Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing

November 19, 2014

laura difatta spiritual post mary and martha and jesus

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Elizabeth Nance

By Laura DiFatta

Many times through the years, I have read the story of when Jesus and his disciples made a surprise visit to his friend Martha’s home.  I don’t know about you but surprise visits by large groups aren’t high on my list of things I love.  Now, Martha had a sister named Mary and apparently, soon after Jesus arrived with his entourage, he began teaching.  Well, Mary immediately plopped herself right down at his feet and began soaking in His words.  Meanwhile, Martha is hustling and bustling.  I’m thinking (perhaps using my filter of how I would’ve felt) she might have been in the kitchen freaking out!  But, she is a get ‘er done kind of gal and she was moving full speed ahead, checking things off her list.

She went from having a small household to feed for dinner to being faced with preparing a meal for at least 13 unexpected guests and I’m thinking she just may have been overwhelmed.  Some of her decisions may have looked like:  do I kill the goat or a couple of chickens, do I have enough dishes, where will everyone sleep?  I know this from the text:  she was distracted, worried and upset by her long to-do list and her limited personal resources. (I mean, when was the last time we had at least thirteen surprise guests and it was clear they were staying for dinner?  There was no grocery store and ordering take-out wasn’t an option?  After a little while of making the preparations, Martha became frustrated—(even when things are much simpler, I can go from zero to martyr in seconds, so I can relate to her frustration.)  She took her frustrations straight to Jesus.

Jesus said something to her that I’m thinking probably surprised her and never fails to give me pause when I read it.  Instead of praising Martha for her awesome-hostess-righteousness, he gently rebukes her…while praising her sitting-and-soaking-sister, Mary!!

This is how the conversation began, Martha:  “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?  Tell her to help me!”  (The eyewitness to this interaction put the exclamation point at the end of her statement.  It is clear that she was excited and emphatic.)  Jesus replied: “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.”

This used to feel so unjust to me.  But as I’ve chewed on it through the years the following takeaways stand out to me:

The first thing Mary did was so right. I  say that because I’m thinking of when Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy-burdened and I will give you rest…” (Matthew 11:28)  Mary must have been either one of those people who is very spiritually sensitive and knew Jesus had exactly what she needed and so she couldn’t sit down and listen fast enough no matter what her sister might think.  Or she was just that tired.  She had to do the day-in/day-out all day, every day and now, here was Jesus, the compassionate teacher, the healer of souls and sickness, the man who treated women and children—unlike the cultural norm in their day—like they actually had value, and she wasn’t about to miss a moment with him!!

The second thing Martha did was so right!  She went to Jesus with her frustration and her mess.  From reading the text with attention to the exclamation point, she was even comfortable and honest enough with Jesus to give Him a command!  Wow!!  He could have made the point of “don’t talk to God that way,” but look what He did instead:  He accepted her.  He did not turn her away.  But, neither did He let her get away with misplaced priorities.  DON’T MISS THIS: He used her mess, her admission of resentful frustration, her seeking Him (even if it was out of selfish motives,) as an opportunity to draw her closer to Himself and to open her eyes to His ways that are so counter to the way humans naturally and culturally tend to think and act.  He used this moment as an opportunity to realign her heart with His.

Jesus made the main thing the main thing.  He told her clearly, the other stuff can wait.  It can wait.  The real thing that is needed…needed, is time with me.  Mary put that first and it will serve her well.  Martha had Mary’s example and Jesus’ words to learn from right then and there.  I’m confident she did learn based on her later incredible confession of faith in Jesus smack dab in the middle of deep crisis and grief as recorded in the Gospel of John, Chapter 11:21-27.

Jesus does not prioritize like we do.  We humans often naturally value things as high priorities that God would flip to much further down on our things to do list.  One example is being still with God.  God’s Word tells us Truth that nourishes our souls and can inform every part of our lives: “Be Still and know that I am God,” (Psalm 46:10)  “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)  “In quietness and trust is your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15)  “Take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)  He knows our stresses.  He knows our needs.  He knows our deep desires.  He knows our resources or lack thereof.  He knows the injustices we face.  He also knows our deepest need is Him. (Luke 13:34)  He must be first in order for us to act and react like we have a Savior.  He must be first so that we respond to life with the arsenal of the weapons of faith.  We simply can’t if we don’t abide—or live rooted—in Him.  “Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her.”

I have seen this over and over in my own life:  when I prioritize time with my Savior Jesus in the early part of my day, I act and react in ways that I know I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t spent time with him.  I am just calmer, because I have been reminded that I am not alone and I don’t have to depend on my limited resources.  I don’t have to live by the “if it’s meant to be, it’s up to me,” mantra.  I can live knowing my God supplies all my needs, according to His riches in glory and I trust Him for the lives of those I love as well.  I need a daily heart-realignment and I know it.  I am not alone.  Martha was not alone.  You are not alone.  And if you have chosen Christ, you have chosen what is better than everything else and it will not be taken away from you!!

I am not a proponent of making time with Jesus another box to check.  My prayer for you is that as you come to know God better through spending time one-on-One with Him, you will realize more and more how much you are loved. And I pray that time with Him will be something you long for and look forward to each day. And on the days that you literally just can’t be still long enough—I’ve been there—know that you are loved anyway. And rejoice!


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