***This is an excerpt from a sermon I preached at Grace Life on May 13th. You can listen to it here.
The story we’re looking at today is a convicting and grace filled conversation about priorities. We’ll see two women react differently when Jesus shows up to their home. One focuses on Jesus while the other focuses on everything else. Let’s read this story.
 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.”
Jesus has traveled into the little village of Bethany (John 11 and 12), about 2 miles from Jerusalem. It was a small town and may have had only 20 families, but Jesus had some good friends there. This little town saw some incredible miracles. First, Jesus rose his friend Lazarus from the dead here (John 11:43). Lazarus was the brother to Mary and Martha; the two women in this story.
Second, according to Luke 24:50, Bethany was where Jesus ascended into heaven, meaning that the Great Commission was given in the town where our story today takes place.
In this paragraph, it appears that this may be the first time Jesus meets these two women. What is fascinating is how this paragraph begins: “Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.”
It appears that Jesus is practicing what he told the disciples earlier in Luke 10:5-8-
5Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ 6And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. 7And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. 8Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you.
Jesus enters into their home and spends the evening teaching them. I imagine he’s teaching them about the Kingdom of God and how he came from God the Father to be the Savior of the World. While Jesus is teaching, Martha is busy prepping dinner and serving her guests while her sister Mary is listening to Jesus.
At some point, Martha has had enough. She goes to Jesus and calls out her sister, but Jesus’ answer is different then what Martha expected: He celebrates Mary’s actions and calls for Martha to reevaluate hers.
If there is one thing I have learned about the Bible it’s that truth right there. God’s Word is constantly celebrating what is Godly and calling us to reevaluate our actions. Here’s the main idea I want us to take home today: Our relationship with Jesus must take priority over everything else in this world.
Let be explain this by first looking at Martha:
The house that Jesus enters appears to belong to Martha. She welcomes him into her home. That’s a big step. I imagine she knows who this man is. He’s been in the news recently. Now this is a big deal that Jesus comes over. In Jesus’ days, a Jewish Rabbi or religious leader would never receive hospitality from a woman this way. If the parable of the Good Samaritan exposes racism as anti-christian, then this story exposes sexism as anti-christian. That’s not my main focus here, but I can’t talk about this passage and not talk about how much Jesus values women. We’ll get into this shortly.
There are three things we learn about Martha
While Jesus is teaching, Martha gets to work on dinner. Notice what verse 40 says about Martha: she was distracted. Let me explain what this word means. In English, we think of being distracted as taking our eyes off the road to look at our phone or not being able to think about something because the tv’s on or the kids are being too loud. We’re still doing what we need to be doing, but not as well as we should be.
Here, Martha is distracted and it means that she was being pulled away from something better. She’s being pulled away from Jesus. She’s distracted by much serving. She has way too much to do and no time to do it and it’s pulling her away from Jesus.
She thinks no one cares
She’s got a lot going on and finally she has had enough. Boldly (a woman wouldn’t talk like this to a man), she walks up to her guest and says, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me alone to serve”?
Now notice, she welcomes Jesus into her home and now she calls him Lord. There is an acknowledgment that Jesus is more than just a man; he must be who he says he is. And even still, she asks him; “do you not care”?
How many of us have gone to God and said this? How many women and mothers have felt this way. You serve your family day in and day out, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of thanks. The routine never ends early. You get the kids ready for school, put breakfast on the table, clean, homework, dinner, and some of you do this while you work a paying job. You feel as if you’re the only one doing this. No one seems to notice and you’re exhausted. “Lord, do you not care!”
God’s Word is our comfort here. The God of the universe cares for us! He knows us and we are his possession. And not just any possession; a prized possession! We are not alone in anything. Now, this isn’t saying we are to have no cares in this world. I care for my wife and kids and I’m concerned for their well being. However, when I am out of town, that care is intensified. I become anxious and troubled because I can’t be there to protect them or watch over them.
The God of the universe, the one who knows our days, our hairs, and our thoughts, calls for us to cast our cares on him. Whether we feel alone in serving or we feel alone in trials, we can cast our cares upon God because he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7)
She’s anxious and troubled
This is what happens when we get pulled away from Jesus. Our anxiety rises. We’re troubled over small matters and large matters tend to become an overwhelming burden that we are unable to bear. We grow frustrated and tired. Why? Because what pulls us away cannot fulfill the joy that we long for.
Serving in the church is a good thing, but it does not complete our joy. The only thing that will complete our joy (and is necessary as Jesus says in verse 42) is Jesus Christ. While Martha is anxious and troubled by her surroundings, Mary is sitting with Jesus, overwhelmed by who he is, not by other matters.
Question one of the Westminster Catechism is “What is the chief end of man”. The answer? “Man’s chief end, or man’s purpose, is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” The things that pulled Martha away from Jesus left her frustrated and anxious while Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus, found the source of true joy and salvation.