“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).
When we think about those people who were close to Jesus, there is a family of siblings who seem to have held a special place in his heart. This was the family of Mary, Martha and Lazarus (although Lazarus is not mentioned here). We don’t know when Jesus met this family – it could have been that this is his first visit with them. Although it isn’t found in this text, we know that they lived in the village of Bethany, which was about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) from Jerusalem. Today we would have said it was a suburb, but back in Jesus’ day it would have taken about a half-hour to walk from one to the other.
On this occasion we find Mary and Martha having different reactions to Jesus’ arrival at their home. Mary immediately sat down and listened to Jesus’ teaching while Martha “was distracted” – there were so many preparations to make for his visit! At least that is the way she felt about it and she seems to have felt some resentment towards her sister who wasn’t helping her. She finally went up to Jesus (I assume she interrupted him) to ask, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all the work alone? Tell her to help me” (Luke 10:40 NET). That sounds like a comment a sibling would make!
Notice Jesus’ reply: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things, but one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the best part; it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41 NET). Martha could do her cleaning and housework at another time, but, as Jesus was not always there, this was the time they needed to be listening to him. Mary had “chosen the best part.”
How many of us become distracted in our study or worship because of things going on around us? It seems that with a telephone in our pockets we can be easily distracted by texts or even Facebook. How many times do ‘phones ring out loud during worship and Christians actually answer the call?! It seems many today are also distracted from listening to Jesus!
What are we to do? For one thing, put our telephonic devices on “silent” when we are with other Christians (I wouldn’t advocate necessarily turning them off because many of us use Bible apps). If someone phones or texts us, ignore it – this is the time to listen to Jesus. Maybe the problem is that we are so used to having instant replies that we feel obligated to respond. Yet if our friends and family know us, they should know where we are at worship and study times.
Learn the lesson from Mary and Martha. Don’t allow things of the world to distract us from choosing the best part, which is listening to Jesus. This would also include making time in our daily schedule to listen to him and talk to him through prayer. Let’s become true disciples of Jesus!
Readings for next week:
1 August – Luke 13
2 August – Luke 14
3 August – Luke 15
4 August – Luke 16
5 August – Luke 17