One thing is needed: Communion
And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42 NKJV)
The next instance of our phrase is found in a well-known story about Martha. To her credit, Martha welcomed Jesus into her home (compare with Rev. 3:20), but during His visit she got distracted with all her preparations. She was irritated that her sister Mary wasn’t helping, but was sitting at Jesus’ feet listening to His word. Remarkably, every time we meet Mary, she is at the feet of Jesus: in this passage we see her waiting at Jesus’ feet, when Lazarus died we see her weeping at Jesus’ feet, and lastly we see her worshiping at Jesus’ feet when she anointed them with spikenard.
The Lord had to gently rebuke Martha for her negative attitude.1 To be clear, her service itself wasn’t wrong. She just didn’t have her priorities in the right order. Sitting comes before serving! While Martha became increasingly flustered, worried, and troubled about her checklists and unfinished work, Mary had chosen the one thing that was needed: fellowship with the Lord Jesus. Fellowship is even more important than service and should come first. In this proper order, it actually informs our service for the Lord. In everyday relationships, we have fellowship by spending time with each other and by talking about the things that are important to us. It’s the same in our relationship with the Lord! He speaks to us through the Bible, and we speak to Him through prayer.
Martha got it wrong this time, but later on in John 12 we see her serving in the right context. It’s also lovely to see that Jesus loved Martha and her sister in John 11:5. Although there was a difference in His approval in this instance, there was no difference in His love for the two sisters. “His approval flows from our ways; His love flows from Himself.”2 His love never changes, even when we fail!
This post comes from The Lord is Near, a publication of Believer’s Bookshelf, Canada. Read additional Lord is Near online articles, listen via podcasts, or order a printed copy at Believer’s Bookshelf Canada.
1. It’s always serious when you hear someone say your name twice in a row! There are seven instances in the Bible that the Lord duplicates someone’s name, and each time it introduces an important message — Abraham, Abraham; Jacob, Jacob; Moses, Moses; Samuel, Samuel; Martha, Martha; Simon, Simon; Saul, Saul.
2. Hamilton Smith, The Gospel of John (Believers Bookshelf Inc., 2007), 118.