The One Thing We Need
August 8, 2007
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
1. "While the group walked, Jesus went into a certain village," (verse thirty-eight a). For what reason? The reason was to preach, to communicate the word of God, to communicate the love of God, to communicate the salvation of God. He did it to communicate the kingdom of God and to communicate an invitation from God. The Lord knew that his preaching journey was coming to a close. He knew where that journey was heading. Jesus was headed to Jerusalem. A cross was awaiting him there. For Jesus the communicating of God's love, the communication of God's salvation, the proclamation of the kingdom of God was not just giving out words. It meant to him that in order to truly give the love of God, to give the salvation of God, to give the kingdom of God, he had to give himself totally, even his own life. The gospel we read today communicates one of the events that transpired along the journey towards Jerusalem.
Don't You Have Any Thoughts About That?
2. It's not clear at first why Jesus visited that village. It had one of the houses which furnished a place for Jesus to proclaim the Word of God. It was the house where the sisters Mary and Martha lived.
3. The scripture says, "Thereupon, the woman Martha welcomed Jesus into her house," (verse thirty-eight). Of course, it wasn't only Jesus who was received. His disciples were there. It wasn't necessarily just the twelve either. At the start of this chapter it speaks about seventy-two disciples. The people called disciples was a large crowd. In addition, whenever Jesus came, there were also those who had gathered in order to hear God's word. Therefore, the act of receiving Jesus into one's home was indeed a very enormous thing to do. From the arrangements for meals to the preparations for lodging, there must have been piles and piles of things that had to get done. In any case, they would have to serve them and tend to their needs.
4. However, for Martha, serving the many people who were there was nothing other than serving but Jesus himself. To satisfy the needs of the people was, more specifically, the act of satisfying the needs of Jesus. And for herself to be used to serve Jesus, to satisfy the needs of Jesus must have been the happiest thing in the world for her to do. Martha welcomed Jesus [into her house]. Perhaps she had been making preparations for several days. She was in this mood where she could see his appearance vividly in her imagination. She had a brilliant smile. She sang praises aloud. That's how Martha's appearance looked, all filled with joy, she went about working cheerfully in order to receive Jesus into her home.
5. I think we will all have an experience like that to some degree, more or less. Churches have many different kinds of situations for ministry and service. Many hours and much hard labor are dedicated in places no one ever notices. When folks serve in the church like that, especially when they see it as their serving Jesus, they will have great joy when they are serving the Lord there. Or even in society, there may be situations of serving neighbors. There may be times when with love [we] must carry a heavy load sometimes for someone else. But, when [we] are serving people in society, especially when [we] see it as [our] serving Jesus, [we] will have great joy when [we] are serving the Lord there. Whether it's inside the church or outside the church, either way, with me like that, I'm being useful to the Lord. The Lord has need of me like that, my work. It is a joy. Often times what we've got to get done forms huge piles in front of our eyes. Yet, it is not a chore. Sparing no time, even though we work ourselves to the bone, we have joy in it. Like Martha, we have the joy of the person who welcomes the Lord in.
6. Well, that's how Martha was when she "welcomed Jesus into her house," but it seems before too long a complete change took place in her heart. She wasn't the least bit excited about it at first; she began to notice her sister Mary. She began to notice how Mary did not care at all, even though there were piles of things to get done to meet the needs of the people. She began to notice her calm look as she off-loaded onto others [her] work in serving the Lord. She noticed the extremely calm look of [Mary] not doing a thing. Then, at last Martha appealed to the Lord about it, "Oh Lord, my sister is letting me do the work of hospitality by myself, don't you have any thoughts about that? Please ask her to assist me."
7. Doesn't that seem a bit strange? -- If the attitude of Mary unwilling to assist were the problem, it could have probably been avoided had she drawn Mary's attention to the side, led her outside the room and had said, "Please give me some assistance." But yet, Martha didn't do that. Mary's attitude certainly was disagreeable. But, it is not Mary who wants to make a statement against it, but some one else, it's Jesus who does. Martha had appealed to the Lord with "Oh Lord, my sister is letting me do the work of hospitality by myself, don't you have any thoughts about that?"
8. "Don't you have any thoughts about that?" -- Martha wanted to have Jesus "think something." She probably wanted to have Jesus just notice the situation a bit, that she by herself was feeling frazzled and worn. Jesus was speaking and the people were listening to him speak. Quite naturally then, Jesus' eyes turned onto the audience. Right there in Jesus' plain view, Mary was also there listening to him speak at his feet. On the other hand, Martha was outside of Jesus' field of vision. It must have seemed very unfair to Martha. [He] doesn't even see at all that I am feeling terrible!
