and renews our soul. If we eat three times a day (or more!) can we “eat” spiritually at least once per day? His word is the treasure, he wants us to treasure.
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also"
Matthew 6: 21
Lastly, consider this quote from A.W. Tozer, author of The Pursuit of God,
“Whatever keeps me from my bible is my enemy however harmless it appears to be”