Jesus “…entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came up to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered…Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful: for Mary hath chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38-42).
By this time in His ministry, many had rejected Jesus and no longer welcomed Him, much less entertained Him. Everywhere in the region, people were speaking against Him. Yet, to the true believers in Him, Jesus was still dear, just as they were to Him. At one particular house in Bethany, He’d certainly still be welcome. Martha was expecting Him to visit her and Mary and Lazarus. She knew that receiving Jesus and those in His company would involve much food preparation and serving. Curious crowds from the local village also came and surrounded the house to see Jesus. Imagine the great sense of anticipation when they heard that He was on His way! And how enormous the crowd would be that was about to descend for a meal at the house of Martha, Mary and Lazarus!
Lazarus welcomed Jesus and the others when they arrived at his house. The sisters were busily preparing to serve them. Both had the same love for Jesus, since each of them had received Him into her heart. Then Martha became troubled, since Mary had left her alone to serve the people. Martha became so busy and anxious trying to serve the Lord and His many followers that she was frantic. Surely she thought, “What is this? My sister sits herself down at the feet of Jesus, while I’m left here alone to cook for and serve all these people!” How this vexed and irritated her.
Her attitude toward Mary made her forget that what she was doing was really for the sake of Jesus, who had come to spend time with them.
She was opening a way for the enemy to come into her heart and inject discord, jealousy, and aggravation into the situation without recognizing it. And this opened a way for him to hinder her walk with Jesus.
Throughout all of this, Mary was complacent—which really troubled her sister. Martha must have fumed, “Why doesn’t Mary respond to me and help serve these guests?” Such thoughts surrounded and troubled her. If she had focused instead on Jesus being there, she would have been less likely to dictate to Him or to complain about Mary. Instead Martha “…came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me” (Luke 10:40).
Jesus responded, “…Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:40-42).
He approved of and appreciated the fact that Mary had chosen to sit at His feet and learn from Him. When we try to please Jesus today, our concern more often is about doing things to serve God rather than about being in His presence. We get so busy in activities for Him that we end up in Martha’s frantic condition. Then we worry and feel weighed down in serving the Lord. How easily we forget the one “thing most needful”—simply to sit at Jesus’ feet and learn from Him. We make time to fulfill our desires for ourselves. What about making time for His spiritual presence in our lives? May the Lord keep us from falling into the same trap of over-involvement in service that Martha did, so that we don’t have time to just sit and learn of Him!
Martha had a heart for others. She really did care. Her work for the Lord was acceptable in its proper place. But something was more needful at this occasion which should have been done first.
She expected Jesus to blame Mary for not doing what Martha felt she was supposed to do concerning the meal. Instead, Jesus indirectly blamed Martha for not doing what Mary did, because her sister had chosen the best part of life—learning His Word. In the end, her choice will be justified, along with all who make the same choice and then live by it. Mary chose Christ and sought to honor and please Him, while Martha chose only to provide for His bodily, temporary needs to honor and please Him.
Over two thousand years after this event, Mary is still being praised for her choice, as she also will be in the resurrection. She wept at Jesus’ feet when He came to her house after Lazarus died and He comforted her. She was found at His feet when she later came and anointed Him with oil. He was her Prophet, Priest, and King for whom she humbly and lavishly shared her love.
Mary yielded herself to the absolute guidance of Christ. Jesus declared that she had chosen the best part—the “one thing [that] is needful…” (Luke 10:42). Someday we’ll be separated from all of our loved ones and belongings of this lifetime. But if we have this same love of Christ that Mary had, nothing can separate us from Him. We need to have this same love of His presence in our hearts today while we sit at His feet. Then Christ will not be taken away, because He is the best part.