************ Sermon on Luke 10:38-42 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on July 8, 2001
"Hosts and Guests"
I Jesus' Host
Title: Don't Forget the Best
There is an ancient Scottish legend that tells the story of a shepherd boy tending a few straggling sheep on the side of a mountain. One day as he cared for his sheep he saw at his feet a beautiful flower -- one that was more beautiful than any he had ever seen in his life. He knelt down upon his knees and scooped the flower in his hands and held it close to his eyes, drinking in its beauty. As he held the flower close to his face, suddenly he heard a noise and looked up before him. There he saw a great stone mountain opening up right before his eyes. And as the sun began to shine on the inside of the mountain, he saw the sprinkling of the beautiful gems and precious metals that it contained.
With the flower in his hands, he walked inside. Laying the flower down, he began to gather all the gold and silver and precious gems in his arms. Finally with all that his arms could carry, he turned and began to walk out of that great cavern, and suddenly a voice said to him, "Don't forget the best."
Thinking that perhaps he had overlooked some choice piece of treasure, he turned around again and picked up additional pieces of priceless treasure. And with his arms literally overflowing with wealth, he turned to walk back out of the great mountainous vault. And again the voice said, "Don't forget the best."
But by this time his arms were filled and he walked on outside, and all of a sudden, the precious metals and stones turned to dust. And he looked around in time to see the great stone mountain closing its doors again. A third time he heard the voice, and this time the voice said, "You forgot the best. For the beautiful flower is the key to the vault of the mountain."
B In our Scripture passage we have someone who also forgot the best. Her name was Martha.
It seems that one day she suddenly had 13 guests drop in for dinner. Jesus and His disciples had been traveling in the area and unexpectedly dropped in.
What would you do if you suddenly had 13 guests drop in for dinner? Perhaps you would decide to order out for Pizza or Chinese. Or, you would go to a fast food restaurant: KFC, In-N-Out Burger, Carl's Jr. Or, you would dig some tri-tip or hamburgers out of your freezer. Or, you would go out to Marie Calendar's or IHOP or Hometown Buffet.
But none of these were options for Martha. She could not order out for fast food or go out to a restaurant. There were no freezers to keep ready-made foods in. Martha probably had to grind up some flour and bake bread. She probably had to kill and cook a chicken or two and maybe even a goat. She probably had to milk the cow. She probably had to go to the city well for fresh water. Maybe she even had to do some house-cleaning. You get the picture: Martha was busy!
Verse 40 says it all: "Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made." The Greek word translated as "distracted" literally means "to be pulled, dragged away." Can you picture a team of work-horses pulling a big tree stump out of a field? In the same way, Martha's service pulled or dragged away her attention from Jesus.
Martha wanted to listen but she only heard bits and pieces of the conversation. Being the good hostess that she was, she was constantly jumping up and down, doing all the work of feeding 13 unexpected guests. She wanted to listen but was distracted by the pressure of being a good hostess.
C In direct contrast to Martha was Mary, her sister. Verse 39 tells us that Mary "sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said." It was customary in the Middle East for students to sit at the feet of their teacher. So, like a student, Mary sat at the feet of the Great Teacher, Jesus Christ. Mary wanted to learn from Jesus and was eager to learn.
D Martha, it seems, did not appreciate this. While running back and forth she noticed that Mary was sitting down with Jesus. Here she was so busy with 13 unexpected guests for dinner and her sister was sitting down. So Martha went to Jesus and said, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" (vs 40).
Did you notice what Martha said? According to her, "my sister has left me to do the work by myself." In other words, Mary had been helping but now she thought it more important to sit down and listen to Jesus. She had been working; but now she said "Enough!" threw down her apron, and sat at Jesus' feet.
E Too many times when we look at this story we view Martha as being bad and Mary as being good. But we need to notice that Jesus did not condemn Martha for her serving, for being such a good hostess. It is obvious that both Martha and Mary deeply loved Jesus. Both of them expressed their love and their faith in their service of Jesus. Both of them expressed their love and their faith by being hosts of Jesus.
We all should know that the Christian life is a life of faith expressed in works. This means that all Christians, like Mary and Martha, should show their love and their faith in their service. Like Mary and Martha, all Christians should be hosts. We are called to minister to the physical needs of others in the name of Christ.
We have some special people with us this morning – I am talking about our SERVE team from across the United States and Canada. They have come to SERVE in Christ's name. And, they have even paid for this privilege. As Kent indicated before the congregational prayer, we have exciting service opportunities lined up for you so that you, like Mary and Martha, can serve the Lord.
F I want to remind you that this idea of SERVICE runs counter to the spirit of our age. This idea of SERVing one another is not popular in an age when people are self-serving, self-centered, and self-indulgent.
Topic: ServiceBut Christ calls us, like Martha and Mary, to serve others. We need the outward look – not the inward look.
Title: Outward look
To emphasize our self-serving age George Sweeting, former president of Moody Bible Institute, gave this illustration to graduating seniors at Taylor University. A farmer was single and wanted a wife. His Newspaper ad read: "Man 35, wants woman about 25, with tractor. Send picture of tractor."
