The phrase is one that is often uttered. “There is just too much to do.” How can I get everything done that I need to do? Each day of our lives we have plenty to do: from the daily homework assignments to earning a living, keeping our rooms clean to giving ourselves down-time. This same issue is one that Martha experienced all those many years ago. She couldn’t figure out how to get everything done. Yet, Jesus had wonderful news for Martha. In the midst of the busyness of our lives, he has wonderful news for us, too. In our text for today, we hear the wonderful invitation: Join Mary at Jesus’ Feet! There we learn that His Word is the one thing necessary and it will not be taken from us.
Jesus and his disciples were traveling about the Judean countryside. As they walked from town to town, the thought crossed the mind of Jesus many times. “My time on this earth is coming to an end.” With his earthly life coming near to its end, Jesus decided to go into a small town. There he was greeted by a friendly face, a woman named Martha. Martha invited Jesus to come visit with her and her sister, Mary.
When they arrived at her house, Jesus sat down. Mary did the same, sitting right up next to the feet of Jesus. There she listened and listened, and listened to Jesus’ words. Imagine the beautiful stories and lessons she must have heard. Did she hear the wonderful examples of God’s grace in the lives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? Maybe she heard about the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophesies. Was the Lord’s topic of the day that he would soon go to Jerusalem to die? Did she hear about the glories of heaven? We don’t know. But, OH, the gems that Mary must have heard from Jesus’ mouth.
But while Mary was sitting there, we see a figure in the background. Martha is running about, thinking of all the things that need to get done. One minute she’s at the dining table, the next she’s outside by the food. Then she’s back inside, making sure everything is clean. Can’t you just see the anxious look on her face? She had so many things to do, and so little time to do them all! And each time she passes Mary, there that anxious look is. The first time it was probably just a quick glance. As she passes a second time a little cough escapes her mouth. The third time, Martha makes sure Mary can hear her huff. Finally, she had had enough. Martha quickly moves and stands right up next to Jesus.
The question leaves her lips. “Lord, don’t you care? Don’t you care that Mary has left me alone to do all the work?” That question says it all. Martha thought for sure that she was right. She was so sure that she had her priorities straight. The thoughts that must have gone through her mind! “Here I am, doing everything, and she just sits there? Can’t it wait? We need to eat, don’t we?” She expected the Lord to respond, “Of course I care Martha! How could I have forgotten?” But, in case Jesus didn’t get her point, she adds this little command: “Tell her, then, to help me!”
How surprised do you think Martha was then to hear the Lord’s response? “Martha, Martha.” With those two words, Jesus said, “You’re wrong Martha.” Don’t you think Martha could have heard the Lord’s disappointment? Jesus didn’t need to say anything else for Martha to get the point. The thought was there, “What did I say wrong?” Jesus had Martha’s attention. His words had caused Martha to look back on her words and actions.
He continued by saying, “You are worried and upset about many things.” Can I give you a literal translation here? “You are anxious and in a riot concerning much serving.” Jesus wanted Martha to realize what was really going on. Her mind was filled with all those things she was worried about. She remembered how she had just been scurrying about. She remembered how she was worried everything would get done. But surely, she must have thought, these things still need to get done, don’t they?
The Lord answered her unspoken question. And as surprising as his first response was, nothing topped this. “One thing is necessary.” Don’t you think Martha was floored? “One thing, Lord? Really? Only one? What is it,” she surely thought. “Maybe the cooking and cleaning can wait.” The Lord’s point was clear enough. There will be time to cook; we can clean later. “Come,” Jesus was saying, “join Mary at my feet.”
Brothers, we are just like Martha. Put yourself in her shoes. The Lord is coming to your house! Don’t you think that you would want to make sure a good meal was prepared? Don’t you think that you would want the house to be clean? I know I would. Better yet, hink about your daily life. There are so many things we need to do everyday. These things are not bad things by themselves. They are necessary things, good things. We need to sleep. We need to eat. We need to make sure our rooms or apartments are clean. We need to go to work. We need to get our homework done. Aren’t we just like Martha when we get so wrapped up in these earthly activities? There we are, scurrying around, trying to get everything done. One minute we’re here, the next we’re there, a third we’re over there. Our minds and hearts become so anxious and worried. We develop huge riots inside ourselves. We become so focused on getting these things done, we lose sight of what is really important. We begin to consider the activities of daily life to be the most important things. In the meantime we push God’s Word into the corner, saying “That can wait. This needs to get done.” God’s Word becomes second in our life, then third, and fourth. Hearing the Word of God gets bumped down the list of priorities until it becomes buried.
