The One Thing We Need
"While the group was walking along, Jesus went into a certain village," (verse thirty-eight a).
2. Jesus and the group with him went on a trip. The trip was from Galilee to Jerusalem. Sectioning off some considerable pages for this, The Gospel Of Luke, from chapter nine verse fifty-one to chapter nineteen verse forty-four, gives an account of this trip. The travel log begins with the following words. "When the time for Jesus to ascend to heaven was approaching, he resolved to head for Jerusalem," (9:51). The Lord knew what heading for Jerusalem meant. It meant nothing else but a trip to the cross.
3. During the trip, Jesus' group entered a certain village. The Gospel Of John tells us the name of that village as "Bethany," (John 11:1). Bethany was about three kilometers away from Jerusalem. We see that Jesus and his group had already come to a place quite close to Jerusalem. Today's passage of scripture relates to us a minor event that took place in the village. It is a tale that is well known as the story of Mary and Martha. Today I would like for us to listen together to the message that the Lord would have for us through this short passage.
Doesn't It Bother You?
"Whereupon, a woman named Martha welcomed Jesus into the house. She had a sister named Mary. Mary was sitting at the Lord's feet and was listening on in to what he was saying. Martha was busy about with doing various things as a hostess, but she drew near to his side and said, 'O Lord, my sister is letting me do the hosting by myself; doesn't that bother you? Please tell her to give me some help.'," (verses thirty-eight b through forty).
5. The scripture has it that Martha "welcomed Jesus into the house." These words show that it was an action that Martha had taken, it was her own voluntary behavior. Welcoming the Lord and being hostess to him was not in the least for her an act out of an obligatory sense of duty. It was a joy for her.
6. It wasn't just Jesus whom she had welcomed. There were his disciples. It wasn't necessarily just twelve of them either. There must have been some other disciples besides. If Jesus was coming, then the word of God would be given. There might also be [other] people who have gathered in order to hear the message. There were piles of things that had to be done, things needing doing under such conditions. Food preparations. Lodging arrangements. So much had to be done. To Martha it just [meant] service to the many people who were there and service to Jesus but nothing more. It was just about meeting the people's needs, and more specifically about meeting the needs of Jesus. For Martha, who had welcomed Jesus into the house, it must have been a joy to which there was none greater for her than to be used to serve Jesus and to meet his needs. A glowing face. A praising voice. Can you imagine the image of Martha flowing with joy and moving along so willingly?
7. We will have experiences like that in varying degrees. When we serve the church or serve our neighbor, we have a great joy that we are serving our Lord by doing that. [When I serve church or neighbor] I am being of service to the Lord. The Lord has need of my work. Before our eyes there are piles of needs that must be met. [There is a heap of work that needs to be done.] We're not worried about it. We have joy in it though we spare no time but work so hard grinding ourselves down. We have the joy of the person who welcomed the Lord in.
8. But yet, a complete change would soon transpire within Martha's heart, though she had welcomed Jesus into the house. This change in her is something that we too might feel to some degree or another. First she became restless, she began to be concerned about her sister Mary. Even though there was a pile of needs that had to be met, she began to be worried about her sister who was completely indifferent about all that needed to be done. She began to get anxious about this one with the peaceful face pushing the work of serving the Lord onto somebody else. She started getting irked over this one who was doing nothing but wore this strangely peaceful face. So at last Martha made an appeal to the Lord with "Lord, my sister is letting me do the hosting by myself; doesn't that bother you? Please tell her to give me some help."
9. But, if Martha had a problem with Mary, she should have guided her by her listening ears to the outside of the room and asked for help. But no, she didn't do that. It may be that she had unpleasant feelings towards Mary. But, it seems that the one with whom she wanted to speak frankly was not Mary, but Jesus. You might say she was a bit angry with Jesus.
