August 1, 2004: Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?

Let us pray: Dear Savior, when we “get distracted” and stop focusing on Your word of truth, comfort, and guidance, may You deal as gently with us as You did Your friend Martha! Cause us to never grow weary in actively loving our fellow humans and showing it, as did Martha, but also cause us to never let the distractions of this life crowd out the simple joy of feeding our souls with Your forgiveness and joy! Amen

TEXT: Luke 10: 38-42

Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
I’ll bet all of you have received some gift from a loved one that is your absolute favorite. It might be jewelry—guys take note, you can never go wrong giving jewelry to your favorite woman. It might be a surprise vacation–a time to make memories. Maybe it’s something quite personal that your father or mother made just for you. Well, my all-time favorite gift from my wife is this (a copy of “Gourmet” magazine). A few years ago, as part of my birthday present, she gave me a subscription. I love it. Cooking is a wonderful pastime. And because she shares in the results, it truly is a gift that keeps on giving to both of us!


Good times and good friends and good food always seem to go hand-in-hand. And although it takes a lot of time and energy to cook for people you care about, it really is a labor of love. That is, it is but another way of keeping the 2nd table of God’s law to “love your neighbor as yourself.” In our lesson we come across such a situation. “As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her house to him.”

First, you need to know that Martha lived in the little town of Bethany, about 6 miles outside Jerusalem. She had become a follower of Jesus along with her sister, Mary, and brother, Lazarus, who lived with her. You get the feeling from the text that she was the oldest sibling. Also, that she was a “take-charge” kind of woman. Note well that Luke says “she opened her home to him.” Apparently, she owned the house. Also, since Jesus often stayed there with them along with his retinue, the house must have been fairly large which meant they were well-to-do financially.

As I read this familiar lesson, the first thing that came to my mind was: GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER? No doubt, Mary, Lazarus, or perhaps a servant suddenly burst into the house one day and blurted out something similar. Just as suddenly, Martha’s schedule was turned upside down. First, she had to plan a menu—with no “Gourmet” magazine to help. Second, she had to shop at the local market for fresh food. After all, they didn’t have freezers, canned goods, or refrigerators. All this took a lot of time and energy. And remember, not only did she have to feed Jesus, but all of his disciples, too.—Along with getting rooms ready, cleaning, and everything else that goes into having company. Her work load wasn’t just an hour or two, it was hours and hours. But, no matter, she was showing love toward all and thus being the “good Samaritan” that we spoke of last week.


She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. “She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’”

Was Mary lazy? Was she simply some starry-eyed dreamer who leeched off her sister and took advantage of her? No! Mary simply let time stand still when in the presence of her Savior. She hung on His every word because she knew that he had “the words of eternal life.” She knew that feeding her soul with God’s “soul food” was the most important thing there was. And so, although she didn’t totally understand it at the time, Mary was allowing Jesus to prepare her for His upcoming death on the cross and resurrection by which He would save their souls and our souls. But, Martha is harried, tired, and frustrated by the lack of help from Mary, so she blurts out this request without much thought behind it.

“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.’”

Martha’s original question to Jesus was a bit scolding in nature. But, Christ doesn’t scold back. No, He deals with her very gently, but truthfully. He acknowledges her emotions and then gently reminds her that Mary has chosen to honor him by doing something even better than cooking, by listening to and clinging to His divine guidance. And then Jesus also adds that the path Mary has chosen “will not be taken away from her.” That is, mere human food is eaten and then is gone. Whereas Christ’s food for the soul remains with us unto life everlasting.


Did Martha learn anything from this interchange? Yes! She learned to put her life into proper perspective. She learned that we’ll always have the ups and downs of life, we’ll always have worries and concerns to distract us and suck up our time and energy, but we won’t always have Christ present to glean knowledge and confidence and comfort from. We know this to be true because later on, when Lazarus dies and Christ comes to comfort these sisters, what happens? “When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed home. ‘Lord,’ Martha said to Jesus, ‘if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.’ To which Christ replied, ‘Your brother will rise again.’”

Martha embraced Christ as her Savior. She knew He had power over life and death. She believed in the resurrection from the dead just like you and me. And then Jesus makes her hope a reality, He validates it by restoring Lazarus to life!

Have you learned such lessons, too? Have you learned with Martha that feeding your soul each week at Sunday worship and each day via home devotions is vital? Have you learned to prioritize and put Christ first? I hope so. Because when the final chapter of this life closes for you, Jesus’ words will still ring true: “but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Amen