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基督徒世界观 译介圣经神学

 
 
 

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不可少的只有一件(路10:38-42)  

2010-12-10 00:50:00|  分类: 释经讲道 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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【释经讲道】

不可少的只有一件


作者: C. Bouwman牧师╱诚之译
加拿大BC省,雅柔加拿大改革宗教会
(Yarrow Canadian Reformed Church, Yarrow, BC)
yarrow.canrc.org
原文地址: http://www.theseed.info/sermon.php?id=594
诚之按:这是一个很好的救赎历史(以基督为中心)的释经讲道示范。

经文:路加福音10:38-42

现代人的生活充满紧张忙碌,我们都在工作、学校、家庭、教会、查经班之间,忙得不可开交、晕头转向。忙碌本身就够让我们感到焦虑灰心的了,因为老是有做不完的事……

然后我们读到今天这段经文,结论是我们需要花更多时间研读圣经,因为凡是基督徒都知道,没有比聆听基督的话更重要的了。但是即使我们头脑同意,我们心里还是会有许多挣扎,毕竟那些比读圣经较为不重要的事,还是需要去完成。问题是,这些手头该做的事都已经做不完了,神还要求我们花更多时间去读圣经,不是强人所难吗?在事奉和读经之间,到底该如何取舍平衡呢?这问题不仅让我们感到焦虑、压力,还在我们心头上加上了罪咎感。唉!基督徒真是难当啊!

路加福音是为提阿非罗写的,按他的地位,应该也是个大忙人,有处理不完的事。当他读到这段马大和马利亚的故事,和耶稣所说的话,他也会和我们得出同样的结论:不可少的只有一件,就是马利亚所选择的:听道比服事更好。但是,我们会纳闷,到底这个信息如何能帮助提阿非罗——或者,如何能帮助我们呢?

这就是我们今天的主题:不可少的只有一件——定睛注目神

我们会把讲道分成三点:
1. 耶稣所说的谜语
2. 耶稣回答的时机
3. 耶稣教导的功课

一、耶稣所说的谜语

让我们想像一下摆在我们面前的场景:马大气冲冲地,两手叉着腰,走到耶稣面前,说出她心中的沮丧:“主啊,我的妹子留下我一个人伺候,你不在意吗?请吩咐她来帮助我!”

说真格的,我们会觉得,她的要求挺合理。耶稣带着祂的门徒,大概是在午后,出现在马大家门口,马大拿出传统犹太人的待客之道,热情地接待他们。在短暂的寒暄之后,客人舒服地坐在客厅,她就退到厨房,准备招待客人的东西。这也许只是简单的茶点,或者包括晚餐的食物,大概也要准备客人的卧铺,甚至明天的早餐,还有为她的客人预备明天旅行时携带的饭盒。这一切的一切,都够她忙的了。敷衍了事是不可能的,因为即使是对待不速之客,基督徒也應該尽力服事,殷勤款待。因此,我们知道,马大在厨房中,要备齐一切的东西,一定是忙得头昏脑胀。

碰巧,马大有个姐妹,叫马利亚,她应该是和马大住在一起(约11章)。按照正常的情形,马利亚应该要到厨房帮她的姐姐。但是马利亚并没有这样做,反而和客人一起坐在客厅,听他们谈话。马大终于耐不住脾气,冲到客厅。要是我们,大概也会这样抱怨:“主啊,我的妹子留下我一个人伺候,不在意吗?请吩咐她来帮助我!”

弟兄姐妹们,耶稣这时该如何回答呢?怎样回答才合适呢?让我们停下来,好好思想一下。如果马大在厨房裡,对马利亚没有来帮忙她感到非常沮丧,为什么马大不悄悄地走到客厅,给马利亚一个讯号,要她来帮忙呢?或者,为什么不小点声喊她一下?为什么不直接对马利亚说话,而是大剌剌地走到耶稣面前(40节),打断耶稣的谈话,要耶稣告诉她的妹子该怎么做(不要忘了,耶稣只是客人啊!)?这不是故意让马利亚难堪吗?这不是说明马大已经失去控制了吗?还有,马大为什么要怪罪耶稣?因为她的问题是:“我的妹子留下我一个人伺候,‘你’不在意吗?”难道吩咐主人的妹妹作家事,是客人的责任?我们越思考这件事,我们就越会看到,马大这回真的是出格了,也让马利亚和耶稣感到难堪。我们再一次问这个问题:耶稣该如何回答?怎样回答才合适呢?

