Summary: When we build our lives upon the only foundation that can be laid, Jesus Christ, rather than on our own designs, we will find true and lasting life that will not be taken away from us.
Who’s got children, grandchildren, or nieces and nephews? Well, then you know that every child is different, and what pleases one doesn’t please another. My sister’s older boy, ****, is very cautious and hates to get pushed high on the swings. His brother, ****, is fearless and loves to go higher and higher. So I have to tailor my activity and its intensity to the child. So too we must minister to Christ as He needs not as we want, lest we miss out on the blessing he has for us.
Martha opened her house to Jesus. She desired that He come in and be her guest, fellowship with her. Mary, Martha’s sister, sat at Jesus feet listening while Martha was “distracted.” Even thought she had invited Christ into her home, she didn’t pay Him the attention that he deserved, despite her best-planned efforts.
“All the preparations that had to be made,” although important for Martha’s hospitality to our Lord, were not part of the preparations that Jesus had in mind. Back in Luke 9:51, as the time for him to be taken into heaven approached, Jesus “resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” He was on His way to die; and when the woman anointed His feet, she did so “to prepare [Him] for burial” (Mt. 26:12). Had Martha paid mind to Jesus and His needs, she would have been with him, loving him., not bustling around the house.
This isn’t to say that preparing a meal for Jesus—ministering to His physical needs—wasn’t necessary or good, but the task had distracted Martha. She needed to put it into the proper context. If we spend all of our time do-do-doing for God and not just being with him, we will miss his visitation. As Jesus told His disciples in the Garden: “Stay here and keep watch with me… Could you not keep watch with me one hour?” (Mt. 26:38,40).
It’s easy for me to feel like I need to do something for God to make Him want to connect with me, or to make me worthy to be around Him. But that is works—religion at its worst, the manipulation of God. Jesus wants to fellowship with you and me simply because He made us and He loves us; He knows that we are incomplete without Him and He wants to fill us to overflowing. Our Savior is so gracious that He asks us just to sit at His feet and be with him, to listen to Him. It is not in moving and dancing around Christ that we will learn who He is (and who we are), but in sitting and listening.
Doesn’t the Lord care that we’re doing the work all by ourselves? Of course! But Martha had to learn to do what Jesus wanted and what He needed. Christ was concerned about Martha because she wasn’t doing what would really have benefitted her. Jesus cared because He really wanted to be with Martha, which was why He came to her home in the first place. Jesus stands at the door and knocks, if anyone hears His voice and opens the door, He will come in and eat with him, and he with Jesus (Rev. 3:20). Jesus isn’t some prankster, who knocks only to run away and hide. When Jesus knocks, He intends to come in; He really wants to eat with us and be with us!
We too need to focus on what Jesus needs and what he wants us to do. In our reading from Colossians, Paul tells us what it means to not do what God wants. “Once [we] were alienated from God and were enemies in [our] minds because of [our] evil behavior.” Evil behavior isn’t always as plain as murder or adultery. The most insidious evil is the evil that parades around as if it were good—the wolf in sheep’s clothing. The supporters of stem cell research talk about all the potential benefit of using embryonic stem cells, but they ignore the fact that these stem cells are “harvested” from a newly conceived baby. A little lighter example, my nephews love macaroni and cheese and would eat it exclusively; but if I allowed that, they would be malnourished. Martha was alienated from Jesus by her busyness as she attempted to do what she though best. We too can become cut off from Him by our own actions, even though they may be well intentioned, when they conflict with God’s plans.
But God has reconciled us by Christ’s body through His death. It is not without bloodshed that we are made sons of God once again. Our disobedience is costly. You may have heard that if only one man had sinned, God would have sent His Son to die for his sins. But consider that if that only one man had merely sinned by neglecting to help his brother in need, or by stealing one penny, this would still have required that Christ die for him. And Jesus loves us so much that would have done it!