Pastor Jeremy Husby delivers a sermon entitled “The One Thing Needed” based on Luke 10:38-42 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.
Delivered on Sunday, August 18, 2019
There are a total of three instances recorded in the Scriptures in which Jesus interacted with the sisters named Martha and Mary. In each account, both Mary and Martha are recognized as being faithful followers of Jesus.
On one occasion, the sisters sent word to Jesus that their brother, Lazarus, was dying. Jesus allowed Lazarus to die, heard a confession of complete trust from Martha, and raised her brother back to life again.
Very soon after that, in fact, in the very next chapter of John’s Gospel account, you may remember that Judas Iscariot became upset as Mary showed her faith; breaking an alabaster jar of perfume and anointing Jesus’ feet.
Then, of course, there is this famous section that you heard earlier today; Martha serving Jesus by welcoming him into her home and preparing for a feast, while Mary sat at the feet of the great Rabbi and listened to him teach.
Yes, even in this particular section set aside for special meditation today, both Mary and Martha showed themselves to be faithful followers of Jesus. Martha’s actions were not those of an unbeliever, nor were they even necessarily wrong or sinful. She was doing something good, with the best of intentions, motivated by a servant’s heart. It just so happens that, as Jesus indicated, Mary chose something even better.
No, Martha wasn’t wrong in her desire to serve her Savior, it just seems as though she couldn’t see the proverbial forest because she was too focused on the trees.
Has that ever happened to you?
There are so many good and faithful responsibilities that you have in your life. Are there times, though, that, even with the best of intentions and a good, Christian motivation, you end up losing focus on the one thing that is needed? It could happen to anybody and it could end up being something so simple.
You want to be a good parent. You want to be a good steward of that wonderful gift that God gave you. Reflecting Jesus’ love for you, you love your daughter and you would do anything to support her. Sacrificing your own self-interests, you give her the opportunity to be successful in the activities that she enjoys.
You make sure that she is at every practice, you spend time hitting her ground balls in the back yard, and you spend every weekend driving all around the state of Wisconsin to make sure that she can participate in all her tournaments. And then, without recognizing it, you went the whole month of June without worshipping.
Even though that situation may creep up on you, once you finally realize what has happened, you can easily apply Jesus’ words to Martha and put your priorities back in the right order.
Are there times, though, when it is a little more difficult to see when you are being a Martha instead of the Mary you were trying to be?
You know that abortion is murder. You know that the Word of God condemns homosexuality. You know that other Christian churches are leading people away from the truth with false teachings. And, even when you keep in mind Jesus’ words about judging others, you know that you have the right and responsibility to address sin when you see it.
Standing up for the truth of God’s Word is good and right and a laudable practice, just as was Martha’s preparation in welcoming and serving Jesus in her own home. And, in truth, the sanctity of human life, human sexuality, and purity in doctrinal teaching are strong oaks that stand in the forest of Christianity.
But, does it ever happen that you get so caught up in addressing those issues, making sure that people know the truth of God’s Word on those issues, that you lose focus on what truth of God’s Word you really want people to know?
It would be great if the people you interact with saw what the Word of God has to say on those issues, believed that Word to be true, and amended their thoughts, words, and actions appropriately. It would be such a positive step forward for the Church of God on earth if the whole world believed that God’s Word is the only true standard by which their lives should be measured. But, do you know what would be something even better? It would be better if they all knew and believed that Jesus lived a perfect life in their place, died on the cross to pay the price for their sins, and rose again from the dead as proof that they will rise again to life eternal.
Martha, Mary, and even Jesus, himself, ate food. At various times and in various places, Jesus ate with his disciples. Food is good. But food doesn’t last forever. Martha was focused on that tree but missed the forest. So, Jesus reset Martha’s focus. 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 from her.
Mary saw her Savior and dropped everything. She knew that makeup and fragrant oils, meat, vegetables, and wine were all good things, but that each and every one of them would one day perish. The Word of the Lord, however, is everlasting.
Jesus reset Martha’s focus from worrying about many things that were important onto one thing even more important—himself. Jesus turned Martha’s attention to the one thing in her life that she would always be able to depend on. Jesus reset Martha’s focus onto the one thing she really needed—him.
Thankfully, just like he did for Martha, Jesus continues to reset your focus. He calls out to you, over and again, through his Word and beckons you to sit and listen. Day after day he sits on your bed-stand or in your study, surrounded by his Word of Salvation under the cover of your Holy Bible. Week after week he works through his servants to announce to you what is found in his Word: that YOU ARE FORGIVEN.
When the distractions and preparations associated with the various trees of Christianity blur your vision, Jesus resets your focus on the forest—and on THE tree.
Jesus resets your focus to show what he has done for you. He resets your focus to see him dying on a tree some 2000 years ago. He resets your focus to hear him cry out from that tree that your forgiveness, the battle over sin, death and the Devil, and the world’s Salvation “is finished.”
But, thankfully, Jesus doesn’t only reset your focus when you are trying to do what is right. Even when you are just plain wrong; when your distractions are selfish and sinful, when the worries and wiles of this world wear you thin, he resets your focus again onto himself and how he has applied his work of salvation to you.
He shows you water. What he chose to cover three-fourths of the world with, he shows to you to remind you of when you were washed clean, adopted into his family, and named as an heir of his home in heaven.
And when you are weak; when you can’t find the desire to be either Mary or Martha, he focuses you on the feast he has prepared for you, to strengthen you and compel you, in his very own body and blood, given and shed for you.
Whether you find yourselves being fine examples of what a faithful follower of Jesus looks like or not, Jesus’ salvation work done for you is the one thing needful. Strengthened, motivated, and compelled by that love, brothers and sisters, choose what is better and it will never be taken away from you. Amen.