我们看耶稣怎么回答。耶稣温柔地叫了她名字两次:“马大,马大,”然后接着说,“妳为许多的事思虑忧烦;但是不可少的只有一件。[/b]”最后,耶稣说:“马利亚已经选择那上好的福分,是不能夺去的。”我们会下这样的结论:耶稣是说,坐在耶稣脚前听祂的道,要比在厨房忙活,招待客人要来得重要。真的是这样吗?下次如果有人到你们家做客吃晚饭,当一回马利亚试试看,看会发生什么事……

如果这不是耶稣的意思,那么,怎么解释这个谜语呢?这就带我们来到第二点:

二、耶稣回答的时机

耶稣在客厅教导什么?马大在沮丧中所提出的问题(“主啊,你不在意吗?”)所打断的谈话内容是什么呢?
注意,耶稣这时正要从北方的加利利,到南方的耶路撒冷。不过,耶路撒冷还不是祂最后的目的地,升到天上才是(见路9:51,31)。而且,祂在耶路撒冷的时候,会受许多的苦,被人弃绝,然后被杀,第三日要复活(9:22)。这是神为耶稣所作的计划;祂要打破蛇的头,在这个过程中,祂的脚跟也要受伤。即便如此,祂必得胜,因此,祂要升天、坐在父神宝座的右边是确定的;耶路撒冷之后,神要赐给祂万王之王的冠冕。

既然这是神赐给祂儿子的计划,圣子就着手——在前往耶路撒冷的路上——宣告正要发生的事。第10章就是从这里开始的。“主”——意思是祂是主人——在12个使徒以外,“设立(指派)了72个人”(有些抄本作“70个人”),并“差遣他们两个两个地在祂前面,往自己所要到的各城各地方去。”(第1节)当他们旅行时,这72个人要吃喝接待他们的家庭所供给的(第7节)。此外,他们“要医治那城里的病人,对他们说,‘神的国临近你们了。’”(第9节)谁是这个国度的王呢?就是在神的国度作王的,当然,就是主耶稣基督自己——祂正在往耶路撒冷、往十字架的路上,然后,祂要到天上,坐在父神右边的宝座上。

72个门徒立即嚐到神国权能的滋味,而且充满了极大的喜乐。10章17节说,那七十个人欢欢喜喜地回来,向耶稣报告说:“因你的名,就是鬼也服了我们。”这多令人兴奋啊!在这个邪恶的世界中,有着这么多落入罪中的苦毒的果子,这真是个荣耀的好消息!真是令人鼓舞!

但是,弟兄姐妹,耶稣比这72个人更有现实感。因为祂告诉他们,“我曾看见撒但从天上坠落,像闪电一样。”(19节)为什么撒但像闪电一样从天上来到地上?这是因为撒但的国度正遭到攻击,而撒但不会坐视不管!因此,牠来到地上,加入这场战争。而这场战争会很激烈,激烈到一个地步,门徒要为他们的名记录在天上而欢喜(20节);撒但无法从父神的手中把他们夺走。

弟兄姐妹,为什么这份资料很重要?因为这段关于马大和马利亚的故事发生在“当他们走路的时候”——要到哪里?耶路撒冷。它发生在撒但已经来到地上,要指挥这场战役的时候。还有,马大和马利亚知道耶稣正要前往耶路撒冷,也知道神的国快要降临了。我这样说是因为10章1节记载着,耶稣差遣72个门徒“两个两个地在祂面前,往自己要所要到的各城个地方去”——这当然也包括马大居住的村子。出现在马大家门口的人,对马大和马利亚来说,并不算是陌生人,至少耶稣所差遣的那72人中的两个人,曾介绍过祂。马大和马利亚知道她们的客人宣称,祂要来正式展开神的国。这就是为什么马大称呼耶稣为“主”,而马利亚被描述为坐在“主”的脚前的缘故。

那么,这就会让我们了解,马利亚为什么会那么迫切地想听耶稣所讲的道了。如果那72个人要到各城各乡去医治病人,宣告神的国临近了,耶稣当然不会是在谈论马大的家有多漂亮。耶稣自己必然是在回答一些关于72个门徒所宣讲的主题的问题——也利用这个机会阐述神国来临真正的意义。这正是当马大走到客厅,要求耶稣吩咐马利亚帮忙她做事时,耶稣正在谈论的话题。

