What’s Most Important

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost | July 21, 2019


Adriaenssen, Vincent, 1595-1675. Christ in the House of Mary and Martha, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=56209 [retrieved July 19, 2019]. Original source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vincent_Adriaenssen_-_Christ_in_the_House_of_Mary_and_Martha.jpg.

Amos 8:1-12 • Psalm 52 • Colossians 1:15-28 • Luke 10:38-42

38 As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. 40 But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

41 But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! 42 There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:38-42 New Living Translation (NLT)


We continue our journey through Luke. Two weeks ago we looked at Jesus sending out his disciples. Last week we looked at the most important commandment. We are in Luke 10 again this week with a short story about Mary and Martha. Luke reminds us again that Jesus is continuing toward Jerusalem. He comes to the house where two sisters live, Mary and Martha. If you are like me, you’ve heard many interpretations about this passage. This afternoon, James and I went out for ice cream and I began to think about this passage again. While my application is similar – it comes with a little twist.

As you remember Martha welcomed Jesus and disciples into her home. If this is the same Mary and Martha who had a brother named Lazarus, they weren’t far from Jerusalem. We don’t get that sense in this passage. Martha is busy preparing a meal. Her sister Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to Him. We’ve all been there – working on a big dinner – trying to keep up with it all, but we would love someone to help us. Martha doesn’t say anything, but you know how that goes. You are working and working and it seems like nobody even cares. Finally she blurts out to Jesus, “Doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work?” She even tells Jesus what she wants out of it, “Tell her to come and help me.”

Jesus gently rebukes Martha, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it…” Ouch. I’m sure that Martha wasn’t expecting that.

So what can we learn from this little exchange? It wasn’t as if Mary was not concerned about the preparations for the meal, but Jesus was here! What would you be more concerned about if Jesus came to visit you in the flesh? Would you concerned what your house looked like? Would you be overly concerned about entertaining him? Apparently this is what distracted Martha, but Mary wanted to hang on to every word. She wanted to know how to follow Jesus more closely. Martha was busy taking care of business. It’s quite like us at times – we are like Martha busy taking care of the business of the church and fail to get close to Jesus – and yet there are those – who aren’t interested in going through the motions – they want to be like Mary and learn from Jesus. This is what discipleship is all about. It’s learning how to be more like Jesus.

But wait…there’s more. What if learning to be more like Jesus also means that we are doers of the Word – doers of Jesus? (James 1:25) Not doers like Martha was – who was simply concerned about the externals…not only listening to Jesus – being a disciple – being a Christ-follower, but doing what He tells us to do. Several weeks ago, I was reminded of this statement: “We are educated well beyond the level of our obedience.” Sometimes we hunger for more and more and more of God’s Word and yet God wants us to act on what we already know. Perhaps this is what Martha was lacking. Jesus knew that she needed to hear more from Himself (God’s Word) in order to obey the Word better. Sometimes we need to listen, but more often we simply need to act on what we already know.

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