Biblical Studies Preview

Mary, Martha, and the Good Portion

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 (Lk 10.38-42).

Why does Martha always get the heat in sermons? What did she do that was so wrong? All she was doing was serving, and she simply wanted some help. Luke helps his readers by giving us two key words: Martha was “distracted with much serving.”

DeSilva gives us some timely words on this passage, ones that all believers need to hear.

The story of Mary and Martha speaks in a timely way to an increasingly phrenetic and frantic society (Lk 10:38–42). Jesus points Martha—and all of us who are so very much like Martha—to the core necessity of life. If we possess this one thing, it gives life to all that we do; if we lack it, we cannot compensate for that lack no matter how much we do. The one needful thing is to sit at Jesus’ feet, spend time in his presence undistracted and listen for his word. This is a hard word for many people, myself included, to accept. It is a hard word to believe in an active society where doing and visibly achieving are emphasized so strongly. But if anything must suffer this day, Luke says that it cannot be our spending time with God. We have books to read, committee meetings to attend and leaves to rake, but first and above all, we have to sit at Jesus’ feet, wait on the Lord and seek God’s face (346–347).

Psalm 27.4 says, “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.“

Jesus’ challenge to Martha and to all who resemble her more than her sister is to reverse [the] mindset [that waiting on the Lord when there is work to be done is procrastination] and to let the way we spend our time help us to be guided in all things by God’s Spirit, not driven in all things by the demands of our studies, our congregations or our own ambitions (347).

Reordering Our Lives Around Christ

It can be, no, it is difficult ordering our lives to revolve around God and his word. It is difficult to read his word and spend time with God. I can easily get caught up in what I need to do, whether it be reading a book to review, learning Norwegian, or, most importantly, spending time with my wife. All of these things are good and I have to (and like to) spending my time doing these things (not that learning a language is always fun), but when time feels tight I must remember that God has ordered this world that I live in and interact with. There is time for him and his word. I can spend time with him. We can make time for him and his life-giving word.

I can easily relate to Martha. I am the Martha of the story. “But Martha was distracted with much serving.” And the Lord answered Martha Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.

“[S]pending time in God’s presence, sitting at the feet of Jesus… is the place where lives are reordered, hearts healed, balance attained and stability found. Our hearts will never find rest until they rest in God, and rest means spending time resting in God’s presence” (347).

book review David desilva an introduction to the new testament second (2nd) edition

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