我们因此明白:时机决定了耶稣回答的口吻。祂是以主、以王的身份来回答的!祂正朝向祂的寶座,半途停留在这个村庄;祂正朝向祂的宝座,沿路上,祂很清楚祂的敌人魔鬼带着狡猾的怒气要攻击祂;祂正朝向祂的宝座,而时间非常紧迫——敌人不会片刻松手;祂正朝向祂的宝座,难道祂会被一桩家庭琐事困住吗?难道祂必须站在两姐妹之间,帮助她们理出一个似乎是她们自己理不出来的头绪吗?在历史的这个时刻,难道祂必须告诉她们什么才是最重要的?但是,耶稣在往耶路撒冷、往天上去的路上,当“神的国近了”的时候,以及当撒但已经像闪电一样从天上坠落的时候,最重要的事,很显然不是让今天的晚餐看起来很丰盛吧!

你明白了吗,这就是耶稣为什么要责备马大的原因。马大承认耶稣是王、是主,这是为什么她来到耶稣跟前,请求祂告诉马利亚,在神国中的好习惯是什么样子——帮助服侍,动手去做。但是耶稣让她看到自己的问题。“马大,马大,”耶稣说,“妳为许多的事思虑烦扰。”或者,更好的表达是:妳为许多事思虑烦扰,包括茶点,晚餐,安排床位,早餐等等。但是马大,在目前的处境中——你已经知道这是什么处境——“不可少的只有一件。”这件事是什么呢?就是把自己的眼光调整到当前的实况,也就是认识到聆听耶稣的教导,要比煮一顿大餐来得重要得多。当然,这正是马利亚在做的——听耶稣讲道,这就是为什么耶稣在结尾的时候会说马利亚“已经选择那上好的福分,是不能夺去的”。

我们来到最后一点:

三、耶稣教导的功课

我们今天不是生活中耶稣从加利利旅行到耶路撒冷的时代。事实上,耶稣早已完成了祂的旅程,包括祂在耶路撒冷受难,死在十字架上,从死裡复活,升到天上,坐在天父世界的宝座上。今天祂牢牢地掌握着祂的国度,以至于整个世界都是祂的国度。在路加福音第10章中,从天上坠落,来指挥祂在地上战役的撒但,早已被击溃,而且,正如启示录20章所说的,要被“捆绑一千年”,这段期间代表整个新约的时代,包括今天。因此,我们不是活在路加第10章的急迫感之中……这会让我们得出一个结论,就是事情又回到正常了,我们回到厨房、专心招待我们的客人,是正当的……

不过,弟兄姐妹,这个结论无法合理解释耶稣的回答。我们这个时代的急迫感,的确和路加福音第10章中,马大那个时代的急迫感不同。但是这并不是说我们的时代就没有迫切感了。撒但也许遭到了捆绑,但是在我们的世界中,牠还在发挥影响力,是非常危险的。启示录描绘撒但会遭到捆绑,但同样也说到牠是忿怒的,要对神的子民发动战争(启示录12章)。此外,基督的确接掌了世界的王权,但是在这个世界中,还有许多人会继续拒绝承认基督是王。既然他们不承认基督是王,他们就只会为今生的喜乐和满足而活——而这点会反过来对神的子民施加压力,要他们做同样的事。因为从魔鬼、世界和我们的肉体而来的诱惑,有许多会分散我们的注意力,使我们偏离那不可少的一件,会使我们的眼目偏离这个时代的迫切需要。

这就是为什么留意到使徒保罗如何在哥林多前书第七章,应用耶稣在路加第10章的回答所给出的教训,是很重要的。保罗提到这个问题,就是父亲应不应该要他的女儿们出嫁(25节以下)。保罗不知道耶稣基督在这个议题上说过什么话,所以他必须依靠主在其他方面的启示。然后他说道(26节):“因现今的艰难,据我来看,人不如守素安常才好。”换句话说,如果已经结婚了,就保持结婚的状态;如果还没有结婚,就保持单身。

