The Hospitality of Mary and Martha

(9) The Hospitality of Mary and Martha
Luke 10:38-42


Our lesson this morning is from Luke 10:38-42, and I want to read it first from the Living Bible, because there it is easier to follow and understand.

38 As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem they came to a village where a woman named Martha welcomed them into her home.
39 Her sister Mary sat on the floor, listening to Jesus as he talked.
40 But Martha was the jittery type and was worrying over the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, "Sir, doesn't it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me."
41 But the Lord said to her, "Martha, dear friend, you are so upset over all these details!
42 There is really only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it--and I won't take it away from her!"
  Luke 10:38-42 (Living)

Now, let me reread the last verse from the King James Bible, because there you hear the title of today’s lesson, “But One Thing is Needful”.


42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
  Luke 10:42 (KJV)

Here in our text, Christ tells us that there is only one thing needful; but He never really says what that one thing is. 

But if we look closely at the story in our text, I bettcha we can figure out what that one thing is.

Jesus and His disciples had come to the town of Bethany, which at that time was about two miles from Jerusalem.

A woman named Martha had invited Jesus to eat at her house. 

She is thought to be a widow, and she lived with her brother Lazarus and her sister Mary.

She received Jesus into her house in a very courteous manner. 

She had known Jesus before or she had heard of Him, and she believed in Him; that He was the true Messiah.

When Jesus entered the house, He began to preach to those that were there, and to those who came along with him. 

Martha was extremely busy getting everything ready for the meal, but her sister Mary set down at Jesus feet to listen to what He said.

There it is! 

The one thing that we need. 

She sat at His feet and listened with great eagerness, diligence, affection and pleasure. 

Mary chose to listen to God’s word. 

God’s word is the one thing needful. 

But why is God’s word so important? 

Well, for one thing, it tells us who we are. 

In this world there are very few people who really understand themselves. 

It’s hard for us to look honestly at ourselves.

The world is full of people, who think they are something, that they really aren’t. 

Then there is the other extreme; there are many people who suffer from low self-esteem, anorexia, bolemia, who don’t see who they really are when they look in the mirror.

But the Bible, God’s word, helps us to know ourselves better.

When we look into the mirror of God’s word, first of all we discover that we are people who have set very poor priorities.

Jesus tells us that we should seek first the Kingdom of God, or in other words, that God and His word should be number one in our lives. 

But in our daily lives, what place does God really have? 

If what we do during the day reflects our priorities, where does that leave God? 

Do you set aside time each day to study and meditate on God’s word?

Do you thank Him every morning for the new day that He has given you, for your family, for your home here at NHC, for your friends?

Do you attend devotions, Bible study and church services?

Do you talk to your friends and family about God?

In your conversations with family and friends, do you mention that God is important to you?

I must confess, that I must answer very sadly to these questions. 

We are people of very poor priorities. 

And due to our choices in life we deserve God’s punishment.

But let’s look again at the mirror of God’s word, because even though we are ugly sinners, we shouldn’t have low self-esteem, because God doesn’t see us that way.

No, in His word He gives us confidence about who we really are. 

Through faith in Jesus, we are God’s perfect children. 

Christ came to this world and lived a perfect, sinless life; He kept the entire law of God, as our substitute. 

Jesus always maintained good priorities. 

That’s why we find Him so often in the temple or synagogue, among the people, preaching the good news of the Gospel.

And by His death on the cross, that perfection becomes ours. 

God now sees us as perfect, because He has given us Jesus’ perfection as a gift.

That’s why God’s word is so necessary, because it teaches us THAT road to heaven; the road who is Jesus Christ our Lord.

But since we know that, why keep studying the Bible? 

Do you ever think about that? 

If we have faith, if we know of Jesus’ love, why do we need to keep coming to church and studying God’s word? 

Well, God’s word is still necessary, for at least a couple of reasons: first of all, because now that we want to thank God for our salvation and live for Him, we need a guide to tell us how. 

Throughout history, there have been people, who thought that they were serving God, but they have done terrible things (for example, consider the inquisition.  And for a modern day example, those that caused the planes to fly into the Twin Towers believed they were doing God’s will).

By nature, we don’t know what God wants us to do to thank Him. 

