Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
How busy are you? Sometimes we find that life has become a dizzying, exhausting rush. Do you find time every day to do everything that you want to? Or are you, like most people I know, barely able to make time for the important things? There are errands to run, deadlines to be met, appointments to keep, cleaning to do, repairs to make, and little ones to be taken to and fro on time. Do you often have to drop things off your schedule because there isn’t enough time? Our lives are hectic. But, sometimes being too busy can cost you. This morning our Gospel reading comes to us with a very relevant question in our busy world: do I have my priorities in order?
I. We Can Be Distracted by Busyness
Martha was busy – busy beyond imagination. She was all excited over Jesus coming to her house. What an honour! Of all the homes in Bethany, Jesus was coming to hers. She wanted to put on a world-class feast for the Lord. It’s understandable why Martha was distracted with much serving. It happens. It’s normal to want to impress your guests, and doubly so when your guest is the Lord Jesus. Martha had welcomed Jesus into her home. Yet, while Martha was stuck preparing the food, her sister Mary was not helping her. No, Jesus was sitting in the living room with her sister Mary sitting at His feet, listening to him teach. That’s when Martha finally snaps. She slams her spoon down on the counter and storms out of the kitchen. She looks right at Jesus and says, “Don’t you care that I’m in the kitchen slaving away over a hot stove while my sister just sits there? How about cutting the chit-chat and telling her to get her lazy rear end in the kitchen to help me!”
Was it good for Martha to prepare a meal for Jesus? Of course! Nevertheless, she allowed this good thing to distract her from the main thing. Martha was so overly concerned about the preparations that she became sidetracked and missed out on being with Jesus. Martha was dragged away from Jesus by her desire to do the right thing. The example of Martha makes a pointed question to every single one of us: are good things in my life distracting me from Jesus? What would threaten to drag me away from gathering with God’s People to hear and learn his Word? Jesus warned in the Parable of the Sower that the cares of this world could choke out faith (Matt. 13). In moderation, many things are blessings, for which we ought to be thankful. If we become so busy that our time with Jesus gets put onto the back burner, they become a curse.
It’s a curse because, like Martha, we can let many things get between Jesus and us. In a very real way, we can starve to death spiritually because we’re too focused on the daily cares of life. We can be so distracted that we can let many good things get ahead of God. Unless you are on your guard, you might not notice as your busy life eats up your time for God. Do you know what often leads to spiritual ruin? More often than not, it is misplaced priorities. It is good to provide for our own! It is proper to attend to our family duties and fulfil our worldly responsibilities! That’s precisely where the danger lies. Our families, jobs, daily callings, household duties, and social lives may become snares to our hearts and draw us away from God. When you’ve got a full day ahead of you, it can be hard to remember to make time for God’s Word, prayer, and bible reading. You’ve got to get to work, run errands, make it to appointments, cook a meal, take care of the kids, and before you know it, the day is done. The day is over, and on days like that, it is easy to forget about taking time for God’s Word. And that’s the problem: there will always be one more thing that needs to be done and one more appointment to make. Then Sunday comes around, and you want to enjoy a lazy day instead of attending church. You want to drop your kids or grandkids off at bible class and have an hour to yourself. The daily cares of life can distract us and drag us away from God’s Word.
II. Jesus’ Word is the One Thing Needful
Many of us have felt like coming to Martha’s defence when we’ve read this. Poor soul. She only wanted to serve. Where did Martha go wrong? Martha was convinced that Jesus was her guest. She was the one who needed to serve Jesus. But that was where she was wrong. Martha forgot that Jesus came to serve and not to be served. Even though he willingly accepted the hospitality of his friends, he was there to give them something more than could be offered him in return.
Yet notice how Jesus corrects Martha. He does not correct her with an angry word. He doesn’t belittle or scold her. Jesus gently, kindly, patiently corrects her and points her towards the one necessary thing. He doesn’t push her away but highlights her sister’s example. What he corrects is not her work but her fretting and worrying. This is Jesus our Lord, who treats us gently even when we miss the point entirely. This is Jesus our God who speaks “peace” to our troubled and anxious hearts. Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, likewise warmly and gently corrects you this morning.
In all your busyness, don’t forget that only one thing is necessary. That one thing is not the next task on your to-do list. That one thing is not serving others. The one necessary thing is to sit at Jesus’ feet, listening to His Word. That’s what Mary chose. The Lord calls it “the good portion.” And it “will not be taken away from her” (v. 42). Jesus’ words are clear: “one thing is necessary.” Do you actually believe that? Is it reflected in the way that you view your time? Are you too busy for that? Every time you prioritise something over Bible reading or Church attendance or Bible Class, you are telling the Lord Jesus that he is just not important enough. If that has been you, then it’s to repent. It’s time to make it a top priority—schedule time for daily prayer and bible reading. Sit and learn from Jesus each Sunday in the service and Bible Class this fall.
Don’t be so distracted and concerned about the things of life that you neglect what is most important: to sit at the feet of Jesus and hear the Word of God. That is the one thing needful. Here’s why. Jesus came to bring us a gift. It is the one thing, the only thing, that will give us life, the one thing that will provide us with what we need. We have a need only he can meet. We have routinely prioritised other things ahead of God. We have feared our deadlines, loved our social lives, and trusted in family more than the Creator God. We need forgiveness; we need salvation. And we cannot meet that need on our own, by our own work. So, Jesus invites all of us, worried and distracted by many things, to sit and rest in his presence. He delivers this salvation to those who hear his Word and believe it. These are words of forgiveness and truth. God himself wants to speak to us through his Word. His word instructs us on how to live and conduct ourselves. His word points out our errors. His word tells you that you are loved and valued as children, so valued in fact that Jesus was willing to bleed and die for you. And so that is why we need to sit at our Lord’s feet and receive from him. Through his Word, Christ comes and serves you. Through his Word, Jesus declares you to be holy, blameless, and above reproach. Through his Word, he keeps you in the true faith to life eternal.
The purpose of eternal life is enjoying the Lord as your portion. We are saved to enjoy fellowship with God. We get to sit with God, listen to his Word, and talk with him in prayer, so that we may always treasure him as our inheritance. The Lord Jesus is the good portion that we should choose before or instead of being busy with all kinds of acts of service. When Jesus is your priority, he “will not be taken away from” you. The Lord is ours forever, and we are his forever. Nothing will ever separate us from his love. No one will ever pluck us from his hand. Never will he leave us; never will he forsake us. The Lord is our portion and inheritance forever. That’s why Mary has chosen the one necessary thing: sitting at Jesus’s feet in the fellowship of his word.
In this fast-paced world that seems ever-changing, Jesus gives us his unchanging, sure and certain Word. That is what is most important. The one thing needful is the blessed, saving, soul-satisfying Word of Christ. That is why you have come here this morning. To worship is to sit with Mary, to sit at the feet of Jesus, to hear His Word and receive his gifts. You have chosen the good portion that will not be taken from you. For here, we are listening to our Lord speak his words of comfort and assurance to us. “Come to me, all you who are weary and troubled, and I will give you rest.” Our Saviour is saying this to all of us who are weary and wiped out today. Come and sit here and receive forgiveness for your sins. It’s a busy world out there. But there is rest and refreshment in Jesus. In hearing His Word, you receive strength to do what your calling demands, not in bitterness but joy, not to please God but in thanksgiving that you are pleasing to God already through Christ. There are many things to keep you busy, but one thing is needful, necessary, indispensable, that one thing is hearing Jesus’ Word of forgiveness, peace, and reconciliation. That is the better portion.
May, the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.