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The Distracted Disciple

July 17, 2022 | The Distracted Disciple| Luke 10:38-42

John Cutler

Senior Pastor

Luke 10:38-42 (ESV)

38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Make no mistake, Martha and Mary are both disciples of Jesus, both, as we will see have things to commend them, but in this encounter we find a contrast between them, one has chosen the one thing necessary and one is distracted from that one thing by her attempts to serve Jesus well. Which is an interesting thing isn’t it?

I mean serving Jesus is the point. All throughout the scriptures it seems we are called to sacrificial service, to serve often and serve well, and yet here we find even our serving can get in the way of the one thing necessary, it can make us a distracted disciple.

As we dig into the text this morning, I want us to note the cause of distraction, the result of distraction, and finally the antidote to distraction.

The Cause of Distraction

What caused Martha to be distracted? The Bible says she was ‘Distracted by much serving’

What began as a commendable action by Martha quickly became a heart problem for her.

She welcomed Jesus into her house. Welcomed- literally to take one under your roof, to show hospitality

Unlike Zacchaeus, where Jesus invited himself, it seems that Martha, upon hearing Jesus was traveling through, issued an invitation for him and his disciples to come into her house and be her guests.

Hospitality- Paul puts it in the same list as some pretty vital things for the Christian. Romans 12:12-13 (ESV) Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

As indicative of a widow worthy of being enrolled in the church’s widow ministry 1 Timothy 5:9-10 (ESV) 9 Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, 10 and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work.

Peter and John both emphasize hospitality in their letters.

Martha modeled this before it was ever a thought in Paul’s mind. What she set out to do was noble and right. But somewhere between welcoming him into her house and serving the meal, Martha got distracted.

She became wrapped up in the what and forgot the who. The problem wasn’t that she showed hospitality, the problem wasn’t even that she wanted to serve Jesus, the problem was the got so wrapped up in serving Jesus the way she thought she should, with self-imposed complexity and extravagance, that she missed the most important thing about it, that Jesus (The Messiah) was sitting in her living room!

You can see how dangerous this can be and how widespread the application. This goes for any area of service, kid’s ministry, hospitality, teaching, evangelism, visitation. This is especially something that those of us who make their living proclaiming the gospel and caring for God’s people. It is easy to get so wrapped up in our service to and for the Lord that we get distracted from the Lord himself.

I know I have had seasons where this has been true in my life.

So what causes us to be distracted when we are serving?

I believe there is a small change that can happen in our service and it isn’t overtly noticeable in our service itself, it is something that happens in our hearts. It is where our focus switches from what Jesus is doing and how I can serve with him to how I can serve Jesus.

there is a small change...that happens in our hearts. It is where our focus switches from what Jesus is doing and how I can serve with him to how I can serve Jesus.

It’s so subtle that it can happen without us even being aware of it, at least that has been my experience, and it seems to be what happens with Martha.

If we are called to serve, and we are, and if, in serving, it is so very easy to get distracted from who we are serving, how do we know if we are distracted?

The Result of Distraction

Let’s pick up back in verse 39 and into 40 to see what Martha experienced.

39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving.

Distracted- literally: to be drawn around figuratively: to be overburdened to distraction

Southern: to run around like a chicken with it’s head cut off

Mary wanted to make sure everything was perfect. The rolls were hot when dinner was served, the sides were all ready at the same time, and the main course was perfectly cooked. That she not only fed Jesus, but that he was impressed with her attention to detail and level of skill, right?

I mean, admittedly, there is a lot that goes into feeding a party of 15 or more. Plus the house had to be straightened up, the guest towels and wash bins ready, pillows fluffed, and so on.

Luke describes all this work as having a negative effect on Martha. She was overburdened.

There are three results I want you to see that happens to Martha from this distraction.

Caused her to miss what God was doing-

In the context of Luke's account, Jesus had turned his attention to Jerusalem. Luke reminds us in the beginning of this account, one more time, that Jesus is traveling. Now, as they went on their way.