“因现今的艰难”是指什么呢?保罗在29节展开说:“弟兄们,我对你们说,时候减少了。”(新译本:弟兄们,我是说时候不多了)。因此,有妻子的要像没有妻子的,哀哭的要像不哀哭的,快乐的要像不快乐的,买了东西的要像一无所得的,享用世上百物的要像没有享用的一样。为什么呢?“因为这世上的情况都要过去。”他想说的是什么呢?这个世界不会永远长存。事实上,世界随时都会结束。因此,要弄对你的优先顺序。婚姻不是所有的一切;事实上,在新耶路撒冷,不会有任何的婚姻;为你的客人准备晚餐不是所有的一切;事实上,当主回来的时候,那顿晚餐会要被烧掉。保罗用35节的话作出总结:“我说这话是为你们的益处,不是要牢笼你们,乃是要叫你们行合宜的事,得以殷勤服事主,没有分心的事。”

殷勤服事主,没有分心的事”(新译本:一心一意地对主忠诚):这就是马利亚坐在耶稣的脚前所展现的——耶稣当时正从加利利走向十字架,到祂的宝座上!殷勤服事主,没有分心的事:我们万万不可分散注意力,在招待客人的需要上,也没有必要焦虑烦扰。而马大却“为许多的事思虑烦扰”。她没有做到“殷勤服事主,没有分心的事”,这必须要在主的世界中反映出来的。

如此,这就是我们从耶稣给马大的回答中所学到的教训。不可少的一件就是“殷勤服事主,没有分心的事”。而这种专注是对焦在主完成救恩的过程中所发生的事。哥林多的基督徒不是生活在耶稣上十字架之前的日子,因此并未分享属于路加10章的那种紧张和挂虑——当撒但从天上下来,向拿撒勒人耶稣宣称,祂会用尽任何手段来分散人的注意力,让人忽视耶稣关于神的国就要到来的话。哥林多的基督徒活在基督要驾着云回来之前的时代,到那时,祂要完全摧毁罪恶和撒但,这会带来它自己的急迫感,它自己的优先顺序,而保罗说,确保你的女儿能出嫁,虽然是很重要的事,但是,这还不是最重要的。最重要的永远是主自己,而在这个优先顺序下,其余的每件事都有自己的位置。无疑地,烹煮咖啡,预备晚餐,做个好主人有它们的位置,但是它们本身不是目的;这些美好的活动,只有在一心一意地对主忠诚的前提下,才有他们次一级的地位。

那么,这段经文给我们的教训是什么呢?比起保当时哥林多教会的弟兄姐妹们,我们比他们更强烈地活在主再来的影子下,换句话说,今天的时间比当时更短了(主来的日子更近了)!这应该会在今天制造出一些急迫感、挂虑和张力。基督随时会回来,撒但认识这点。所以牠会尽力分散我们的注意力,把社会对人的期望加在我们身上,让我们心中充满焦虑和操心,让我们以为我们必须和邻居攀比。在这个过程中,那些因为基督随时就要到来所必须完成的事,就被搁置一旁——我所想到的包括:确保我们的孩子们已经预备好见主面,让神的救赎之道藉著我们有力地进入世界,等等。

耶稣说,“不可少的只有一件”,那就是“殷勤服事主,没有分心的事”,专注在祂的计划上。意识到耶稣基督今天正在做的事,会决定基督徒今天该做什么,也会让基督徒决定,到底什么才是最重要的。这种对焦不应该让我们感到难堪,而是敬虔的神的儿女所拥有的上好福分,是不能夺去的。


[英文原稿]
Beloved Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ!

