By Lori Gardner
The days between Thanksgiving and New Years Day are usually the busiest time of year for most people. It can leave us feeling exhausted. As we busily prepare to celebrate the birth of our Savior, we often put so much emphasis on the preparations that we forget the “one thing that is needful.”
Luke 10:38-42 tells us that this same thing happened to Martha. She and her sister, Mary, and brother, Lazarus, lived just outside Jerusalem in a village called Bethany. It seems that Martha was the head of their household and as a result felt the full responsibility of making sure her home was well managed.
The three siblings had a very special friendship with the Lord Jesus (John 11:5). In fact, sometimes He would even stay at their home. It must have been a great honor to be allowed to entertain Him, but what a responsibility! Martha would be feeding and serving the Son of God, but wherever Jesus went, He always drew a crowd. She would also have been responsible for serving Jesus’ twelve apostles, as well as other friends and neighbors that wanted to be near Him.
She would have had to prepare food and drink and make sure everyone was served properly. It would have been rude not to make her guests as comfortable as possible. There is no doubt that she was extremely busy. In fact, she was so busy, she was “cumbered about with much serving” (Luke 10:40). The word “cumbered” means she was dragged down, upset and distracted. While Martha worked so diligently, where was her sister? Luke 10:39 says Mary “sat at Jesus feet, and heard His word.”
So, Martha did what a lot of women would have done. She went straight to Jesus to tell Him what she felt needed to be done in the situation. “Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her, therefore, that she help me.” (Luke 10:40).
The overworked and overwrought woman probably never expected the answer she received. When the Savior spoke to her, He used very few words, but they sent a powerful message.
“And Jesus answered, and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful (anxious) and troubled about many things. But, one thing is needful, and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)
What was going to happen to all the preparations that distracted Martha? They would soon be gone. The food would be eaten, the dishes washed and put away and her visitors would leave. Everything Martha was doing was temporary and these things made her too busy to spend time concentrating on the eternal Son of God.
Mary, on the other hand, had chosen the one thing that was needed; the good part, the Lord Jesus Christ. She was in the presence of the Son of God and she was taking the opportunity to fellowship with Him and learn at His feet. She had chosen to spend her time on eternal things. The time spent with the Lord and the knowledge acquired were things that could never be taken away.
Later on, towards the latter days of Christ’s earthly ministry, Lazarus became very ill. His sisters knew it was serious and sent word to Jesus and His disciples who were staying in the wilderness beyond the Jordan River (John 1:28, John 10:40).
Because of their special friendship with Jesus, they must have expected that He would come to Lazarus’ aid immediately, but He didn’t. The Lord stayed right where He was for several more days. Not because He didn’t care, but because His timing is perfect. The situation in Bethany was going to be something that would amaze the people and glorify God (John 11:4).
By the time He and His disciples returned to Bethany, Lazarus had died and been buried for four days. Many of the Jews from the area had gathered to comfort the sisters in their loss (John 11:19, 31). There was much mourning and weeping that the beloved brother was gone. There was also some grumbling and questioning. Most of those present, including the sisters, believed that if Jesus had only gotten there sooner, Lazarus would not have died (John 11:21, 32, 37).
Most believers are familiar with the rest of this amazing story. Jesus went to Lazarus’ tomb, and in a loud voice called him back from the dead. All that had gathered there that day were witnesses to the fact that Lazarus miraculously walked out of his grave and that Jesus Christ had the power over life and death.
A short time later, Jesus came back to Bethany to be received once again into Martha’s house. While He was there, Martha served Him supper. Her very much alive brother, Lazarus, also sat with Him at the table (John 12:1-2). We can only imagine what Martha must have been feeling. Just looking at her brother must have been a very pleasant reminder of what was really important. There is no mention in God’s Word of Martha being distracted, upset, or burdened this time. She was probably only too happy to be serving the One who had raised her brother from the dead.
Many of us can see ourselves in Martha, especially at this time of year. We want to make sure the Christmas holiday is special and memorable, so much so that we put too much emphasis on little, insignificant details. We lose our focus and forget that we are supposed to be celebrating the birth of the One that, through His death, gave us life.
The Apostle Paul wrote that we should be “given to hospitality” and be “lovers of hospitality” (Rom. 12:13; Titus 1:8). We should have a fondness for receiving guests and making them comfortable in our home, but we should never let the preparations get in the way of what is really important.
Our time here on this earth is very precious and quite short. God’s Word tells us to redeem it, or buy it up (Eph. 5:16; Col. 4:5). We are to make sure that we get the most value out of the time we are given. It is easy to get so distracted by the season that we forget “the one thing that is needful”—the Lord Jesus Christ.