How many times have we heard the story of Mary and Martha? Jesus is visiting and Martha is rushing around making sure everything is just right and then she realizes that Mary is not helping but sitting with Jesus like one of their guests. Martha gets upset and wants Jesus to tell Mary to get up and help, but He doesn't. In fact, He pretty much tells Martha that she should be sitting with Mary.
Have you ever had a hard time with that story? I have. Maybe because I have always wanted to be more Martha-like in general...and maybe because I've always kind of mis-read the story itself. I've always felt that Jesus was telling Martha that she was doing the wrong thing by making sure dinner made it to the table and all. It wasn't until right now that I realized that Jesus was not so much telling Martha she was altogether wrong but that Mary was altogether right (at that particular moment).
I guess my point is that if all we ever did was sit and study, nothing in the way of Gospel sharing or soul winning would ever get done. But we have to have the quiet time getting to know Jesus and building that relationship first, or our attempts at sharing Jesus will fail.
If you look back at the beginning of Luke chapter 10, we see Jesus sending out the seventy apostles or missionaries or whatever for the first time.
“After these things the LORD appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come.
“Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.” Luke 10:1-2
The first verse says, “After these things...” Well I looked back at chapter nine and most of that chapter is Jesus showing the disciples who He really is and what His mission really is. Then He sends them out to spread the good news. They couldn't have been effective witnesses for Jesus if they hadn't spent that time learning about Him and getting to know Him.
Something else that I don't believe I fully understood about the the Mary and Martha story is that Mary is not just sitting and listening; she's not being passive in any way. She is trying to soak up every word and every truth that Jesus is speaking. She's drinking in His truth because she doesn't want to forget anything.
How many of us study our Bibles like that – trying to wrap our brains around every little tidbit of truth and hang onto it? How often do we pray to get closer to Jesus instead of to ask Him to get us out of our latest tangle? When was the last time we prayed and then waited to hear what Jesus had to say to us, instead of a quick prayer: “Thank you for another day; keep me safe. Amen”?
Maybe it's only me, but it's not so much the physical busyness but the mental static that keeps me from “sitting at the feet of Jesus” and, consequently, stunts my ability to witness for Him.
“Be still, and know that I am God...” Psalm 46:10
“Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.” Psalm 37:7
“And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,...” 2 Thessalonians 1:7
Jesus wasn't telling Martha she shouldn't be serving but that she shouldn't be worrying and fussing over things that were temporary.
Think about Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. How many hours/days do some of us spend planning and shopping and cooking because we want everything to be just right? And how long does the meal itself last? Thirty minutes, tops! And then you have to start cleaning up...yech!
"'Martha, Martha,' the Lord answered, '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 away from her.'" Luke 10:41-42
Have we chosen that better part that can't be taken away from us? Have we filled our hearts and mind with Jesus? Or are we still rushing around (physically or mentally) worried and upset?
I think that I've always gotten distracted by the visuals of Mary and Martha...Mary sitting quietly; Martha rushing back and forth. But this isn't about movement or non-movement. I know I can be sitting absolutely still, but my mind is going every which way, trying to figure out the solution to this, wondering about that, worrying about this other thing. Or, I could be going through all the motions of my day, which might be physically hectic or demanding, but as long as my mind is fixed on Jesus, I can be calm and at rest.
We have to be the best of both Mary and Martha to be able to spread the good news about Jesus. First, we have to learn to sit quietly with Jesus and learn the truth about Him, but then we have to share what we've learned.
“All who work for God should have the Martha and the Mary attributes blended--a willingness to minister and a sincere love of the truth.”--E.G. White,Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 118.
“Sitting at the feet of Jesus,
Oh, what words I hear Him say!
Happy place! so near, so precious!
May it find me there each day;
Sitting at the feet of Jesus,
I would look upon the past;
For His love has been so gracious,
It has won my heart at last.”