We get excited to see the Lord coming. We want everything to be just right for Him. It is our service to Him. We invoke his name to urge others to pitch in, “Come on, help out, we have things to do for our Lord.” Our bother is meant as a sign of our love, an act of worship.
We want Him to affirm us, to thank us for the preparation, to say, “well done.” We understand serving Him in these perfunctory ways and when we do, we desire his approval for all the work in preparation. We would willingly miss His visit to complete the preparations.
Jesus looks upon us and smiles. He knows our self-absorption – and our good intentions. But Jesus hears what we are really saying. He calls our name softly and He tells us with a gentle holiness that He did not come to upset us or to consume our preparation. The relationship is all wrong. He’s not a guest. Our work is not the important thing. We are not His servants. We are His children, His brethren, His ambassadors, His witnesses, His disciples.
Jesus and His disciples came to a village where there lived a woman named Martha (woman of the house) who had a sister named Mary (wise woman). Mary sat at the Lord’s feet listening while Martha was busy making preparation. She asked Jesus to tell Mary to come and help with the chores. Lovingly, Jesus told Martha that Mary could not be asked to give up this opportunity to be with him.
Martha treated Jesus as a guest while Mary saw Jesus as a relation, teacher and friend. Knowing this, and given the choice, most of us like to think we would choose with Mary. But Martha loved Jesus too. The preparation was important and someone had to do it. She was focused on the work. Martha was scoring herself as a hostess and her sister as well. She wanted Jesus to set Mary straight, “Mary, it looks like Martha could use some help in the kitchen.” Treating guests properly was important and a reflection on the host. It wasn’t fair for Mary to leave all the work to Martha.
Once again, Jesus saw things differently. His love for Martha was no less infinite but he wanted her to know that the really important thing is His presence. The important thing is being at His feet. The important thing is listening to Him, taking in all He came to give. Being with us is important to him too. It is why He came. This was Mary’s choice.
It is a caution. We must be careful when we call people to join us in our service to the Lord. We must not pull them away from His presence to join in the preparations. The preparation is good. The business is important. There is time for labor and there is time for Sabbath rest. But when the Lord is present we must stop what we’re doing, lose ourselves, listen and adore Him. Mary’s choice is the better one.