LUKE 10:38–42 ESV
38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.
39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.
40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”
41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things,
42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
The emphasis last week was on the seriousness behind our discipleship. Because God has gone to great lengths to snatch us from the clutches of sin and death, we too are to engage in a faith walk that takes seriously the ministry in front of us. The work that God has done is a reconciling work. Therefore, as Paul says, we have a ministry of reconciliation, too.
God draws us to Himself, then He employs us by virtue of our salvation to draw others to Him. But how do we do that? Well, we do as Jesus does and we ADDRESS THE MESS around us and show the world the presence of God within it.
Our text today tells us of a pair of sisters, Mary and Martha, who welcome Jesus into their home. One sister, Martha, busies herself with serving Jesus and we can assume anyone else who was with him, most likely the disciples. But the other sister, Mary, goes and sits at Jesus’ feet and listens to His teaching.
Martha can’t handle that Mary is sitting down with Jesus instead of helping her. She asks Jesus to tell Mary to join her but Jesus says Mary made a better choice than Martha. Why?
You may have heard the passage interpreted that Martha was the type of person who enjoyed the active life and Mary was the type that enjoyed the contemplative life. But this just isn’t the case. Scholars and historians paint a much different picture. Martha was upset with Mary because Mary crossed a line. The original audience of the gospels would have picked up on the same issue. The issue: Mary had broken the social, societal norms of how men and women behave in the household. Anglican Bishop and theologian, N. T. Wright, says this:
For a woman to settle down comfortably among the men was bordering on the scandalous. Who did she think she was? Only a shameless woman would behave in such a way. She should go back into the women’s quarters where she belonged. This wasn’t principally a matter of superiority and inferiority, though no doubt it was often perceived and articulated like that. It was a matter of what was thought of as the appropriate division between the two halves of humanity.
In the same way, to sit at the feet of the teacher was a decidedly male role. ‘Sitting at someone’s feet’ doesn’t mean (as it might sound to us) a devoted, dog-like adoring posture, as though the teacher were a rock star or sports idol… To sit at someone’s feet meant, quite simply, to be their student. And to sit at the feet of the rabbi was what you did if you wanted to be a rabbi yourself. There is no thought here of learning for learning’s sake. Mary has quietly taken her place as a would-be teacher and preacher of the kingdom of God. Jesus affirms her right to do so.”
Why is all this important? Because most likely what Mary is listening to is how Jesus is addressing the mess. You see, the larger context of this passage is Jesus has turned His ministry toward Jerusalem. All the teaching, all the preaching, all the signs and wonders, have led to this moment when He will now work His way to the very place where He will give His life in order to win back ours.
This story of Mary and Martha falls right after Jesus has sent out the 72 disciples who preached, worked miracles, and cast out demons. Can you imagine what Jesus is teaching those who are listening, and Mary gets to be one of them! She’s hearing about how the kingdom of God is moving across the face of the earth, addressing the mess and cleaning up the brokenness they all witness everyday. This is the hope of things to come and Mary wants to be a part of it. The best part is, Jesus wants Mary to be a part of it, too.
God is calling us to so much more. He is asking us to let His grace in so that it can make us bold. God gives us the courage to speak into the lives of others, calling out their hurts and fears and inviting them to let Jesus in. Like Mary, Jesus wants those around you to cross the borders of what is acceptable and unacceptable in order to find the life-changing gospel. Who is it that you need to speak to today? Is it a friend? A family member? A co-worker? A neighbor of some sort?
What word do you need to speak into the life of another to show them the gospel? What mess do you need to address? Is it your mess? Is it another’s mess? The courage is there. The healing is there. Like the 72 that Jesus sent out—the ones that Mary may have heard about when she listened to Jesus teach—there is healing and accountability that we can offer this world. This mess is not meant to get out of hand. God has come to speak to it, to give it attention. God is addressing the mess.
There are things holding some of you back today. Messes that have gone unconfessed, unaddressed. There are fights, addictions, habits, laziness, negligence, distrust, mistrust, lies and secrets—and they all are obstacles to God’s grace. Some of us have gone far too long without giving the issues in our lives attention. We have let the mess determine our joy and happiness. We’ve let the mess order us around, keep us down, make us miserable, and we’ve become disenchanted and unengaged.
And so the question remains: When will you address the mess? Will you wait? Will you let it eat you up, knock you down, or turn you away from God? Or will it be today? Will today be the day that you let God in, let the Spirit move in, or give the gift of Jesus to someone who has been desperately reaching out in the most imperfect ways? Help them! Answer them!
There is a mess to address. Now is the time to go to God. Now is the time to pray for victory, for release, for His hand to enter in. Now is the time to address the mess. Let us pray.