Today ‘multitasking’ is a buzz word for successful business management and ‘normal’ life can be ‘hectic’. So many things must get done that Christians often forget Jesus’ caution: ‘but one thing is necessary’ (Lk.10:34). Our lives can get cluttered without the proper balance or priorities it needs. During an incident at Martha and Mary’s home in Bethany, Jesus reveals the ‘one needful thing’ that ‘will not be taken away’. It is so vital that without it, everything else doesn’t make sense or really count! There will always be much to ‘do’, yet this one thing directly relates to the main reason why humans were created and the greatest of all commandments. It’s about ‘loving God’ (v.27) and it’s not an option! Mary of Bethany is mentioned thrice and always found ‘at Jesus’ feet’ (Lk.10:39; Jn.11:32; 12:3). There is much we may learn from her about this one thing: ‘faith expressing itself in love’
1. The Place of love is Discovered at Jesus feet(Lk.10: 39)
Jesus regularly stopped at a village called Bethany to be refreshed at the home of a family he loved. Martha invited Jesus and his disciples into her house and was under pressure to feed a gang of at least 14 men. Mary is found sitting ‘at Jesus’ feet’ – listening to his words. Martha rudely complains to Jesus, asking if he cared to get Mary to give her a hand. Jesus in his firm response doesn’t reprove Martha for working but reprimands her for worrying. Internally and externally, she was sidetracked from the one important activity that, at that time, was necessary. This ‘better part’ that Mary chose was to be still and know God’s love. This doesn’t imply she was lazy since among other things, she ‘also’ sat and had then ‘left’ her sister. Martha was so distracted and worked up over the many tasks needed to serve an elaborate supper that she had no time left to hear or honor Jesus.
Mary’s lowliness and love is seen in her lingering close to learn at Jesus’ feet. God’s best fruits hang low and to pick it we must get low. Sadly our doing things for God can substitute being in his presence; knowing we are his beloved. In our busy Christian ministries, when is it that we allow Christ and his words to minister to us? After all, the chief end for which we were created is to glorify God and enjoy him forever! Let us take time (we won’t find it) to be holy, talk oft’ with our God; abide with him always and feed on his word. So, when we focus on this one thing– loving God, everything will be fine, right? Wrong!
2. The Problems of love are Dissolved at Jesus feet (John 11:32)
The next incident in this family is a tragedy. Lazarus, the brother and bread-winner, the ‘one who Jesus loved’ is sick and dies! Many from Jerusalem come to pay tribute, but Jesus wasn’t there! When informed of his sickness, Jesus tarries another two days before he arrives. Martha goes out to meet him yet Mary remains mourning at home. What must have gone on in her mind? Serious doubts and disappointment: Why Jesus’ delay? Is it disinterest or denial to meet my need? Does he really care? Jesus discusses theology with Martha but sends for Mary who arrives to discover the power of his love.
Jesus turns up but the helpless situation is now hopeless: Lazarus is dead 4 days! Mary in tears throws herself ‘at Jesus’ feet’ where she ascertains he does care and is still in control. Jesus wept (v.35) then raises Lazarus to demonstrate his powers have no limit. Beyond meeting the family’s need, Jesus’ primary concern is to glorify God in his time (v.4) and develop faith in his followers (v.15). He did not do the lesser (healing) so he could the greater (resurrection). When ‘disappointed with God’ remember his delays are purposeful; those like Mary who wait on the Lord will renew their strength.
3. The Proof of love is Displayed at Jesus feet (John 12:3)
Being close to Jesus and having our needs met is not sufficient we must demonstrate our love for him in obedience and sacrifice. Six days before Jesus’ death, its suppertime and ‘show time’ for Mary of Bethany! There’s lot of food, festivity and fellowship but what is Lazarus doing? Enjoying the meal! Where is Martha – serving, hopefully without anxiety. But Mary we find ‘at Jesus feet’ where she had come to know, grow in and now to show her extravagant love for her Lord. In bold submission and costly service she anoints her kingly Messiah’s feet with scented nard, an ointment perhaps imported from India in alabaster. She then wipes it with her hair, the glory of a woman.
Mary’s anointing was more than a sign of respect, honor or gratitude for Lazarus’ miracle. The disciples, especially Judas takes offence for this ‘waste’ but Jesus sharply rebukes him and clarify Mary’s act of love on this special occasion. Her sacrificial act reflected Jesus’ own ultimate mission – the cross. In contrast, Judas’ was thinking, not with his heart for ‘the poor’, but with his pocket. Love always looks for opportunities to display itself in sacrificial service. We love and serve Jesus because He first loved us and gave himself for us. Our witness flows out of our worship; Jesus’ worth-ship! In Jesus, Immanuel, God is with us and by his Spirit still seeks ‘true worshippers’. The one thing necessary that really matters is our faith expressing itself in love for our Lord, without this everything else is worth-less.