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Mary and Martha sermon

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Many things distracted Martha: she wanted to give Jesus the best meal possible; she need Mary to help her do this; she assumed Jesus was expecting a great meal. But these were just surface issues. The root of her problem was that she did not see Jesus for who he is. When it comes to loving God, we have to know who Jesus is and what he wants of us.

Martha had a particular view of the world. She knew hospitality was a good thing. She knew that women never sat and listened to a teacher. She knew that Jesus was a great teacher and so needed a great meal. And she assumed that everyone agreed with her. We all have a particular view of the world. We all know coming to church is a good thing. We know that we should behave in a particular way when we are in church. We know that Jesus is good enough to deserve at least one hour of our attention each week.

It turned out Martha was wrong. All her assumptions about Jesus were wrong. So we must ask ourselves, have we done the same? Are we so busy ensuring that everything is done correctly that we risk missing out on loving God, the only thing necessary? How then do we truly love God?

  1. Recognise that Jesus is God

Martha thought it was more important for Mary to help her than to listen to Jesus. Had he only been a good teacher, Martha would be justified in her actions. But Jesus is God. Mary recognises this, as she ignores the rules of the time and sits and listens to Jesus. What do we think of Jesus? Nice guy, great teacher? Or God? Are we willing to break the customs of society and church in order to listen to him and worship him?

  1. Stop focussing on ourselves

Listen to Martha's complaint: “Lord, don't you care that MY sister has left ME to do all the work by MYSELF? Tell her to help ME!” She had God sitting in her house, but couldn't look beyond her work, her meal. Do we see God as someone who is there to do what we want him to? Someone who's helpful when we're desperate, but unnecessary when we are comfortable?

  1. Don't let rules get in the way of God

Mary should not have been listening to Jesus. It was an absolute disgrace, according to the rules of the time. But Jesus praised Mary for choosing what was better. What rules do we place around listening to God? What rules do we have about books or Powerpoint? Organ or piano? Old hymns or new songs? We can easily copy Martha when our rules get broken and say, “Lord don't you care?” Jesus doesn't say he doesn't care, but he does say only one thing is necessary, and it's not any of the rules Martha is living by.

So how do we focus on God? First, let's examine ourselves. Are we distracted from God? Are we so focussed on what we do that we miss Jesus? Do we see loving God as the only necessary thing? Are we quick to blame others for our distractions?

We need to see that everything we do should help us to love God. All the things we do in church only matter if they serve to help us love God. How can we help others to focus on loving Jesus?

Finally, two encouragements:

  1. Jesus doesn't think like we do. Mary didn't have to do anything before listening to him. He didn't care about the rules. He is delighted when we love him.
  2. Secondly, loving God is better than anything else. It is necessary to love God, but it is not a burden. Mary wanted to sit at Jesus' feet. Loving God is more satisfying than anything else.
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