Martha, Martha
Based on Series of Sermons on the Repetition of Name and Titles
preached in PCC Worship Services, Apr 2013 to Feb 2014
Part 2 of 2

In our previous article, we considered the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42. In this article, we’ll like to draw three points of application for our lives.

First, let us take heed not to allow the cares of this world to become a snare to our souls.

Martha was not idle and neither was she doing things which were sinful. Far from it, she was involved in a very good work when she sought to provide for the temporal needs of the Lord and His disciples. The problem, however, was that she allowed her excessive zeal for temporal provisions to carry her away so much so that she forgot to set aside time for the things of her soul, and things of her spiritual and eternal well-being. She lost sight of what was really important and what had to come first in order for the other parts of her life to fall in place.

But Martha’s fault and weakness should be a warning to all of us as well. As Christians, we must be careful never to allow ourselves to become so busy that we have no time to sit at the feet of Jesus. Sitting at the feet of Jesus is to be given top priority in our lives, not only as individuals but as families as well. Notice in our text how Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet. No mention is made of Lazarus. Perhaps he was out working at that time. But in John 12, we would see him sitting at the table with Jesus no doubt learning of Him and having communion with Him. But the point to note is that their whole family consisting of Martha, Mary and Lazarus needed to sit at Jesus’ feet to hear Him.

It is very easy to give excessive attention to those things which are lawful in themselves such as our business, our work, our recreation, our family matters, our studies, our social engagements and interactions, our health, and even our service to other people and so on. These things are important and they have their place in our lives, but the constant challenge for all of us is to maintain the right balance and proportion and priority in terms of the time and energy that we spend in them.  

It is often not those open and blatant and heinous sins that lead people to their eternal damnation. Rather, more often than not, it is the legitimate cares and concerns of this present life that destroy the souls of men because they are not properly used or managed.

And so, let us take heed to ourselves in this matter. Let us watch ourselves daily lest we allow the things of this world to ruin our spiritual health. Let us jealously guard our daily times of reading and meditating on God’s word, and of prayer, both as individuals and as families. And let us especially make the public means of grace on the Sabbath a matter of utmost priority.

The things of God must not be relegated to second place and fitted into our lives only if there are remaining slots of time and energy. Rather, we should put communion with God and the worship of God on top of our list and then the other things are slotted in according to their order of priority.

And so the first lesson from our text is that we must be careful not to allow the cares of this world to become a snare to our souls.   

Second, let us be encouraged to seek after the one thing that is most needful for our souls.

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord said, “thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful.” One thing is needful. What is that one thing that is needful for Martha and for all of us? It is not wealth and prosperity. It is not glory and honour. It is not pleasure and enjoyment. It is not power and control. It is not health and strength. It is not even giving to the needy and rendering service to others. No, the one thing that is needful is ultimately the LORD Himself, and it finds expression in Mary’s sitting at His feet to listen to Him speaking to her.

It is said that the longer a person lives in this world, the more this statement, “but one thing is needful” will appear to be true. The closer he comes to the grave, the more he will understand and agree with it. The many things that people are striving for and struggling to obtain in this world will appear less and less important.

The word of God and the grace of God, which brings life and salvation, are the things that we truly need. In short, we need the LORD Jesus Christ. With Him, we have everything. Without Him, we have absolutely nothing of value.

Notice how our Lord not only rebuked Martha but He also commended Mary. He said, “Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Mary chose the LORD above all else. He is that good part or good portion because He alone can satisfy us and He alone can satisfy us eternally.

The Psalmist says in Psalm 73:26, “My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.” And again in Psalm 16:11, “Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”

Nothing shall be able to take away from her that good portion, which Mary had chosen. Neither sickness nor health, neither youth nor old age, neither prosperity nor adversity, neither life nor death, neither time nor eternity shall be able to take it from her and from all who make the Lord their portion. The Lord is our good portion in all circumstances and situations. Let us seek Him above all. Other things in life are not absolutely needful or necessary. Only the Lord is.

Are you a stranger to these things, and are you a stranger to the Lord Jesus Christ? May I urge you to seek Him even now, right where you are sitting. Make it the business of your life to seek Him and to know Him as your own Lord and Saviour.

If you have the Lord, you will have all that is good and lasting and satisfying. But if you do not have Him, then even the seemingly good things, which you now have or hope to have, will all be meaningless and will all be taken away from you in time to come.

And if you know the Lord, would you not resolve again to be single minded and whole hearted in your pursuit of Him – to follow Him more fully and to walk with Him more closely?

But third and finally, let us ever be thankful to Christ for His precious word of warning and encouragement to us.

We are not told how Martha responded to the Lord’s rebuke to seek the one thing needful in her life. Martha was a true believer and a true sheep of Christ. I believe she would have heard and heeded the voice of her good shepherd calling out to her. She must have responded in faith and obedience.

Proverbs 27:5-6 says, “Open rebuke is better than secret love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” It would be difficult to find a better example of these proverbs than what we find in our text.

The Lord gently but firmly and openly rebuked Martha before Mary and the 12 disciples and perhaps others who were there sitting at His feet. He could see the problem of her heart and he addressed it immediately. He could diagnose the disease that was eating away at her soul and He applied the remedy without delay.  That open rebuke and that faithful wound which the Lord gave to Martha that day must have done her everlasting good.

Thank God that these words of Christ are recorded for us in the scripture so that we too may be reminded of what is truly important, and so that we too may be rebuked by the good shepherd when we have gone astray and become overly consumed with the things of this world.

But thank God too for the encouragement of Christ to Mary and to us that if we have chosen that good part, we will never be disappointed or deprived of it forever. Yes, we need both rebuke as well as encouragement, both a negative as well as a positive word.

Truly Christ is our great master and teacher. Oh would we not be grateful to Him for all the precious things that He is teaching us this evening, and would we not listen and obey His voice?

“And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful 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.” Amen.

Linus Chua