[Image of Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet]
This is the time of year when we typically make New Year’s resolutions—when we promise to do better and be better. But what does Scripture say about all of our trying, serving, and doing? Let’s look at a story from the Gospel of Luke.
“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.” (Luke 10:38-40)
Martha is doing much ministry, much serving, and Mary is sitting.
Does Jesus need to be served? Does Jesus need ministry?
This is the same guy that just fed five thousand people with five loaves and two fish, and turns water into wine.
Have you heard people say: “We can’t all be Marys. The world needs Marthas?”
Does it? Does Jesus need you to serve Him?
Clearly, Jesus isn’t opposed to service. In fact, He says, “The greatest of all must be servant of all.” But does Jesus NEED your service–your good deeds?
“…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 10:40-41)
OK. Wow! Mary ‘s portion will not be taken away from her. And Jesus seems to suggest Martha’s portion will be taken away from her. Jesus said, “To him who has will more be given, and to him who has not even what he has will be taken away.”
Mary has Jesus, and Martha has dirty dishes and resentment.
Is it fair that even what she has will be taken away?
And what is Martha’s portion?… What is Mary’s portion that won’t be taken away? What is the one thing that is necessary?
So…What is Martha’s portion? Well…isn’t it her impressive behavior and actions—the things she does to win approval?
With her actions, she hopes to impress Jesus, conquer His heart, and win His love. She’s competing with her sister and is afraid she may lose to her sister, and so she judges her sister and judges Jesus’ judgment or lack thereof. She’s offended at the Grace of God in Christ Jesus.
And you understand that…don’t you?
“I cook. I clean. I minister. No one works as hard as me. If I don’t do it, who will do it? And Jesus, do you even care? God, how could you give that to her? What about me?”
Martha’s portion will be taken away from her and maybe that’s not so bad because Martha’s portion is bitter, and Martha’s portion keeps Martha from Mary’s portion.
Maybe Martha’s portion was ultimately nothing, nothing but a lie. I mean, maybe Martha wasn’t actually serving Jesus, but serving herself. Maybe she was trying to serve Jesus to serve herself… And so, in reality, she couldn’t experience His love. Maybe Martha was trying to earn the love of God, and so could not hear the love of God.
Martha thought her portion was good, but her portion was evil…It will be taken from her, but maybe it will be given back to her as something else or filled with something else.
Well, Martha’s portion was sin. And Mary’s portion is Grace.
Mary sat, Jesus showed up… and Mary listened to His logos–His Word. In Scripture, Jesus speaks the Word of God, and He is the Word of God in flesh. God is Love, and Jesus is the Word of Love.
In Psalm 16:5 David writes, “The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup.” It is interesting that Jesus uses the word “portion” as if Martha was feeding on her own flesh, and Mary was feeding on Jesus.
We don’t know exactly what He said, but we know that He is what God says. He is what God means, and He is what Love means. He is God, and you can’t earn God.
In John 11:5, Scripture points out that Jesus loved Mary, and Jesus loved Martha. He had the same love for Martha. He was the very same Word for Martha, but love for Martha sounded like this: “Martha Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is needful. One thing is necessary.”
“Martha, give it a rest.”
“Martha shabbat. I am the Lord of the Sabbath. I am taking your portion away from you so I can give you myself. As long as you think you earn my love, you cannot know my love.”
“Martha Martha, one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good.”
Mary has “chosen the good,” and yet that is not a deed that Mary has accomplished. (Mary is sitting down.) It’s a deed that God has accomplished in Mary.
“Mary has chosen the good.”
I did a word search on that phrase. Do you realize that this is the first place in all of Scripture where someone is said to have “chosen the good.” In the garden, Eve couldn’t “choose the good” because she didn’t know what it was. But now, in the presence of Jesus, the last and ultimate Adam (and the Word of God), Mary chooses the good. Jesus said, “God alone is good,” and “if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” Mary chooses God as God has chosen Mary. That’s called faith and it’s necessary.
Faith completes us in the image of God. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing (cometh) by the Word of God.” The Word came that every mouth would be stopped and all would look and all would sit and listen.
So, Jesus says, “Martha shabbat – Sabbath.” “Be still and know…” “Martha, stop, sit, and listen…” “Don’t be afraid to stop and discover who you truly are.”
And maybe He’s saying that to you, “(Insert your name) shabbat – Sabbath.” “Be still and know…” “Stop, sit, and listen…” “Don’t be afraid to stop and discover who you truly are.”
Sit before Him and hear His Word in your heart. When we do so, the thought that I can earn His love is taken away so that I can receive His love. Sin is taken away and replaced with Grace, which will not be taken away.
Martha’s works and your works are rejected so that the Love, that is God, can be accepted. It’s when you know that you can’t earn His Love that you can finally receive His Love.
Wherever you are, whenever you are, just sit in the presence of Jesus. “God is Love,” and “Jesus is the Word of Love.” God is saying, “This is how much I love you: From the foundation of the world, I have given you all I am–my body broken and my blood shed. You cannot make me love you more, and you cannot make me love you less. ‘It is finished.’” It’s what I most desperately want, but am most terrified to do . . . sit still, and naked, in the presence of infinite, eternal Love.
Well, when you sit in the presence of God, I’ll bet you’ll find there’s a Martha in you, and a Mary in you. (I bet there was even a Martha in Mary, and a Mary in Martha.)
When you sit in the presence of Unconditional Love there is something in you that will want to get up and get things done–something that wants to clothe the self, finish the self, justify the self, and create the self. That something that’s afraid is your inner Martha. But there is something in you that will forget the self and then find the self . . . worshipping; that’s Mary.
You are Martha and Mary, and you’re judged by the presence of Love.
Don’t do anything. Just sit in the presence of Jesus. Don’t do anything.
Don’t you dare promise anything, for God has promised everything!
Don’t resolve anything.
Only resolve not to resolve.
You see? Martha cannot resolve to be Mary. In fact, there’s nothing quite as ugly as a Martha trying to be a Mary, or pretending to be Mary. Nothing quite as ugly as self-righteous religion.
Martha cannot resolve to be Mary. Martha must die (as all Marys have already died). Martha must sit naked and exposed to the Grace of God . . . until all her arrogance is burned away.
Let Martha die and just sit in the presence of Love, be filled with the Word of Love, and commune with the Love.
This devotional was prepared by Kimberly Weynen, Peter Hiett’s assistant. It was inspired by the sermon entitled The One Necessary Thing. You can read, watch or listen to the entire sermon here: https://relentless-love.org/sermons/the-one-necessary-thing/