Summary: Martha was busy serving and Mary was busy sitting at Jesus feet, listening to him. Each was serving him in her own way, but there was a fly in the ointment. Martha was unhappy with Mary and Jesus. Hear Jesus kindly correct her.
HELP FOR HAGGARD HOSTESSES—AND ALL WHO ARE PULLED APART
A. Growing up on a small farm in Southern Illinois, my earliest memories of church are meeting in a one-room house of worship with two-three dozen other folks. In the eyes of the adults, the church was blessed to at least have preaching twice a month. In the eyes of a boy, we were blessed to only have preaching twice a month.
B. The good thing about having a visiting preacher twice a month is that at least on one of those Sundays, my family fed him. We always ate well, but when the visiting preacher came, we ate even better.
C. Times have changed: There are not many “visiting preachers” these days, and should there be one, hospitality will probably mean allowing him to pick the restaurant at which he will be hosted.
D. In this sermon we will look at how one woman in the New Testament dealt with the problem of the visiting preacher. The lessons we can learn from the incident apply to hospitality towards anyone, not just the preacher.
E. Martha’s welcome mat always seemed to be out, but on this day, her hospitality was put to the test (read Luke 10:38-40).
I. FLIES IN THE OINTMENT OF MARTHA’S HOSPITALITY
A. Martha was distracted. “She was dragged about” with her preparations. The preparations were in charge of her, not Martha in charge of the preparations. Now, the other Martha, Martha Stewart, would have everything under control—at least for the TV cameras. But when the guests are waiting, you don’t get a retake.
B. Martha was disturbed by what she perceived as her sister’s abandonment of duty. The joke around our house when our kids were growing up was that when the meal was over and it was time for the dishes to be done, the oldest daughter always had to go to the bathroom to answer the call of nature. As we shall see, the younger sister in this story was not concerned with escaping the call of duty, but with answering the call of a spirit that was hungering for the “good part” of life.
C. Martha was disappointed at what she apparently perceived to be Jesus’ lack of concern for her efforts. She asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?” Perhaps this was even a veiled implication that it was really Jesus’ fault. Could she have been thinking, “Lord, with all due respect, if you would just quit talking, she would have no excuse for leaving all the work for abandoning her duty”? Whatever her motive, she went to the Lord with her complaint, not to Mary.
D. Martha was demanding in her request for help. “Tell her to help me,” she said, believing, perhaps, that Mary would not ignore of defy his request, whereas it would be easy to ignore her older sister. How often do we try to use Jesus for leverage in getting others to conform to our standards—“If you were a real Christian, like me, you would, blah, blah, blah.”
II. JESUS SETS THE TABLE FOR A SPIRITUAL FEAST
A. On another occasion, Jesus said: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35, ESV). This table is always set, but the delicacies of the world often cause us be full, but never filled.
B. When Jesus said, “You are anxious,” he used a word that means “pulled in two.” Ladies know the feeling all too well, but we men are often pulled in two, but just by things other than hospitality. We know the feeling, but what is the solution?
1. Just say, “No” is good advice for those who have too much on their plates, regardless of our gender, or what’s on the plate.
2. We must not allow expectations—more often our own, instead of those of others—to drag us around by the hair.
C. To borrow from Solomon, “Better is a hotdog and fellowship than a house full of ham and a haggard hostess” (Prov 17:1).
III. THREE LESSONS FROM MARY AND MARTHA
A. Life—and people—make many demands on us.
B. Sometimes we have to choose between the good and the better, not just the good and the bad.
C. We must not let others make our choices for us, but neither should we condemn the choices of others.
A. The easiest thing in the world would be for those of us who believe we have chosen the better part to sit in judgment on those who have, in our opinion, only chosen the good part.
B. While we must be careful about putting words into Jesus’ mouth, based other events in the life of Jesus, had Mary been the accuser, Jesus might have said something like this: “Mary, you have made a good choice, but don’t fault Martha for choosing to serve. She is doing it in my honor.”