Written by Hannah Parker
Jesus is the Good Part
As they went, [Jesus] entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. She had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to His teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she came to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Then tell her to help me.”
Jesus answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed. And Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken from her.”
Like Martha, I have been “distracted with much serving”, “worried and troubled about many things.” Except for the times when I focus earnestly on God’s presence, this has been the story of my life, and never more than right now. Lately, I’ve been hunting for some profound knowledge from God that will solve all my problems, make my insane schedule doable, and bring me success. All in the hope that I will be rewarded with the elusive peace I’m desperate for.
To be encumbered brings a consuming loneliness. Martha lamented that she was left to “serve alone”. And here we are also, wrapped in that same lament. We are buried in tasks, fully aware that we’re doing this to ourselves. Yet we still allow distance to carve itself between ourselves and others, as if they are responsible for the weight of our burdens. We begin to resent God for what we think He’s requiring of us. We get enclosed in a private and desperate world of performing.
“. . . Martha welcomed Him into her house . . .”
“Welcome to my house, Lord!” we say with enthusiasm, then rush around tidying up and trying to make the Lord more comfortable. “Let me get you another pillow. Let me give you something to drink. Let me make sure you have enough food. Let me find a footstool for you.” – Forgetting to look into His eyes. If we looked into His eyes, we’d see an invitation there: to plop down and rest at His feet and listen to His voice. We would give Him a chance to speak to us. “No,” we would hear Him say with love. “Let Me.”
Our ministries, jobs, relationships, and activities are like a shelf of messy ribbons. We brood over them, trying to wind up the dangling ribbons on their spools. But ribbon doesn’t stay wound. We become frantic; obsessive. We can’t tie up all the loose ends; life can’t be “finished”, and we find that perfectionism is a relentless and useless labor.
Is dropping all our commitments the answer to this madness? Do we keep all, or some of them? Or should we be asking different questions altogether?
What if Martha was not just an angry workaholic? What if she wasn’t really battling a lifestyle problem, but a soul problem? Could it be that we, 2,000 years later, share in that same soul problem? The soul problem that allows the work of Christian life to distract us from the only thing that can really help us?
What if the Word of God really can change everything?
“She had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to His teaching.”
Jesus tells Martha that “one thing is needed”. He wants us to settle down and receive something called “the good part”. It’s a gift that money absolutely cannot buy; that work absolutely cannot earn. It cannot be performed for, bartered for, or bargained for. No amount of blood, sweat and tears could add up to its worth. When Jesus said, “Mary has chosen the good part” He referred to Himself. To simply receive Jesus. To soak up the life-giving force of His words which are a manifestation of Himself.
When we stop trying to effect change through human effort, then we can let His Word change the world through us. I believe that our goal is not to be the busiest servants, or the most accomplished. Nor is it to be the very best version of ourselves. Our goal is to be like Jesus. I believe that He is looking for servants who are first of all His lovers and His friends. And I believe that in the end, Martha gave in to the tenderness of Jesus’ words and the fierceness of His love for her. I believe she was able to drop everything and become lost in His beautiful presence. I believe that she discovered, as I have, that Jesus loves even those of us who take a long time to come around.