Luke 10:41-42“’Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’”
Only one thing is needed. What is that one thing? Great missionary adventures? Heroic displays of self-sacrifice? No, it is Jesus’ own simple message of love. No one had to tell Mary that Jesus’ words were the one thing she needed. “Mary…sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said” (Luke 10:39). Her attentive hearing helped make Jesus’ seat a pulpit, her humble place at his feet a pew, and the whole room a chapel in which God himself drew close to her heart with his grace. This devoted, complete attention to Jesus’ Words is the true mark of discipleship throughout the ages.
Do Jesus’ words strike us as the one thing we need? Are they more than just a casual interest? Do they taste and satisfy better than food? Do they refresh and restore us better than sleep? Is coming to God’s house to hear his gracious word truly the highlight of our week, or do we drag ourselves there? Do we go because mom and dad still make me? Does the gospel excite us as we consider all the possibilities and freedom that wait for us in another week lived under God’s forgiving grace?
Or does it bore us as just another rehash of the same old “Jesus loves us” stuff. Does it melt our hearts and strengthen our courage? Or does it seem like it just doesn’t speak to me?
God makes no commands about how we study his word in the New Testament, though it is clearly his will that we gather with other believers to do so. People sometimes miss church and Bible study for valid reasons. But let’s remember that Jesus’ word is the one thing needed. You can’t say that of your job or house or activities or anything else. Our priorities as Christians start right here: with the words of our Savior, with this service that Jesus graciously offers to us. And if we won’t listen, then God will take the Gospel away from us and give it to others who will.
But one thing is needed, and Mary had chosen what is better, because the Gospel is where life begins. The message of the Gospel is the one thing that gets us to heaven. It is the only thing that can keep us close to our Savior. In his Gospel he promises us he has made us pure and holy in his blood poured out on the cross. He promises that he has made us his own brothers and sisters, and children of our heavenly Father. He welcomes us into his arms, where he makes us safe and secure and provides everything we need. He sets us free to live for him and live forever. Listen to these promises, know that they are true, and you will find that you have everything you need.
Consider how it worked for Mary. On this day, Mary listened. But there was another day on which she served. Remember the week before Jesus died? Jesus visited Bethany again that week. Mary took an expensive perfume worth more than a year’s wages and poured it all over Jesus to anoint him for his death and burial. Others complained about the waste, but out of all Jesus’ followers, only Mary really understood. She was the only one who understood why Jesus had come that week: to die, die to take away her sins and the sins of the world. Maybe if the others had listened, they would have understood, too. But only Mary got it.
Maybe if we listen, if we place ourselves at Jesus’ feet and listen to his word, we will get it, too. Then we will understand that this whole Christian faith is not so much about what we do. It’s about what he did and still does. His word is the one thing we need, and the only reason we serve.