This is a pivotal time in Jesus’ earthly ministry, and what he is teaching is important for his disciples to hear. The word distracted carries the idea of being pulled away. She wanted to hear what Jesus was saying, she wanted to sit at his feet, but the demands of her itinerary were too much.

Robbed of joy in service-

Notice the fire in her address to Jesus. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”

This honored guest in her home, her Lord, the one show so joyfully welcomed into her home, the one the Bible says loved her and her family; she goes up to him, interrupts his teaching and asks one of the most accusatory questions one can ask. Don’t you care?

Can you not see what is going on or do you just not care? When this question gets asked, you know there has been turmoil happening under the surface for a while. Maybe she had banged the pots and pans around trying to get his attention, maybe she had huffed through the room a few times, getting more and more angry at her situation.

How dare Mary abandon her responsibility to help me? Just sitting there at his feet, wouldn’t that be nice? And what about Jesus, doesn’t he see her there, why doesn’t he excuse her to get back to where she belongs, doesn’t he see how hard I am working to serve him.

This reminds me of when Brittany says, don’t worry about it, I’ve got it. I know I’ve messed up! I’ve missed the context clues and failed to act when I should have and she wants me to know it!

Nevermind that this is Martha’s house, nevermind that she invited Jesus, nevermind that she wanted to do this because of her love for the master and joy of having him in her home, now all she feels is self-pity for herself. But self-pity gives way to anger and she lets them both have it with both barrels.

Anger at others-

She doesn’t just call attention to her plight, she tells Jesus what he should do. In her anger, she tries to take the place of the heavenly father and direct Jesus in what he should do.

She’s mad at Mary and she’s mad at Jesus for not doing something about it.

Once you shift your focus and get distracted by what you are doing over who you are doing it for, it’s not long before you begin to resent it and start blaming everyone around you for your situation. Why aren’t there more people serving in my ministry area? Why aren’t more people doing what I am doing? If they loved Jesus they would serve like me, and on and on it goes.

Notice how Jesus describes what is going on with Martha. 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things,

I love this moment. Jesus tenderly, Martha, Martha, addresses her. He doesn’t rebuke her for what she is doing, he doesn’t tell her to stop serving or Mary to start serving, he addresses her heart problem.

He says, you are anxious and troubled about many things.

Anxious- thoughts consumed

Troubled- disturbed

She wasn’t just busy, her anxiety was through the roof, she was consumed by her mounting to-do list and the one person she had counted on to help, wasn’t.

It wasn’t her actions but her attitude that Jesus addressed.

What may it look like in your life? That depends on what kind of person you are and what kind of service you are doing, but in general, a few questions will help you diagnose your own attitude.

Does where and how you are currently serving bring joy or anxiety? Does it bring you peace to serve or cause you anger that others aren’t serving your way? Has serving become a burden over a blessing? If you answered yes to any of those, you may be in the midst and turmoil of being a distracted disciple. And if you are not, I am fairly certain that it is in all likelihood that you will find yourself there one day. So what is the answer? How do we solve our distraction issue?

The Antidote to Distraction

After pointing out Martha’s heart problem, he says, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

What Jesus said- one thing is necessary, one thing is the greatest need.

What is the one thing? Jesus doesn’t explicitly say, rather he points to the picture of Mary. Mary, sitting at his feet, listening, learning, ready to obey what he says. I imagine in this moment, Jesus lifting Mary’s face, that is perhaps suddenly shameful at Martha’s rebuke, and affirming her. Mary has chosen the good portion.

(Reformed Expository Commentary (28 Vols.) - REC) Some scholars emphasize the context for these words. Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem and the cross. Time was short. So Martha did not need to make a fuss over his meals. Dinner could wait. What Martha really needed to do was to sit down and listen to some of the last important things that Jesus had to say.

