The Scheduled Saint (Luke 10:38-42)
Concierge Services Unlimited was born in 1997 when Denise De Vito learned in Inc. magazine that other people’s lack of time could mean money. With further research. De Vito discovered that Lax Vegas had nobody filling that growing niche, even though most major cities had some sort of concierge service. “Las Vegas is a buy, constantly growing, 24-hour town,” the 18-year resident says. “And with people working while trying to take care of families, it’s difficult to find the time to do everything that must be done.” By grocery shopping, picking up dry cleaning, making ravel reservations or returning that already-three-day-late video rental, Concierge Services takes care of the “to do” things you can’t.
In this morning’s text, Martha could certainly have used some help from Concierge Services Unlimited, for she had far too much to do on her own. She had Jesus into her home as she’s trying desperately to serve him.
We don’t know what Martha is doing to serve Jesus. Yet, the time for Jesus’s crucifixion has drawn nigh and the Lord has “set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Lk 9:51). Jesus is traveling and Martha receives him into her home—Martha may be preparing Jesus a meal, preparing him a place to sleep, and tidying up the house al at the same time.
Regardless of what specific task(s) Martha is attempting to accomplish, she is weighed down with too much to do.
Martha is indeed “The Scheduled Saint”—she’s carrying out a noble and right task, but she’s having great difficulty fitting everything into her schedule. Do we not often find ourselves in Martha’s situation? Are we not often “Scheduled Saints” who have far too much to do? We need to be at work at 8:00 and work until 4:00 or so; then the kids have a ballgame and homework. There’s supper to get, clothes to wash, a house to clean. By the time we get all of that accomplished, we have no time for God—we’re far too tired to pray or study and you can just forget visiting the shut-ins or taking the Gospel to a neighbor.
That’s the situation in which Martha finds herself. Her Creator is sitting in her home, but she has too much to do to listen. The Truth is sitting under her roof, but her house isn’t clean enough for her to learn from him.
In this morning’s text, our Lord teaches Martha an important lesson about priorities, a lesson we desperately need to learn this morning. We’re going to take a close look at “The Scheduled Saint.”
The Sweating Saint, vv 38, 40
“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. . . . But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’”
Martha gets a bum rap because of this episode, but Luke introduces Martha in an extremely good light. The Samaritans refused to welcome Jesus (Lk 9:53). In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus has just told the Parable of the Good Samaritan, where a priest and a Levite refuse to help an injured man. But Martha is more than willing to help the soon-to-be-killed Messiah.
Luke says at verse 40 that Martha is “distracted with much serving.” The Greek term for “serving” is the word that will become the word that means “Christian service.” It is the word from which we get the English term “deacon.” Therefore, this text presents Martha as doing precisely what she’s supposed to be doing.
But she is “The Sweating Saint”—she’s doing too much of the right thing.
The text says that “Marth was distracted with much serving.” The Greek term “distracted” means to be “over-occupied” or “too busy.” Martha is trying to do way too much in an effort to serve Jesus. Martha has scheduled such a sweat that she has no time to sit at Jesus’s feet and learn from him.
I’ve known many Christians just like Martha—people who tried too hard to do right. They believe the more they work, the more God will be pleased with their service. The more hospital visits they make, the more casseroles they make for bereaved families, the more they clean the church building, the more they teach class, the more God would be pleased. Those are good, solid, and right activities—just like Martha’s serving Jesus in her home.
The problem is: “Why are they working so hard?” Often thee folks are trusting in a works salvation. These folks seem to believe in their deepest core that unless they work and work, God will not save them. Yet, salvation is not by works. “By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph 2:8-9). Obedience is absolutely necessary for salvation, and we need to be serving God by serving others. yet, it is God’s mercy and grace that ultimately saves from sin.
“The Scheduled Saint” becomes a snitching saint and she goes to Jesus, saying, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”
Martha has scheduled a sweat, and she expects her sister to jump in to do what she wants.
