I wonder what it was like. I wonder what he said. Mary was sitting at the feet of the one and only Jesus. She was privileged to receive personal encouragement and direction from the God of all creation. It’s hard to imagine what Jesus said to her or how his voice traveled into her ears. Her brain then computed the syllables and sounds and the impact went straight to her heart. We don’t know what Jesus said to her or how long Mary sat and listened. Martha had little idea what Jesus was saying as well because she was busy. She was serving Jesus, which was a also a noble task. I wonder what she was preparing for them. But again we aren’t told. We are told that Mary found peace at the feet of Jesus while Martha was troubled juggling her many things.
Jesus, also juggling many things, was on a preaching tour on his final trip to Jerusalem to die. He made a stop at a certain hospitable house with open doors to Jesus and his crew. 38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. Jesus and his disciples have stayed here before and been well taken care of. This is no exception to previous times. But Mary is not busy serving, she is busy listening. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. I wish we were told a little of what Jesus said but we aren’t privy to that info. We do know what Marth said. 40 But Martha was distracted (Literally: “pulled away”) by all the preparations that had to be made. I am sure Martha would have loved to sit and listen more if she had the time. There was simply too much to do and not enough time to listen to Jesus. I bet Martha would have wanted to sit and listen but the responsible person inside her drove her to work hard. Finally her irritation could stand it no longer. She came to him and (perhaps cleared her throat as she shot her sister an irritated glance) asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” Notice Martha didn’t give Jesus much of a chance to answer the question before she provided her best solution, “Tell her to help me.”
Jesus has a better solution. 41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” I wonder if Jesus said her name twice to bring her eyes back to him from scowling at her sister. I think he spoke these words tenderly because we hear no rebuke from Jesus like other times. Martha thought Mary was to blame for the troubles, but Jesus addressed the real cause of distress: Martha. He did so compassionately. “You are worried and upset about many things. You have a lot on your plate right now, don’t you? You are having a hard time juggling everything and keeping it all straight. It is causing you to worry and be upset. But…” Notice Jesus contrast with the many things previously stated…. “One thing is needed.”
We need to find ways to cope with the busy lives we lead. If you are not busy, have you set time aside daily for sitting at the feet of Jesus? It really isn’t a question of, “Do I really have time to fit one more thing into my day?” The better question is, “Do you really have time not to?” We need to find ways that will sustain us and help our faith grow and equip us to be committed disciples, diligent parents, hard-working students, and faithful workers in our lives even when – or especially when – life is extremely busy. Our vocations call us to be both Marthas and Marys on daily basis.
The lesson we learn from Jesus in Luke 10 is not as simple as “don’t act like Martha; act like Mary” when formulating a lifestyle. This may give the impression that living balanced God-pleasing lives always or usually involves an either-or decision rather than a both-and kind of decision when it comes to focused activity versus quiet meditation on the Word. When a choice needs to be made Jesus makes it clear that attention to him is the higher priority: “Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” But the godly goal will be balance in life, with Jesus dominating our devotional lives and accompanying us while we work diligently.
The being pulled in multiple directions, the stress, the anxiety is killing some of you. You don’t need to make huge life altering decisions and live the minimalist lifestyle. But you can have peace in chaos by prioritizing a few minutes every day to sit at the feet of Jesus in his word. To attain and maintain the goal of balance we, like Mary, prioritize our focus on Jesus. We study his Word and give him our praise and prayers. And then what happens? Like Martha, we express our faith-life actively. It’s more like a “Mary and Martha Merger” that shapes our lifestyles. When first things come first, other privileges and duties more easily find their priority in life. Rest in Jesus before the sprint of each day and you will have the energy to endure.
About two years ago, I was at home with the three boys. Elissa was out and it was bedtime. Noah, the youngest at the time, was having trouble falling asleep. This trouble turned into crying, which turned into wailing and flailing. I sat him down in my lap, held him close, looked him in the eye and began to sing, “Jesus loves me” softly towards his troubled face. His teary eyes locked with mine and his crying began to settle down. His tense arms and legs began to relax. Soon he was asleep as I sang repeatedly, “Jesus loves me.” This is what’s it’s like to sit at the feet of Jesus and rest in his word and dedicate a few moments to prayer amid a busy life (we will talk about prayer next week). You have a lot of good things that you have chosen to do that occupy your time but the best is to rest in the peace and love of the Savior who loves you so much he died for you.
The challenge to prioritize everything that calls for our time and energy will remain. The threat of physical and emotional exhaustion will remain with us. Rather than extended deliberations between “good and evil” we likely wrestle more to choose between “good and better.” Our times with Jesus and his Word give wisdom to help deal with that vexation.
It’s already August. Much of our summer activity is behind us and the tasks facing us in the fall season will soon demand time and attention. Proceed as redeemed and forgiven children of God. Amen.