Last week, I introduced the topic of being busy. The text I put along with it is not exactly related to busyness in reality, but what it seems to mean is terribly important. So, let’s get into it.
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 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.” 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.”
Mary and Martha are not just two random ladies that Jesus knew. Mary and Martha are the sisters of Lazarus, the man that Jesus raised from the dead in John 11. In this passage, Jesus had not died yet. For Mary and Martha, they did not think of Jesus as their savior from sin. It was likely that they thought of him as the man that brought their brother back to life.
So when Jesus walk into this scene, Mary is likely excited to have Jesus as a guest in her house. Hospitality was a big deal for this culture, and the man that returned their brother from the dead was no exception. She likely welcomed him very happily.
The only issue is that Martha didn’t know Jesus was coming. The house may have been dirty, or the laundry was not put away yet. In Martha’s eyes, she probably din’t think house wasn’t good enough for her brother’s savior.
If you’ve ever had guests in your house, you understand where Martha is coming from in this story. You clean. You put out the nicer decorations. You may even cook something for your guest to eat while they are at your house. If you’re my mother, you take it to the next level and spend a week or more decorating and preparing for one holiday.
So while Martha is cleaning and serving as it was culturally normal to do, Mary was sitting as Jesus’ feet listening to Him. It’s natural for Martha to be upset about this and calls her out about it to Jesus. Mary is supposed to help; that’s how everyone does it. Martha is probably expecting Jesus to tell her to go help, but how does Jesus respond? He says, “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.”
He tells her that he understands that she’s worried about all of the chores, but it’s not necessary. The floor will need sweeping again. The clothes are going to get dirty tomorrow. Hunger will come back. Whatever Martha was doing for Jesus was temporary.
Mary, on the other hand, chose what Jesus calls, “the good portion.” The time that Martha spends with Jesus is invaluable. It’s so much more than checking off, “Learning from a Rabbi,” on her list of things to do. What she does is eternal because it, “will not be taken away from her.”
In summary, Martha was trying to serve Jesus but forgot about her relationship with Him. She couldn’t make conversation if she was in the other room cleaning. Mary realized that Jesus could see through decorations and a put together living room and chose to be with Him.
So, how does this apply to you and I? I think it’s easy to be like Mary because we try to do so much for Jesus but forget about what is important. We can accidentally focus too much on the temporal or the comparatively unimportant. We can’t do anything for God. Choosing to be like Mary and being with Him is what will actually help us. Let’s not get too caught up in doing works “for Jesus” that we lose perspective.
Isaac wrote a great post here a while back about a very similar theme, that, whether you have or haven’t read it, I recommend reading it today.
Tim Miller, the teaching pastor at Sevier Heights North Campus, taught about another similar topic recently.
See you soon.
If you’re on mobile, go ahead and scroll down to the bottom and subscribe to get an email whenever we post something here on Matchbox! If you’re on a desktop, it’s on the side!
Cover Photo: Personal (And also unrelated to topic)