Martha’s basic problem here is her ego. She believes that Mary should be doing precisely the same thing she’s doing. She believes that Mary has no right to do anything but what Martha deems important.
Aren’t there so many people like that in the world—people who believe that everyone else should be just like themselves? They can’t believe that people would actually wear clothes bought at Walmart. They can’t believe people would eat at McDonald’s instead of a fancy steakhouse.
What that all boils down to is an inflated sense of self. In Martha’s thinking, she is the consummate example: How could Mary sit and listen to Jesus when Martha was setting such a good example of what she was supposed to be doing?
We dare not think that we are so wonderful that we can simply impose our will on others. “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil 2:3-4). “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Rom 12:10).
How much do we really think of ourselves?
The Studying Saint, vv 39, 41-42
Martha “had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.”
Sitting at a rabbi’s feet was the place where disciples sat—Paul says that he was educated at the feet of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). The intriguing part of this text is that Jesus was a “radical heretic” among Jewish rabbis. Women were not permitted to be educated in the Law—according to the customs of the day, women were far too stupid for that. Yet, Jesus, in this simple act of permitting Mary to sit at his feet, testifies to the equality of the sexes. A woman, Jesus says, has just has much a right to learn the Word of God as a man.
when Martha goes to Jesus and asks that he command Mary to help her, Jesus says, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Its very interesting that we find this passage about Mary and Martha where we do. In verse 25, a lawyer has tested Jesus by asking what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus asked this man what he read in the Law. The lawyer answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” (Lk 10:27).
Jesus then told the Parable of the Good Samaritan to illustrate the second commandment—loving neighbor as self. Mary stands as a paramount example of the first commandment. She is putting the love of the Lord her God above everything else. Instead of preparing an elaborate meal for Jesus, Mary is far more interested in feasting on his Word.
Martha as “The Scheduled Saint” is anxious and troubled over many things—She has put too much on her schedule and seeks to do everything perfectly. On the other hand, Mary as “The Scheduled Saint” is “The Studying Saint”—she has scheduled plenty of time for what is of primary importance: Learning from Jesus.
Will we put learning from God as primary importance in our lives? Nothing can be more important than knowing how to live! Psalm 119:97-104. “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15).
How important is the Word of God in our lives? Is public Bible study a nuisance because we have other things to do, or do we delight in the Word of God? Do all other activities come in first and we’ll study the Bible if we have time for it, or are we, like Mary, putting the Word of God as the priority in our lives?
Jesus tells Martha that “one thing is necessary.” Martha had many things on her plate. Luke doesn’t tell us what those many things were, but it’s likely that Martha was preparing an elaborate meal, trying to get some finishing touches done on the house, and hoping to sit and hear Jesus when all of that was done. Yet, none of that was really necessary—only the Word of the Lord was necessary.
Far too many times we are like Martha in what “must” get done. We just have to get some housework done, we just have to get the kids some new clothes for school, we just have to get the car washed, we just have to. . . .
Those things are not a problem in and of themselves. Martha could have prepared the most elaborate meal in the history of mankind and shared with the poor. I’m sure she would have received the Lord’s praise! Martha could have had a home where no dust bunny would ever have felt comfortable and that would have been perfectly acceptable. The problem was all in her focus: she focused on things that aren’t going to last! Everything Martha held dear is going to bur up one of these days.
Mary focused on the far more permanent Word of God. Jesus says that Mary’s portion will not be taken from her. Jesus wasn’t going to tell Mary to help Martha with insignificant things.
The portion she had chosen wouldn’t even be taken away from her in eternity. You see, paying attention to the Word of God will pay dividends throughout all eternity: “The sacred writings . . . are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 3:15). If the Word of God can prepare me for eternity, no wonder Mary was listening to Jesus rather than working on the house! Is that Word your focus this very day? Are you prepared for eternity?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Alum Creek church of Christ in Alum Creek, West Virginia.