And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. — Luke 10:41-42
Several months ago at a Bible study, our teacher set a large glass jar on a table in front of the audience. Then she removed some large stones from a sack and proceeded to fill the jar to the brim, commenting as she did so that the stones represented priorities in our lives. When there was no more room in the jar, she asked us if the jar was full. We all nodded that yes, it was. She opened the sack again and withdrew handful after handful of small pebbles which she put into the jar, shaking it so that the small stones fell between the larger ones. When she could get no more in, she asked again if the jar was full. Again, we agreed that it was.
Finally she took out a container of sand and proceeded to pour that over the large rocks and the smaller pebbles. For the third time, we agreed that the jar was full. Then she explained that the jar was like our lives. The large rocks were the most important parts of our lives: our relationship with God, our families, our responsibilities as Christians. The pebbles represented things that matter to us: our jobs, our homes, our personal interests. The sand represented everything else. She pointed out that if she had filled the jar first with sand, or even with pebbles, there would have been no room for the larger stones. It is important to put first things first!
Priorities play a part in almost everything we do beginning the moment we wake up each day. If we value sleep more than breakfast, we may choose to sleep in. If we want good grades in school, we do our homework. If we want to save money, we pack a lunch rather than going out.
How we spend our time is a reflection of our priorities. Many times at work, I have been given a list of tasks to do, and sometimes I must ask which is most important. While all the tasks are necessary, if I place too much emphasis or invest too much time on the wrong project, my productivity may suffer.
In today’s text, we read of a woman named Martha who welcomed Jesus and His disciples into her home. In an effort to show honor and be a good hostess, she spent much time preparing food and serving her guests. Meanwhile, her sister Mary “sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard His word.” Martha was perturbed because Mary was not helping her, but Jesus explained that while Martha was busying herself with more than was necessary, Mary was spending her time wisely.
Note that what Martha was doing wasn’t wrong in and of itself. Certainly it is appropriate to care for the needs of one’s guests, but Jesus pointed out that Martha’s priorities were misaligned: she had placed too much importance on the details of this life and not enough importance on spiritual matters.
We must be careful to not fall into the same trap Martha fell into. Most of us have many responsibilities that require our attention and time commitments we must honor. Among all our activities, however, we must be careful to keep our relationship with the Lord as the top priority. Often we do not have control over all the aspects of our daily schedule, but if we truly want the Lord to be first in our lives, we must honor Him with our time. In return, He will be faithful to reward our commitment to Him.
Chapter 10 of Luke’s Gospel can be broken into three main sections: the mission of the seventy (verses 1-24), Jesus’ discussion with the lawyer and the parable of the Good Samaritan (verses 25-37), and His stay in Bethany at Mary and Martha’s house (verses 38-42).
Today’s text opens with Jesus appointing seventy disciples. The number seventy had special significance to the Jewish people. For example, seventy elders were appointed by Moses to judge the Children of Israel (see Exodus 24:1 and Numbers 11:16), and the Sanhedrin had seventy members (plus the High Priest). Jewish tradition also held that there were seventy peoples or nations other than the Jews, so possibly the number of disciples sent out was symbolic of an effort to reach all of those nations.
Jesus specified that these disciples were to travel in groups of two rather than individually. In pairs, they could not only support and encourage each another, but could also verify one another’s account: according to the Law, at least two witnesses were required to establish something as true (see Deuteronomy 19:15 and Matthew 18:16).
In verse 25, a lawyer asked Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. In that era, a lawyer was a scribe or person of a similar occupation who studied the Law. Thus, when Jesus asked what was in the Law, this man was well able to answer. When the lawyer asked Jesus who his neighbor was, Luke said he sought to “justify himself” (verse 29). According to the Law, a neighbor was defined specifically as a fellow Israelite (see Leviticus 19:18). The lawyer likely expected Jesus to refer to this definition, and his righteousness in this area would thus be shown. Instead, Jesus related the story known as the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
At that time, many priests lived in Jericho — possibly as many as twelve thousand — and the road Jesus referred to in His parable was the main road between there and Jerusalem. The surrounding area was frequented by many thieves, making Jesus’ parable especially relatable. When the priest and Levite passed by the injured Jew, they were in direct contradiction of the Law, which commanded that they have compassion on their fellowmen (see Deuteronomy 22:1-4). Samaritans, on the other hand, were cultural enemies of the Jews, making the compassion of the Samaritan in the parable all the more remarkable.
In the previous chapter, Luke had recounted that Jesus was rejected in a Samaritan village (Luke 9:52-53). Nevertheless, Jesus clearly showed that even the Samaritans were deserving of love and mercy. When asked who “was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves,” the lawyer’s prejudice prevented him from explicitly responding, “The Samaritan.” Instead, he referred to him simply as “he that shewed mercy upon him” (verse 37).
Chapter 10 closes with the account of Jesus’ visit to the home of Mary and Martha. In verse 39, we read that Mary “sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.” She was listening intently, and was seated in the same position that Jewish scholars sat when learning from rabbis. In verse 42, Jesus tells Martha that only “one thing is needful.” This seems to indicate that the “good part” chosen by Mary — learning from Jesus — was that one needful thing. However, some commentators suggest that Jesus was saying that only one simple meal was necessary, as opposed to the excess Martha was preparing (to which He had just referred in the previous verse). In either case, Jesus’ point was clear: the things of God are of far more importance than temporal things.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
V. The rejection of the Son of Man
A. The commencement of the rejection of the Son of Man
3. The mission of the seventy (10:1-24)
a. Instructions to the seventy (10:1-12)
b. Judgment for rejection of the seventy (10:13-16)
c. Report of the seventy (10:17-24)
(1) Their rejoicing (10:17-20)
(2) His rejoicing (10:21-24)
4. The rejection by the lawyer (10:25-37)
a. The question concerning eternal life (10:25-29)
(1) The inquiry of the lawyer (10:25)
(2) The answer of Jesus (10:26-29)
b. The illustration regarding eternal life (10:30-37)
5. The reception at Bethany (10:38-42)
As we go about fulfilling our many daily responsibilities, may we never allow anything to become more important to us than Jesus.