Summary: Short Bible Study - Focus: That ONE thing God wants you to do.

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Title: Martha, Martha

Text: Luke 10:38-42

I. Introduction

a. John wanting some time, but I am too hurried

II. Exegesis

a. Martha Received Him

b. Mary Heard Him

c. Much Work was Possible, but

III. Conclusion

a. One Thing was needful

i. Notice this is countercultural, for Jesus’ time and ours as well. Following Jesus means being prepared to be looked down on by others who don’t understand, even though you are doing what God has told you to do. Notice that this is done, in this case, by one we presume is a believer. In the church you will do God’s will and be misunderstood even and especially by those in the church.


“Daddy, did I tell you about the time…” began my six year old son as I blazed into the room. “If you’re going to tell me,” I interrupted, “then do it fast because I am in a hurry.” John’s face sank as he turned back to the television mumbling, “never mind, then.” I knew my guilt instantly, but as though controlled by a drug, bad priorities bulldozed me out of the house and into my “important” schedule. But what was so important? I don’t even remember. But I do remember the look on my little boy’s face.

Once there was a woman named Martha who invited Jesus to her home. His fame and the culture demanded she make every effort at hospitality: she would cook a huge meal for an unknown amount of guests, scrupulously clean the house, and be at the beck and call of the Master. No doubt she would need help, but that should not be a problem since her sister Mary was there with her. Mary, we discover, had something else in mind.

The text, found in Luke 10:38-42, says Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to Jesus. Anyone who knows the culture smells trouble at this point: Mary is sitting and Martha is responsible for inviting Jesus. The expectation is clear. Mary needs to be helping her sister, not sitting down as though she were a guest, too. Our culture also looks down on the “lazy one” who isn’t doing their fair share.

Verse 40 makes it clear, “But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” There are two lessons in this verse.

First, she was distracted. The virtue of hard work mutates into a vice when it prevents you from hearing Jesus. The principle is as ancient as the beginning of time: God worked for six days and then he rested. Did God need the rest? He gave us a model to follow, knowing our need to stop work to listen to Him.

Second, she doubts that Jesus cares: “do you not care…” Her expectations of what Jesus would do does not match with reality. I wonder if she thought, “Jesus is really going to rebuke that lazy sister of mine.” But as she toils and Jesus says nothing, her resentment grows. She may have been jealous that Mary could sit and hear the Lord. Self-righteousness found fertile ground in Martha’s heart, for she certainly served the Lord more than any other. Then, when Jesus’ actions don’t meet with her expectations, she questions his love for her.

This drives Martha to make a demand of Jesus: “Make her come help me, Lord. Don’t you care that I am having to do this all alone?” Have you ever felt like that? Don’t you care, God, that I am having to do Vacation Bible School alone? What kind of church is this, anyway? Why would you send me to a church where I am the only one who will visit? Do you care, God, that my children will grow up without Christian friends? Do you care that I don’t have anyone I can talk to? The key for Martha is knowing that her expectations, and thus her priorities were misplaced.

Does Jesus rebuke her for being selfish and order her back to work in silence? No, he loves her. Can you hear the tenderness in his voice? “Martha, Martha…” It may not have been appropriate in that culture at that time, but now I can see him wrapping his strong arms around her, affirming his genuine love for her while gently pointing out her problem, “you are worried and troubled about many things.” Here is Jesus in her very home, and she is more worried about refreshments than refreshing her own heart. Her anxiety for being the proper hostess is robbing her of experiencing God in the flesh.

“But one thing is needed,” Jesus continues, “and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” Martha is distracted with “many things,” but only “one thing” is needed. How many things are distracting you? There will always be dishes to clean and yards to mow. When you clean them, they will be dirty again tomorrow. The grass will still be there tomorrow. A wise woman once told me that, while her children were young, she made an conscious decision to let her house be less than perfectly neat. There are many things out to distract us, but only one thing is needed. Mary sat at the feet of the Master and she heard Him.

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