The Lord uses the same calm rebuke for us as he did for Martha. He calls each of us out, by name. Put your own name there instead of Martha’s. We hear him say, “Paul, Paul.” With those two little words, Jesus expresses his concern for us. We hear his disappointment. We are forced to ask ourselves, “What? What did I do wrong?” And then we hear his voice again. “You are anxious and in a riot concerning many things.” Our minds are filled. We see ourselves running around. We remember our thoughts. Thoughts that were so worried about what we had to do that we couldn’t even make sense of them. We hear the rhetoric question behind the Savior’s words: “Is this is the best thing?”
The longer we place these earthly things higher than God’s Word, the more we place our spiritual health in danger. What do we do to ourselves when we place working, cooking, and resting above God’s Word. We slowly start to choke our faith. We are in danger of being like the seed that was choked by thorns. Remember the parable of the sower and the seed? Some of his seed landed among thorns. When the seed sprouted, it was choked and died.
Jesus answers the question, “what is the best thing,” for us. He says, “One thing is necessary.” We don’t need to focus on so many things. We need only one thing – to hear his Word at his feet. There are so many opportunities to join Mary at Jesus feet. The class time, chapel, church on Sunday, and our own personal Bible study are all times to sit at Jesus’ feet. Does hearing his word put us in a great anxiety and a riot? Not even close. While sitting at the feet of Jesus we receive such rich gems! His words give us a sense of peace and comfort. We hear the same things that Mary heard so many years ago. We hear of our spiritual forefathers: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We hear of the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophesies. We hear of Jesus cleansing us from our sins. We hear about the glories of heaven. How about those wonderful testimonies of Jesus to God’s grace? We hear of his wonderful miracles – his changing water into wine, the feeding of the five thousand, and the walking on water. What better thing is there?
And it is there, sitting right up next to Jesus feet, that we receive the one thing needful. His word gives us again and again that forgiveness of sins. As we sit at his feet, the anxiety leaves our souls. We receive the calm comfort of Jesus words. Those very words don’t just comfort our souls of those times we committed what we think to be major sins. No, those same words of Jesus forgives us of those times that we made good things to be better things than his Word. We join Mary at Jesus’ feet where we learn that his Word is the one thing necessary.
We have learned with Martha that God’s Word is the one thing necessary. The story doesn’t just end there. Jesus attaches a promise to his Word. Let us join Mary at Jesus’ feet where we will learn that his Word will not be taken from us.
Jesus has more to tell Martha. “Mary has chosen the better thing,” he says. Picture it this way. There were many different things to do laid out before the sisters. Among all these choices were the household chores, cooking, and entertaining. Mary chose to do just one. She chose the chance to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to him. Jesus commended the object of her choosing. He declared it to be the “better thing.” This was Jesus’ way of saying, “Mary won’t be helping you, Martha. Instead, come join her at my feet.”
And then, as if Martha needed anymore assurance than what Jesus had already given, he added this promise. “It will not be taken from her.” Jesus tells Martha why His Word is the better thing. It doesn’t give immediate satisfaction only. His word is completely different than any earthly thing. What Mary was receiving would be with her for the rest of her life. Nothing would take it from her.
Jesus knew that Martha, and Mary, needed to hear that promise. He knew that soon Mary and Martha’s brother would die. Jesus wanted to make sure that their faith was in him and in his promise. He promised Mary and Martha to know that no matter what happened in their earthly life his Word would not be taken from them. What Jesus gave to Mary and Martha was what they would need to enjoy spiritual comfort, even when a loved one would die. Martha showed that Jesus’ words hadn’t been taken from her with her statement, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” She followed this up by saying, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”
Jesus word’s are for us as well. God’s Word is still the better thing. It is still better than whatever cooking, cleaning, making a living, fixing up the house, and down-time one needs to do. Jesus tells us as well, “Mary has chosen the better thing.” With those words he extends his arms with a wonderful opportunity. He invites us to join Mary at his feet and to listen to his words.
His promise “It will not be taken from her” is for us as well. His Word will not leave us, it will not be taken from us. It is completely different than the meals we make or the jobs we do. It does not perish or have an end like the things of this world. The satisfaction and peace we receive from God’s Word is for all time. Nothing will take it from us.
No one knows which events will come about in our lives in which we need God’s Word. But, no matter what happens, His promise is still there. It will continue to be there, and it will continue to offer comfort and peace. It will keep us strengthened for whatever trials may face us. And no matter what, his Word will not be taken from us.
That’s where the story ends, at least on the pages of Scripture. What happened next? Do you really think that Martha could go back to all her preparations? She had just received the invitation of a lifetime. Here was a wonderful opportunity, the opportunity to sit at the feet of her Savior and listen to him speak. His words are the sweet words of salvation. They proclaim the glories of God. They tell us about the home we have in heaven. His words are peace and comfort for our souls. All our earthly choices can wait – we have the Savior’s invitation! Join Mary at my feet! There we hear the one thing necessary which will not be taken from us.