We need His word, which is a lamp to guide us down the right road.

And beside that, God’s word is our spiritual food. 

I have heard some pastors say, “It recharges my batteries”.

Without God’s word, we are left without the strength to fight against our spiritual enemies. 

Without God’s word, we find ourselves without comfort in the midst of the tragedies that we encounter in life.

So my friends, there is one thing needful: the story of our salvation, God’s word. 

It tells us who we are by nature and also who we are through faith in Jesus. 

Through His word, the Holy Spirit gives us faith, and strengthens our faith. 

God’s word is the light to show us the pathway to heaven; the path who is Jesus Christ. 

Then it shows us the road which God wants us to travel on to thank Him. 

As the Psalmist wrote, “Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light to my path.”

But now that we know what the one thing needed is, how do we use it? 

How do we live in God’s world? 

Well we can also find the answer to that question in the story of Mary and Martha.

Our text tells us that Martha was distracted by all the preparations, which had to be made. 

Just imagine, God Himself is visiting. 

The house is a mess. 

The food isn’t ready. 

The table is dirty. 

God is setting in your living room, and your sister refuses to help. 

The scripture says that Martha went into the room where Jesus was preaching, “And she stood and said”, “My sister is not helping me, will you please ask her to give me a hand with the preparations.”

Note that she did not set at Jesus feet as Mary did, to listen to His preaching, but she stood so she could leave quickly and return to working. 

Now understand, Martha wasn’t wrong in what she wanted to give her Savior, a delicious meal. 

But really, it’s a question of priorities.

What is the one thing needful? 

Mary chose that one thing. 

She sat at Jesus’ feet to hear God’s word.

Listen to these words from Romans10:14, 17, “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?  So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

Here it is again, “the one thing needed”, the word of God.  It says that faith comes from hearing the word of God.

How can you believe in someone that you don’t know? 

This is a great verse, because it shows us how God works to bring a person to faith in Him. 

It says that God uses a person to bring the word of God to someone who is lost, and that the Holy Spirit takes that word and works a miracle in the heart of that lost man or woman; so then faith comes by hearing the word of God.

So, now I ask those of you who have been going to church for many years. 

For years, you have been seated at Jesus’ feet. 

So, at the present, how are your priorities? 

Does God and His word still have first place in your life? 

Be careful, because the Devil is going to tempt you to think you know it all, so why keep studying? 

He’s going to tempt us to set in front of the television, in front of the computer, to stay sleeping in our beds instead of setting at the feet of Jesus.

And you know, our church services and our Bible studies, and the devotions here at NHC aren’t the only opportunities that you have to set at Jesus’ feet. 

Every time you set in your room and open your bible and study God’s word, you are setting at Jesus’ feet.

So, I encourage you to study God’s word on your own, or with friends. 

And for those of you who may not have gone to church very much, and you do not know much from God’s word: I will also ask you, “How are your priorities?” 

You are right now seated at the feet of Jesus Christ. 

But, what about tomorrow? 

What about Saturday? 

It’s time to change your priorities.

A change in spiritual priorities will make all the difference in your life; because there is only one thing needful. 

This word teaches us about our sins, and about our need for a Savior. 

And then it shows us that Savior; Jesus Christ. 

Through His word, God gives and strengthens our faith. 

So, continue studying, learning and growing. 

Continue setting at the feet of Jesus Christ. 

Paul wrote this to young Timothy, “I now say to you: continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you have learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

Let’s set at the feet of our Savior every day of our lives.

I want to read verse 42 one more time, But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. 

Mary made the right choice. 

She chose “that good part”; Christ, the substance of the word that she heard, and with her choice came eternal life and salvation by Him.

And the verse says it shall not be taken from her, by men or Satan. 

It cannot be lost or taken away.

This is a good place to end the lesson. 

But let’s go to God in prayer and thank him for the wonderful things that he has given us; salvation and eternal life, His word, the Holy Spirit, the promise of Jesus return, a home in heaven, and so much more. 

Really, don’t we have everything we need?


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 There are 5 websites by this author: (Life of Christ) (sermons) (Titus and Jude) (Romans) (Judges)

Please review them and use them as the Lord leads you.

May God bless His precious word!!

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