Albert Mohler, in a sermon on this text says that Mary models urgent listening and obedient hearing as a disciple of Christ.

See, this was the good portion, or to juxtapose against the dinner Martha was preparing we might say, the best part of the meal. This was the thing that mattered above all else.

Serving Jesus dinner was good, opening her home to him was good, but the best part was to be with Jesus, to hear his words of life, to receive instruction from his words.

This is what Mary chose, and Jesus reminds Martha, this is the thing that will never be taken from her.

Long after Martha forgets what she made for dinner that night, long after she gets over Mary for not helping, even long after Jesus is taken from them, the words he spoke that Mary received would last.

The antidote of distraction is to remember the main thing. That what we receive from Jesus is far greater than what we can ever do for Jesus.

It is good to serve Jesus, but Jesus doesn’t need us. It is good to work hard and serve in the church. We need Martha’s who can organize and execute wonderfully complex things, but only in as far as it makes way for the main thing. That God’s word is proclaimed and Jesus is lifted up. Amen?

Long after Martha forgets what she made for dinner that night, long after she gets over Mary for not helping, even long after Jesus is taken from them, the words he spoke that Mary received would last.

How does this antidote change our life? How did it change things for Martha and Mary?

Luke’s gospel simply and immediately moves on leaving us to wonder.

Did Martha sit down?

Did she pair down the dinner plans so she could hurry to spend time at the feet of Jesus?

We don’t know, but what we do know, is that after this, we see both Martha and Mary in spectacular encounters with Jesus.

Martha is recorded as proclaiming one of the highest confessionary statements in the gospels, similar to Peter’s

John 11:17-27 (ESV) 17 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. 20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

Martha, the one consumed with serving Jesus in our story, now leaves a house full of mourners and guests, and immediately makes her way to Jesus. Where after, in only the way Martha can, blurts out if you had been here, he would not have died, confesses here faith and trust in who Christ is. What she learned from sitting at Jesus’ feet was not shaken by the death of her brother.

Then there is Mary, who is recorded as serving the Lord in one of the most beautiful and insightful ways.

Mary is recorded as serving the Lord in the highest way in response to his teachings.

John 12:1-8 (ESV) 1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. 3 Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. 7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. 8 For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”

By listening to Jesus, she understood what the disciples hadn’t fully grasped yet, Jesus was about to die, and she responded by seizing this moment, by this extravagant act of anointing him for his coming death with this gift. Estimates of the cost of this oil is upwards of 60,000 in today’s economy.

Sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to the master caused both of these women to grow in their understanding and service of him.

Allow me to close with this article from Pastor Todd from New Beginnings, where I served before coming here.

We were a church that found ourselves headed into 2021 in a state of crisis. From the perspective of how many churches are measured, we looked healthy. We were growing numerically, we were financially stable, and our ministries were busy and thriving. We looked alive, but we were on the brink of death! We were missionally distracted, spiritually dry, and relationally divided. We had lost our passion, were not seeing spiritual fruit, and were going through the motions of church. Unfortunately, it was difficult for us to recognize. In this season of darkness, God brought us to a place of brokenness and called us to pray. Our church cleared our Wednesday night schedule and we began to meet weekly for corporate prayer. It is difficult to describe what God has done in our church over the past 18 months. We have seen an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that cannot be explained by preaching or plans. The only explanation is that we called on the Lord and He heard our cry and is answering.

Todd Kaunitz- SBTC President writing for the Texan (publication of SBTC June 27, 2022)

I was there when this began, and I can tell you firsthand, ministry didn’t stop, there were a thousand things to do each week, but the most important thing, spending time at the feet of Jesus and his word took its rightful place as top priority. And it is transforming that church.

We are coming into the Fall season, and there is more to do than ever here at EBC. But we must ensure that we are constantly and consistently choosing the good portion above all else. We must learn from this example of Mary and Martha and keep the main thing the main thing.

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