The One Thing We Need To Do
9. Upon hearing Martha's appeal to him, the Lord calmly opened his mouth. "The Lord replied, 'Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things. But, there is only one thing that you need. Mary has chosen the good way. You must not remove that.'," (verses forty-one and forty-two).
10. "Martha, Martha." The Lord called her name out to her twice. Doesn't this way of calling out to her sound familiar? -- Supposing it does, that person who says, "It sounds familiar" has read, at least a few times, this Gospel According To Luke. [This pattern] does in fact appear later after this. Another person who gets his named called in this same style appears in chapter twenty-two. It is Simon Peter.
11. The evening before the day upon which Jesus was crucified, while seated at the last supper, Jesus spoke as follows to Simon Peter. "Simon, Simon, Satan has requested from God that he sift you as wheat. But, I have prayed for you that your faith will not disappear. Therefore, when you recover, encourage the brothers," (Luke 22:31-32).
12. These are the words when he gave the advanced notice that Peter would soon forsake Jesus and flee away. All of the disciples forsook the Lord and scattered during the assailing trials. Jesus knew that even Peter would deny three times that he was a disciple of the Lord. But, the Lord says, "I have prayed for you that your faith will not disappear." The Lord prayed for Peter like that in a place [Peter] did not know. Jesus was deeply concerned to the innermost depths of his heart for Peter. Jesus' thoughts for him are expressed in his call out to him. "Simon, Simon." -- The Lord called out that way to Peter.
13. "Martha, Martha." -- The Lord called out that way [to her]. In the passage of scripture that I read to you today, who is Jesus concerned for the most? It is none other than Martha. Martha wasn't in Jesus' field of vision?! Jesus didn't see her?! -- That's ridiculous! The Lord certainly did see that Martha was "worried and upset about many things." It was none other than Jesus himself who worried over and cared about Martha's situation the way it was.
14. The Lord said to Martha, "But, there is just one thing you need." "The one thing needed" -- For whom was this needed? Martha's concerns were directed on the things "Jesus" needed. She was absorbed in doing things in order to meet the needs of Jesus' party and those assembled. Yes, she was; there were loads and loads of things she was supposed to do to meet the needs of Jesus and the others. But, what is being said here is that it was not something Jesus or the others needed. It is one thing that "Martha" needed.
15. Martha was not being blamed for the fact itself that she had been entertaining the guests with all her might. She had done a good thing in that. It is not an evil act to work oneself to the bone to meet the needs of someone else. It is a good thing. It is even a thing that is needed. Somebody has to do it. Working people are needed. But, for "Martha" working like that, she had something she needed. It is the one thing that must not be taken away, from not just Mary alone, but also not from Martha. What is that one thing?
16. As I stated at the beginning, the Lord was in the middle of a preaching trip. The Lord was on it in order to communicate the word of God, to communicate the love of God, to communicate the salvation of God, to communicate the kingdom of God and the invitation from God. And in order to give the love of God in the real world, in order to give the salvation of God, in order to give the kingdom of God, yes indeed, in order to give his whole being for those purposes, Jesus was going towards Jerusalem. In this way then, the love of God which he manifested with his own existence, and the word of God which he spoke by offering up his own life which is the love of God itself, this is the very one thing she needed at any cost, and it is the one thing that she must not lose by any means.
17. As a matter of fact, [such a thing] does happen, where the one thing needed ends up lost. It wasn't just Martha. It happens to us. It does happen, that claiming "it's for the Lord" while serving with all our might, we lose sight of what is truly needed "for our own selves." We lose the word of God, we lose sight of the love of God, we lose sight of the salvation of God, and end up losing the beauty of the kingdom of God which was experienced in fellowship with God. Thus then, without realizing it, we turn ourselves into a dried up well. Try with all your might to draw water from a well that's drying out and you will start to spray mud. That's right; while we too intend to serve with all our might on behalf of the Lord and other people, we may end up turning into people who just sling mud while not even knowing it.
18. When we read this short story again, we notice that the words Jesus spoke to the assembled people are not recorded here. Even the words that Mary heard as she sat listening carefully at the feet of Jesus are not even recorded. The only words left behind in the record are those addressed to Martha. Martha made her appeal to Jesus though while all irritated, and as a result she came face to face quietly with Jesus and came to hear his address to her. This story shows that it was none other than Martha who needed most of all to hear the word of the Lord face to face with him in that way. The Lord cared for Martha, he was hoping that Martha would not lose the one needed thing. And the Lord is hoping the same for us.