“Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”
The below devotional has been prepared by Rev. Mark Roberts and can also be found by clicking this link: https://depree.org/series/following-jesus-today/#part81
Last week I began reflecting on Luke 10:38-42, a story of Jesus’s interactions with his friends Martha and Mary. In this story, Jesus and his entourage showed up at the home of Martha and Mary. Martha welcomed Jesus and then got busy with preparations for a meal for him and his disciples. Mary, Martha’s sister, didn’t help out, but rather sat at the feet of Jesus, learning as he taught. Martha was not happy. She asked Jesus to tell Mary to help her with the work. But Jesus declined, saying, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42).
Our translation says that Martha was “distracted by her many tasks.” The original language reads more literally, she was “distracted with much serving” (Luke 10:40, ESV). The original language for “serving” is surprising. “Serving” translates the Greek word diakonia, which is sometimes rendered in the New Testament as “service,” but is commonly translated as “ministry.” In secular Greek, diakonia was used for a variety of kinds of service, including serving a meal. It has this connotation in Luke 10. But it the use of diakonia here also testifies to Martha’s desire to minister to Jesus through her hospitality. She wasn’t just filling her time with incidental chores. She was working hard to make sure Jesus and his crew were well taken care of.
Jesus did not do as Martha asked. He did not send Mary to work with her sister. Rather, Jesus explained that Martha was distracted by the service she was performing. “There is need of only one thing,” he said. “Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken from her” (Luke 10:42). What is this one thing? What is the better part? In context, being with Jesus is the one thing, not preparing a meal for him as Martha was likely doing. The one thing is listening to Jesus, learning from him, receiving from him, enjoying his company. This, Jesus said, was the “better part.”
If we’re going to understand this scene, we need to note a couple of details. First, doubling up on a name, saying “Martha, Martha” was not a form of rebuke in the linguistic culture of Jesus. Rather, it was a tender way of speaking, a sympathetic address. Jesus wasn’t chewing out Martha here. He was reaching out to her in kindhearted love. In fact, implicitly he was welcoming her, inviting her into his circle of teaching and fellowship.
Second, though Jesus said that “there is need of only one thing,” we must read this in context. He was not suggesting that Mary should spend her whole life doing only one thing. She was not supposed to spend the rest of her waking hours doing anything other than sitting at Jesus’s feet. He was not saying that she should never work, never welcome people with a meal, never do anything but sit and learn. No, in context, Jesus was effectively saying, “There is need of only one thing right now, in this moment, as I am teaching. There will be plenty of time for other things later.”
Martha’s problem wasn’t that she was working hard to welcome people graciously into her home. It was that her efforts took her attention away from what mattered most in that moment. The text says that she was “distracted” by her service. Distracted from what? From listening to the teaching of Jesus, like her sister. She was distracted from being with Jesus by trying so hard to serve him. In seeking to welcome Jesus by serving him, she was not welcoming him as her teacher and Lord. Moreover, she was missing out on the chance of a lifetime to be with Jesus in this intimate learning setting.
If you’re like me, you can relate to Martha. You really want to serve Jesus in your life. You seek to serve him in a wide variety of settings: in your daily work and your home, among your friends and your neighbors, in your church community and your city. It’s a wonderful thing to serve Jesus. But you may be the sort of person that gets so busy doing things for Jesus that you don’t spend much time with him. Your faith is so much about what you do that you neglect experiences of communion with the Lord, times of worship and prayer, moments of silence and solitude, practices of contemplation and adoration.
If this sounds at all familiar, then you may need to hear the invitation of Jesus, not to do more for him, but to be with him more. Jesus welcomes you into fellowship with him, even into friendship (John 15:13-15). He wants to teach you, to listen to you, to receive your love, and to give you even more love in return. He welcomes you just as you are, right now. Will you join him?
Back to School Drive
Our church is partnering with United Way of Hunterdon Country to gather school supplies for needy students and families. There will be a box in the back of the sanctuary where supplies can be dropped off. If you would like to participate, you can find sheets in the back of the sanctuary that list all of the supplies United Way is looking for. Feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org for that list as well. The deadline to drop off is Sunday, July 31st.
Pizza & Movie Night
On Sunday, August 7th at 5:30 pm, our church will have a Pizza & Movie night in Fellowship Hall. The movie that we’ll be watching together is “Remember the Titans,” and free pizza will be provided for dinner. Please let Pastor Chris know if you plan on coming so we can purchase enough food. We are looking forward to seeing you all
Summer Bible Study: The Book of James
Pastor Chris will be leading a bible study on the New Testament book of James during the summer. To accommodate people’s different schedules, the study will meet at two different times on Tuesdays at 1 pm in Fellowship Hall, and Wednesday at 7 pm in the conference room in A-Wing.
Independence Manor Services Resuming
Starting July 17th, our church will begin leading services at Independence Manor following church service. Please contact Pastor Chris, Dar, or Greg for more details if you are interested in joining or participating. Services start at 1:15.
Donate to Flemington UMC Today