The one thing needed
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:41-42 (NIV)
Every autumn I build up a stock of tinned food in case we have a severe winter and I find myself housebound for a couple of weeks. This year, as winter turned to spring, I decided one day to add a tin of mushrooms to the casserole I was making for dinner. To my consternation my tin opener broke at the first turn; there was no way I could now open the tin, or indeed any of the other tins. Had I been caught in a severe snowstorm all my supplies would be useless without the one thing needed to get at the food – a tin opener.
This set my mind thinking about what Christ said to Martha when she complained that Mary was not helping her with the household chores. While Martha may have been genuinely irritated with her sister for not helping her, it has been suggested that Martha may also have been irritated that Mary had left the female quarters, and was sitting with the male disciples being taught by Jesus. Sitting at the feet of Jesus, or any rabbi, usually meant learning to become a rabbi oneself, as Paul sat at the feet of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3 NKJV).
It was certainly to be frowned upon for a female, at that time, to leave her ‘place’ with the women and join the male disciples, but what does Jesus say? His rebuke to Martha is gentle as we gather from the love in his repetition of her name “Martha, Martha”. Indeed we know that Jesus loved Martha dearly from John 11:5: ‘Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.’ Yet Jesus had to teach Martha the priorities of his kingdom; Martha’s priorities had to change.
Learning from the Master was no longer a male prerogative, or a secondary choice for a female’s life. It gave Jesus more joy to have Mary close to him, learning from him, than all Martha’s preparations. Jesus called Mary’s choice the ‘one thing needed’.
As we look at our own lives, do we really believe that spending time learning to get to know Jesus is the chief priority in our lives? God is always with us, but time devoted exclusively to knowing God gladdens the heart of our Lord. If you are taking time reading and thinking about Jesus’ teaching here, you can rest assured that you are bringing joy to the heart of our Triune God
Thank you Lord that you love us enough to spend time opening our minds to the teachings of scripture, even as we spend time sitting at your feet. May we always find delight in you even as you delight in us. Amen.
Study by Christina Campbell
About the writer:
Christina Campbell attends the Glasgow congregation of Grace Communion International where she is a speaker and Bible Study facilitator.
St Stevens Presbytery
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