10. "Doesn't that bother you? Don't you even care just a little?" Martha pleaded to him. Martha wanted Jesus to "think something" about it. She wanted him to care just a little about the fact of her thinking terrible thoughts by herself. Jesus was giving a talk and the people were listening to the talk. Quite naturally then, Jesus' line of vision was on the audience. Right in his line of vision, at his feet there was Mary in attendance to his speech. On the other hand, Martha was outside of Jesus' field of vision. It seemed quite unfair.
Just One Thing Necessary
11. Well, upon hearing Martha's plea, the Lord silently opened his mouth. "The Lord answered, 'Martha, Martha, you worry about many things, you distract the mind. But, what you need is but one thing alone. Mary has chosen better. You should not take up against that.'," (verses forty-one and forty-two.
12. "Martha, Martha." The Lord called out to her repeating her name. There was a special familiarity in his call to her. That saying, there was another person who had his name called in such a way. That other person appears in Luke's Gospel. He is Simon Peter.
13. "Simon, Simon, Satan is requesting of God that he might sift you [all] like wheat. But, I have prayed for you that your faith doesn't vanish. Therefore, when you recover, strengthen the brothers," (Luke 22:31-32).
14. As you know, at the time of the last supper, this was the message in which he predicted that Peter would soon defect. All the disciples would abandon the Lord and scatter during the assailing ordeal. Jesus knew that Peter, too, would deny three times that he was a disciple of the Lord. But, on behalf of this same Peter the Lord prayed for him in an unfathomable place. He cared about Peter deep in his heart. The feelings of the Lord for Peter are expressed in his call to him. "Simon, Simon" - that's how the Lord called out to Peter.
15. "Martha, Martha" - . That's how the Lord called to her. In this episode the Lord cared most for somebody. That somebody was Martha. Martha hadn't entered Jesus' field of vision? Nonsense. The Lord had seen that Martha was "worrying about many things and had lost her composure." The one who was more concerned and who cared more than any other for Martha's situation was indeed Jesus himself.
16. The Lord said to Martha, "But, what is needed is but one thing alone." "What is needed" - For whom is this needed? The cares and concern of Mary were the things "Jesus needed." She was intent upon meeting the needs of Jesus' group and the assembled people. Yes, there was a pile of needs that had to be met. But, the one thing spoken about here in this text was not about what Jesus needed nor the people. It was the one thing needed "by Martha."
17. Martha was not being reprimanded because she had been serving so hard with all her might as hostess. That was a good thing to do. It wasn't wrong for her to work herself into the dust to meet the needs of the others. That was good and it was necessary. When work is needed, somebody has to do it. Workers are needed. But, there was something that was needed "by Martha" working as she was. It was one thing, which must not be taken away from either Mary or Martha. What might that one thing be?
18. As I mentioned at the beginning, the Lord was on a journey to Jerusalem. It was a journey towards the cross. In order to obey the will of God the Father and to give himself to the world, he was moving on towards the cross. He was heading on towards the cross in order to give his body, his life, and all of his love. When the Lord spoke his words from God, along with those words came our very Lord - himself, his very life, which the Lord was about to give, and his very love. The Lord was also heading to the cross for Martha. What Martha needed, what Martha was lacking, what Martha was missing was the Lord himself, was the Lord's message that he was about to give himself for her because he loved her.
19. It certainly does happen that though we plan on serving the Lord with all we have, slowly we lose sight of the Lord. It subtly happens that we shut ourselves out from Jesus' love. When that happens we make dried up wells of ourselves. If you draw from a dried out well, you might dreg up some mud. We too may turn out as servants only dredging up mud without knowing it.
20. But, poor Martha's situation was not overlooked by the Lord. Many people think the Lord scolded Martha in this passage. But, that's not what happened. The Lord was pulling her back, so that he might give her the one thing, that very one thing which mustn't be lost.
21. In this short story, the words of Jesus that the people heard are not recorded. The words that Mary heard are not even recorded. Only the Lord's words and call to Martha are recorded. This story showed that Martha had a need for a word from the Lord. And isn't it the same for us as well?