St. Luke, in his Gospel, has an abundance of short stories that have powerful messages for the Christian and the Church in all generations. Today’s text, speaking on the stewardship of time, is no exception.
Today’s text is the story of Mary and Martha at the Lord’s feet. Both Mary and Martha loved the Lord, and the Lord loved them, yet they were women of different temperaments. William Barclay writes, “We have never allowed enough for the place of temperament in Christianity. Some people are natural dynamos of activity, and others are naturally quiet. It is difficult for the active person to understand the person who sits and thinks. And the person who is devoted to quiet times and meditation is very apt to look down on the person who needs to get on with the business at hand.”
There are no rights and wrongs. God does not make us all alike. He needs both kinds.
Martha was vocal. She didn’t mind speaking her convictions. She was on the go most of the time. I think of her as a nervous-type person, thin and filled with nervous energy. She got things done. Now Jesus was in her house and he needed a good meal. The Lord had many days when he was hungry, but that would not happen when he was in her house.
Her sister, Mary, was quiet and sat at Jesus’ feet. That was especially true on this occasion. What were they talking about? The Bible doesn’t tell us, but I believe the Lord was describing what was going to happen. I think the conversation was extremely emotional.
Mary, I wanted to come to your house and tell you that my stay on this earth is soon over. You, Martha, and your brother Lazarus are very close friends, and as I shared this information with my disciples, so I wanted to tell you that I am going to be handed over to the Romans. The scribes and Pharisees will not rest until I am no longer here. I will be tried in Pilate’s court and sentenced to die on the cross. I will be buried, but on the third day I will come forth from the tomb. Then I will make several appearances to my disciples. However, on the fortieth day after my resurrection, I will return to my Father in heaven. The days will go by and eventually I will come to receive you to live with me in the Kingdom of Heaven forever.
In the middle of this conversation, Mary exploded and said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me.”
This holy woman brought down on herself a solemn rebuke when Jesus said, “Martha, Martha. You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
How ridiculous that Martha was busying herself in the kitchen when a conversation about her eternal destiny was going on in the living room. But how ridiculous for the Christian to be so busy on a Sunday morning that he doesn’t go to God’s house to hear what his Savior wants to tell him. How ridiculous to be so busy that there is no time for a devotional period with your Lord. How ridiculous to not be involved in a good Bible study with Christian friends.
You ask what one of these conversations with Jesus might be like. Imagine you are reading II Corinthians 5:1-5: “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”
I join some of you who have not gotten over an illness or affliction coming to someone we love. My wife had a stroke 16 years ago. Since then, she has not walked unassisted. I have not fully adjusted to her stroke. I am not bitter, nor have I felt this was the way God planned it. However, I know she had a lot of talent that could have been used in this old world. When I look at her body and think how crippled it is, the words of God speaking through Paul assure me that the day is coming when her earthly tent will be completely destroyed, and she will have a building from God and an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.
How foolish I would be to lose the comfort from these words, which only God can give me.
What a boost to my ego when I read, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit” (John 15:16). When you have thoughts that you are not worth much and few people care about you, remember these words from God. You are quite important to him. He chose you to be his. He needs you to go and do great things for him in this world. Get rid of your foolish thinking and let him show you what you can do together.
What blessings are in store for us if we will take time to sit at Jesus’ feet and learn from him!