As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
There are so many people hurting after the recent spree of mass shootings. So many have been pulled away from hope. So many are filled with anxiety when they leave their homes and go to crowded places. So many are distracted by all they see or hear on the news or social media. There are many in need of help, and so many are in great positions to give them help. Many are sending cards to give hope or money to relieve anxiety over bills. Some are posting encouraging messages on social media and supporting organizations that help prevent acts of violence. Many are hurting and many are doing what they can to help serve their neighbor. In our gospel lesson from Luke 10, a woman named Martha was serving Jesus and his disciples as they traveled around teaching, but her sister, Mary, was not helping. There are a lot of people who need you to serve them, whether at home, at work, in your neighborhood, community, country, even the world. When so many people need you, is it right to take time away to listen to Jesus’ Word before you serve others?
Our gospel reading from Luke 10 comes in a series of three readings in Luke that address our spiritual attitude toward our neighbor, Jesus and God the Father. Last week, we heard “The Parable of the Good Samaritan,” a reminder that we are called to love our neighbor, no matter who they are. Next week, in our gospel reading will hear about Jesus teaching his disciples how to pray to God the Father by giving them what we call The Lord’s Prayer. This week, in our gospel reading we hear about two sisters, Mary and Martha, and their attitude toward Jesus while he was visiting their home.
Luke did not include a lot of detail in his account of Jesus’ visit to Mary and Martha. We are not sure where to place this account in the timeline of Jesus’ life, nor are we given the name of the city he and his disciples had come to where Mary and Martha lived. However, we do know from other places in Scripture that Mary and Martha lived in the city of Bethany. Luke gave few details about place and time in this account, which makes the details he does include the focus of our attention. Luke tells us that Jesus and his disciples were traveling and when they came to the village where Mary and Martha lived, 38 Martha opened her home to him. Jesus spent his ministry traveling from city to city teaching, preaching and healing, and often believers would open their homes to him. When Martha opened her home to Jesus, the disciples and all the other followers who would have come to hear him, there was a lot that had to be done to accommodate all those people. Martha had a sister, Mary, who chose not to help make all the preparations for their guests. Instead, Mary 39 sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” Martha knew who Jesus was, she had opened her home to him, and she was working hard to serve him and everyone else, but there was too much to do alone.
Martha was upset because she was not getting any help serving her Savior. In our Old Testament reading from Genesis 18, a woman named Sarah could relate to what Martha was feeling. Sarah was the wife of Abraham. The couple trusted in God but had never been able to have children. Then, one day, when Abraham and Sarah were far too old to have children, God came to Abraham in a vision and promised him that he would have a son. Sarah had spent decades wanting a child and when she heard God’s promise there was hope, but then ten years went by and they still had no child. So, Sarah looked for a way to help, and she had her servant Hagar sleep with Abraham hoping she would give them a son. Her plan worked, but God told them that son was not the one he had promised. After another 13 years went by, God came again as we heard in our reading from Genesis 18. Here in Genesis 18, God repeated his promise to Abraham, while Sarah was listening from inside their tent. When she heard the promise repeated, 12 Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?” 13 Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” Sarah trusted God, but she also wanted a son. Sarah tried helping the situation, but that did not work out. Finally, when God gave her a specific time for her son to be born, she laughed, but God had spoken and the next year Sarah and Abraham had a son. Sarah’s struggle was to listen to God’s Word and trust God to serve her need of a son in his time and in his way. Martha’s struggle was to listen to God’s Word and trust that Jesus had come to serve her.
Our struggle is to listen to God’s Word and be served by him before we serve others. Therefore, the question we need to ask ourselves is, “What kind of serving keeps me from listening to Jesus?” As you answer this question, keep in mind we are not asking ourselves, what sinful things are keeping us from listening to Jesus. The question is not, “What evil plot am scheming up to do after church?” Instead, answers can be something like make dinner for my family, go to work to make money to support my family and contribute to society, go to school and study so that I can get a job to make money to support a family and contribute to society, clean the church or visit family on vacation. Do you have a good long list going in your mind now of all kinds of good things you have to do to serve other people? This week you are going to try to get most of those things done and get many more thrown at you that have not come to mind. We all have lots of good things to do in our lives that serve others and serve God, but all of that can get to be overwhelming. That is what happened to Martha. Martha had such a good thing happen to her, Jesus was staying at her house, but all the preparations got in the way that it led her to get tired and overwhelmed to the point of getting mad at her sister and telling Jesus to ask her sister to help her.
When Martha came to Jesus, he was ready to give her the one thing she needed to put her heart at ease. 41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Jesus saw Martha’s heart and knew she needed to be reminded of what Jesus said in Matthew 20:28, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus wanted Martha to come and be fed by Jesus’ words about repentance, forgiveness, God’s love, hope, the resurrection and eternal life.
You and I can become distracted by all the good we can do for our Savior as well. If you look in your bulletin on the bottom of page 9, there is a place for you to write your name in the place of Martha’s name using verses 41 and 42 of Luke 10. Write your name in each of the blanks as a reminder that God knows you by name and he has called you away from worry to trust in Jesus. He sent Jesus to serve you in the way you needed it most. Jesus came to give his life for you both by living a perfect life of love to God and to his neighbor, and to sacrifice his perfect life for your sinful life on the cross to take the punishment for your sins to win your forgiveness and to rise from the death to guarantee your resurrection to eternal life. Jesus saved you and God called you to faith by the power of the Holy Spirit, and now you want to serve God and your neighbor in love, but if we get too caught up in our service to God and our neighbor, we can get distracted from him. If we begin any service to others without first reminding ourselves of what God has done for us, then we run the risk of becoming anxious, troubled, distracted, pulled from one thing to another, busy, overburdened, angry, resentful and even weary of our faith.
As believers, we are glad to have Jesus in our lives like Mary and Martha were glad to have Jesus in her home. As believers, we hang up crosses or Bible passages on our walls, we have Bibles and devotional books, and we attend worship and Bible Study. As believers, we are focused on Jesus service to us as Paul emphasized in our reading from Colossians 3:16, Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. Paul’s words are a clear reminder to listen to Jesus’ Word before you serve others. In fact, after Paul encouraged the believers to have the message of Christ dwell among them, to be in their live, their hearts, their homes, Paul wrote, Colossians 3:17 “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
There are so many people hurting after the recent spree of mass shootings. Many are hurting and many are doing what they can to help serve their neighbor. There are a lot of people who need you to serve them, whether at home, at work, in your neighborhood, community, country, even the world. When so many people need you, it is easy to jump into serving like Martha before being served by Jesus and his Word. When we stop to focus on what Jesus has done for us, all the burden, anxiety and even frustration goes away when we think about all those who can benefit from our service. Paul reminds us of the attitude we are to have toward Jesus and serving others in Colossians 3:15, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” May God be with you this week as you listen to Jesus’ Word before you serve others. Amen.