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Mother's Day: One Thing is Necessary

Today we are going to be focusing on moms because it is Mother’s Day.  However, I think we can all learn something from the passage we are going to look at today.  In Luke 10:38-42 we have an account where Jesus visits the home of a woman named Martha.  Take some time to read through the passage.  In this story Martha and her sister have two very different reactions to Jesus, which leads to a conflict that is spoken to by Jesus.

Making An Impression On Jesus Isn’t Necessary

Several places throughout the Scriptures we are told that Jesus loved this family.  Martha apparently is the older sister due to the fact that it is called her house.  Although not mentioned here, this has always been considered the same Martha and Mary who had a brother named Lazarus.  Jesus had a special place in his heart for this family.  Probably because they provided a peaceful and safe place for him to stay when he was in the area.

Now Jesus shows up with his 12 disciples and Martha invites them to her house.  Two different choices immediately are made.  Martha begins to prepare a meal, while Mary sits and listens to Jesus teach.  Have you ever tried to impress God?  I think part of Martha’s problem is not that she wants to care for their food needs, but rather all the other junk that is going on inside of her heart and mind.

Three descriptions of Martha describe her condition.  She was “distracted” with much serving.  Granted, serving is a good thing, but not when it becomes a distraction to something better.  The word distracted has the sense of being drawn away from something by something else.  The serving was getting in between Martha and her sister, but even more importantly it was getting in between her and Jesus.  The second descriptor is “worried.”  Why would she be anxious?  Is she afraid she won’t get the food out quickly?  Was she going overboard?  Clearly she is upset that Mary doesn’t help her.  But it seems that Martha has envisioned something to impress Jesus and is worried she can’t do it by herself.  It is interesting that in Matthew 6:31-33, Jesus specifically told his disciples to not worry about what they are going to eat.  But to put God’s Kingdom first.  Then the food part will be supplied.  This is not a promotion of being lazy, but one of priorities.  Martha was losing a sense of priority in her worry.  The last descriptor is “troubled by many things.”  The word comes from the same root as the word “turbulent.”  It literally means a crowd.  Martha’s mind and heart had become a crowd of worries and desires that were crashing back and forth like an unruly mob.  And all of this was over the issue of preparing a meal.

In contrast to this Mary is simply sitting and receiving from Jesus.  There is a time for making a meal but the contrast is clear.  Martha was fixed on what she could do for Jesus, but Mary was fixed on receiving from Jesus.  Lastly, Mary was not concerned about what Martha was concerned about.

Only One Thing is Necessary

Martha grows more and more agitated until she finally has had enough.  Instead of confronting Mary she goes over her head and asks Jesus to tell Mary to help her.  Jesus’ answer is that Mary had chosen something better than Martha and he would not take it from her.  His statement that “one thing is needed” begs the question.  “What is that one thing?”  I believe the Matthew 6 passage we looked at earlier helps us to see what is needful.  What is necessary?   To keep the higher eternal things at a higher priority than the lower temporary things of this earth, like eating.  The lower, temporary things do need to be taken care of: food, clothing, shelter, jobs, education, etc…  But, if we let them be of a higher priority in our life, we will be overwhelmed with a very turbulent crowd of desires.  Martha was angry with Mary, but Mary had done nothing wrong.  She had simply chosen to spend time with Jesus before eating.  Why despise that?  Only when I am consumed with earthly concerns would it bother me.  Perhaps there is a worry about impressing Jesus with the great care that their household would give him.  Whatever her concerns, they had created a problem in her heart.

Was it necessary to eat right away?  Apparently not.  Jesus doesn’t seem to have asked for food to be prepared.  Why not spend some time together first?  Was it necessary to do so much serving?  Was it necessary to get angry with her sister?  We can excessively worry over earthly cares.  The reality is that they will be hungry again in a matter of hours.  No amount of eating will eternally satisfy.  Thus we need to be careful that our heart and minds do not become turbulent with these lower concerns.

Martha wants to serve the Lord, but the best way to serve the Lord is to know what he really wants.  In John 3:34 Jesus told his disciples that he had food they didn’t know about.  It was the food of doing his father’s will.  Jesus was not a slave to earthly food because doing the work of teaching, miracles, and laying his life down satisfied him on a higher level.  Later in John 6:27-29, Jesus was talking to the crowd that he had miraculously fed.  They had rushed around and oared across the Sea of Galilee in order to find Jesus.  But they followed him for natural food not the higher spiritual food.  Yes we have to eat, but the natural should not rule over the spiritual.

"Choosing the good part" is when we see that it is more important for us to wait upon the Lord and let his teaching transform us than it is for us to rush out and do great things for him.  Who should have joined who?  Martha wanted Jesus to make Mary join her.  In reality Martha needed to join Mary.

Have you been pressured in things of this life by yourself or others?  Are you laboring to satisfy an inner crowd of emotions and desires that are fixated on the earthly temporary stuff over the top of the eternal?  Jesus wants you to have rest and to have peace.  Stop today and rest at his feet, let him teach you.

One Thing Is Necessary audio