II Jesus' Guest
A As I said before, Jesus did not condemn Martha for serving. But He did admonish her for being so distracted with serving that she neglected "what is better." Jesus said, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better ..."
What does Jesus mean here?
Martha's emphasis was on being a host of Jesus. Mary's emphasis was on being a guest of Jesus. Both are necessary.
You see, service can kill a person. Being busy with this or that can kill a person. Putting all one's emphasis on being a host can be deadly. That happens when a person, like Martha, is too busy to listen to Jesus. So Jesus says, "Martha, Martha ... only one thing is needed." What is this one thing? It is being Jesus' guest.
Topic: CounselWell, Mary had that one thing figured out. She knew she had to spend time with the Lord. She knew she had to be His guest.
In City Slickers Curley gave Mitch this well-worn piece of advice:
Curley: You city folks. -- You spend 50 weeks a year getting knots in your rope and you think two weeks here will work them all out. You just don't get it. All that's important in life is that one thing.
Mitch: What thing?
Curley: That's what you have to figure out.
Nothing, absolutely nothing, is more important than being Jesus' guest. Absolutely nothing else is as important as this. A productive farm or dairy, a new car, a fulfilling job, an immaculate house, happy guests, a booming business, a relaxing vacation, invigorating exercise, a winning basketball season, a handsome boyfriend or beautiful girlfriend, high grades – all of these are very important in life but they are unimportant next to Christ Himself. Remember what Jesus said? "What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?" (Mt 16:26).
"Only one thing is needed." Knowing Jesus, listening to Him, being His guest, is the only really important thing in life; everything else is, or should be, secondary.
B Mary knew what she wanted – she chose to be Jesus' host and Jesus' guest. Martha, on the other hand, chose to busy herself with all the work and preparations involved in looking after Jesus and His disciples.
Jesus says "Mary has chosen what is better." Work and service is a good thing – after all, Mary did do some service – but taking time to also listen to Jesus is even better. Actually, it is not just the better option; it is the best option.
If we are too busy serving that we neglect daily prayer and meditation, regular church attendance, Bible study and discussion groups and devotional reading, we are too busy. Our Lord instructs us to set our priorities straight. He instructs us to not only be His host, to do His work, but to also be His guest, to spend time knowing Him and listening to Him.
C Why are we to spend time listening to Jesus, being His guest? Remember the time Jesus was transfigured on the mountain? You know what happened. In front of Peter, James, and John, Jesus' appearance and clothing changed. And, Elijah and Moses appeared and talked to Him. Suddenly, a cloud came and surrounded them. The voice of God came from the cloud, saying, "This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him" (Luke 9:34).
We are to be Jesus' guest because He is God's Son, God's chosen servant. His words are the words of life. To listen to Him is to drink from the well of living water. To listen to Him is to drink of the only water that quenches the thirst of our soul. So, of course we should be His guest. If we are not His guests we are turning our backs on God's wondrous and free salvation.
Nothing in life is more important than being Jesus' guest. So I ask you – do you know Jesus? Do you listen to Him? Your life – boys and girls, young people, congregation, SERVants – depends, it literally depends, on your answer to this question. Again I ask you, do you listen to Jesus?, do you spend time each day with His Word?, do you faithfully attend worship services?, are you part of a Bible study?, do you attend Church School and Catechism? Are you His guest?
D Mary chose to serve and listen; she was Jesus' host and Jesus' guest. Martha, on the other hand, was too busy to listen. "Mary has chosen what is better." "And," as Jesus puts it, "it will not be taken from her." It is Mary's right and possession to be Jesus' guest. Neither Martha nor anyone else can take this right from her.
It is also our right to know Jesus and to listen to Him, to be His guest. No one and no thing has the right to demand so much of us that we no longer are able to do that. No job, no person, no possession, no activity, not even any kingdom cause or church activity, has the right to keep us from being Jesus' guest. No job, no person, no possession, no activity, not even any kingdom cause or church activity, has the right to keep us from worship services, from Bible study, from personal and family devotions, from Catechism and Church School lessons.
E Let us remember, congregation, that "only one thing is needed." But I'm afraid that we as a church can so easily get what I call the "Martha syndrome." As a church we can get so caught up in programs, meeting the budget, improving the building, that we forget the number one concern. Like Martha we can get distracted with much serving. As a church, our number one concern has to be knowing and listening to Jesus, being His guest.
Individuals too can so easily get the Martha syndrome. There is always so much work to do: at our place of employment, at home with the kids or in the yard, at church and school, at the various groups we or our children are a part of. There is always so many activities to be involved in. But let's not be like Martha who got distracted with much serving. Rather, let us take time out every day to listen to Jesus, to get to know Jesus better, to be His guest.
And to our SERVants and Young People I also want to say a few words. You can so busy and so caught up in your SERVice this week, in the hot girls or cool boys you are meeting, in the new experiences you are having, that you tune out to the spiritual dimension to SERVE. We expect and encourage all of you to do daily devotions, to fully participate in evening worship. Yes, you are here to SERVE but you are also here to listen to Jesus.
We are called, congregation, to be Jesus' host and Jesus' guest. We are called, like Martha and Mary, to serve Jesus. But, more important, we are also called to listen to Him, to get to know Him better and better, to be His guest.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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