It is entirely possible to go through your day frantic with busyness and entirely miss out on the best part, Jesus himself. Luke includes in his gospel a very short five verse snapshot of a story that happens all too often in our own lives.
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.” Luke 10:38-42 ESV
It is important to note that it is Martha who opens up her home and welcomes Jesus in. In other words, the whole night’s festivities were initiated by Martha. She is using her gifts and generosity to serve the Lord. Yet, by the end of the story, she is receiving a gentle but direct rebuke. What went wrong? Martha has missed the most important thing. Jesus is in her midst and she has lost her focus on the Lord and has become consumed with anxious busyness. The house has to look right, the dishes need to be put away, cups need to be filled, spills need to be mopped up, leftovers need to be stored, guest need to be taken care of, preparations for tomorrow have to be made and on on and on it goes. Luke says “she was distracted with much serving”. Sound familiar?
We know how to busy ourselves. We can fill a day up with spectacular efficiency, but we can also miss out on what is most important. Jesus gently redirects Martha to something better. By saying Mary had chosen “the good portion”, Jesus is alluding to a rich OT imagery. In the context of Old Testament verses such as Lamentation 3:23-24, Numbers 18:20 or Psalm 16:5 we are able to understand that Jesus must be our only source of life, of rest and of nourishment. Yes, there is work to do. Yes, you will be spent serving the Lord throughout the day. Yes, you have a lot on your plate, but if you fail to stop and sit at the feet of Jesus you will find yourself “anxious and troubled about many things”.
Martha’s response to the anxious and troubled frenzy is to lash out against her sister. So often that is a tell that our hearts are focused on the wrong things. That we are not finding our rest and nourishment in Jesus. That we have not paused to recognize and relax in the presence of our Savior. That we are not actually serving him.
Luke includes this story after the preceding events of chapter 10 such as the the sending out of the 72 for ministry and the parable of the good samaritan. The point is this, we can do all of these great things and yet neglect the most important thing, the good portion.
Have you neglected the good portion this week? Even today? What needs to change about your life for you to choose the better portion of sitting at Jesus’ feet?
One idea is to start by Memorizing Luke 10:41 “…you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.”
Author: Rev. Wes Andrews