“… but one thing us needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part …” Luke 4:42
There isn’t a person I know on Earth who hates party planning more than my brother. One day, he had the witty idea of doing a surprise birthday party for me. In its intent, it was such a noble gesture and one that I will never forget. However, the execution, the attention and agonizing over each minute detail, we almost lost my little brother in the sea of frustration long before we even got to the celebration.
Lazarus had two sisters, Mary and Martha. The sole male child of any family holds many rights as well as responsibilities. In those days, men were the ones who worked, and therefore women had the joy and duty of tending to the needs of the home. It was expected of both Mary and Martha to tend to every detail of the home so that when their brother came home and any potential suitor, they would be seen as a good Jewish woman.
As with us in modern times, hosting parties took on a life of its own. Guests were given the royal treatment when they would come to a home. The food had to be perfect. The draperies flawlessly strewn about; every single detail merited succinct attention. It was a way to honor the guest. It was a way to honor one’s self.
But Lazarus wasn’t just bringing any ordinary man to the house. Lazarus was bringing the King-their king. He was bringing their friend, their homie, their Savior, and the one person who had the attention of every person in the land. It wasn’t that Martha was caught up in titles. How could she serve a Master on spotty dishes? How could the bread have not risen yet? The Master is coming!
The women went about tirelessly preparing the home for their guest’s arrival. There was nary an idle second. And then, it happened…there he was! Jesus, the Messiah, their kinsman redeemer, was standing at the door! Things shifted mightily from that very moment! Every waking moment of preparation came to a hilt when his face-no doubt laden with a smile-appeared before their eyes. It was HIM! There was so much to talk about, so much to eat!
Not wanting to waste a second, Martha rushed about with duties that would welcome their king friend. In a gust of exhaustion, she looked and saw that her helping hands were resting. The feet that scurried about prior were now flatly planted on the ground. Mary was not helping! How could she! How DARE she!
What Martha could not understand, and what most of us fail to understand, is that anything that could matter ceases to exist when a King is in your presence! Mary was not being lazy, and she didn’t feel like she wanted to take a break. Mary was captivated!
How many times in the past weeks and in the weeks to come will we split the roles of Mary and Martha? So many busy themselves with the cares of evangelism and family rearing (which is huge in service to God). But how many of us are willing to lay down the labor for the Savior? How many times, while in the presence of others, have we forgotten The Most Esteemed Guest? How many times have we forsaken the opportunity to bask in all that He is, worrying about all that we have and must “do”?
Jesus saw Martha, just as He saw Mary. And in one loving moment, He corrected as He admired. He was proud of all the work that she had put in. It is never easy putting together a party of any type, and the fact that she’d do it for Him pricked His heart. But He reminded her-as He reminds us-that of all that we can DO, the needful thing is to be present. You are the literal present to God. Show up today in your home. Show up on your job. Show up and marvel in His presence as you enter houses of worship. Because work is not worth. Worship requires intimacy. Sit in His presence. It is the needful thing!