Life, we find, is busy. There’s always so much to do, be it in the home, at school, in the communion of saints, in attending meetings, in Bible study, in daily work, and the list goes on. The busyness brings its own level of anxiety and frustration as we find we just can’t get it all done….
Then we read the portion of Scripture about Martha and Mary, and we conclude that maybe we need to spend more time with Bible study because that, after all, is so very important. But even as we come to that conclusion, something inside us reminds us that that just isn’t going to work because things still have to get done – and those things-not-as-important-as-Bible-study are still so important and pressing after all…. So we find ourselves caught between a rock and a hard place; what ought we to do and what ought we to leave in the busyness of life?! The question brings its own anxiety and stress…, and feelings of guilt.
Luke wrote a gospel for the benefit of a certain Theophilus, a man as we are, busy also with the cares of life. He read the account of Martha and Mary, and Jesus’ words in that context, and was to conclude that – one thing was needful, and it’s what Mary had chosen over Martha, listening over hosting. But how, we wonder, could that message help Theophilus – or us?
I summarise the sermon with this theme:
ONE THING IS NEEDFUL: TUNED IN TO WHERE GOD IS AT.
1. The Riddle of Jesus’ Answer
2. The Timing of Jesus’ Answer
3. The Lesson of Jesus’ Answer
1. The Riddle of Jesus’ Answer
We can, brothers and sisters, imagine the scene before our eyes. Martha, all in a flap, stands with her hands on her hips in front of Jesus and vents her frustrations: “don’t You care that my sister has left me to do the work myself? Tell her to come and help me in the kitchen!”
To be honest, we find her demand quite reasonable. Jesus with an unknown number of His disciples had fronted up at her door one afternoon, and Martha had graciously welcomed the group into her home. After the initial chatter that came with welcoming guests and making sure they were comfortably seated in the living room, Martha had retreated into the kitchen to provide the things a good hostess is expected to provide. Depending on the hour of the day in which Jesus arrived, that could include Israel’s equivalent to a cup of coffee or tea, preparations for supper, organizing bedding for the guests, thinking ahead about tomorrow’s breakfast, and perhaps considering whether to offer her guests a lunch basket for tomorrow’s travels. All in all, there’s a lot on Martha’s plate. And cutting corners just won’t do; even for unannounced company our sisters know that Christian hospitality would have us do our best. We much understand, then, that Martha would work up a sweat in the kitchen trying to get it all together.
It turns out that Martha has a sister, Mary. It seems to us reasonable and right that Mary would offer to give some help in the kitchen. That, too, we understand, is simply the right thing to do; you’re not sisters for nothing – especially if you live together, as seems to be the case here (see John 11). But Mary didn’t volunteer to help sister Martha with getting tea together or supper or bedding; Mary sat in the living room with the men, listening to the conversation. Somehow we can quite well understand that this turn of events got under Martha’s skin and irritated her to no end. We might just say the same: “Lord, don’t You care that my sister left me alone [in the kitchen] to serve? Tell her to get up and help me.”
How, brothers and sisters, ought Jesus to reply? What’s a fitting answer?? Stop for a moment, and think this one through. If Martha in the kitchen was so frustrated with Mary’s failure to help her, why did Martha not slip quietly to the door of the living room to get Mary’s attention and signal to her to come help? Or, failing that, why did she not quietly call out Mary’s name? Why avoid talking to Mary, come physically into the living room in front of Jesus (vs 40), interject Jesus’ conversation, and ask Him (guest though He was!) to tell her sister what to do?! Isn’t this most embarrassing for Mary?? Doesn’t it show us a Martha who’s out of control? On top of that, why does Martha confront Jesus with wrong-doing? For she ask Him, “don’t You care that my sister has left me to do the work myself?” Is making sure the hostess’ sister does her domestic duties actually the guest’s responsibility?? The more we think about it, the more it seems to us that Martha is making a total fool of herself, and making things very awkward for Mary and for Jesus in the process. Hence the question again: how ought Jesus to respond? What’s a fitting answer??
Jesus’ reply? With tenderness He speaks her name twice: “Martha, Martha,” and then continues: “You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.” He adds: “Mary has chosen the good portion” – and we conclude: Jesus says that sitting in the living room listening to Jesus is more important than slaving in the kitchen to look after your guests. But that just doesn’t sound real to us; try it next time you have company for supper and see how it goes….
How, then, shall we solve this riddle? That brings us to our second point:
2. The Timing of Jesus’ Answer
What was Jesus talking about in the living room? That is: into what conversation did Martha interject with her frustrated question, “Lord, don’t you care…?”
I remind you that Jesus is en route from Galilee in northern Israel to Jerusalem in the south. Yet Jerusalem is not His final destination, but His ascension into heaven is (see Luke 9:51, 31). Meanwhile, His time in Jerusalem will be characterized by suffering and rejection, then He’ll be killed and on the third day arise (9:22). This is Jesus’ God-given program; He is to crush the head of the serpent, but in the process His own heel will be bruised. Even so, He’ll be victorious and so His ascension to the throne at God’s right hand is certain; after Jerusalem He’ll be crowned King of kings.
Since that’s the program God has given to His Son, the Son set about –on His way to Jerusalem– to announce what was happening. That’s how chap 10 begins. The Lord –and the term means He’s the Master– “appointed 72 others” beside His 12 disciples “and sent them two by two ahead of Him to every town and place where He was about to go” (vs 1). As they travelled, these 72 were (says vs 7) to eat and drink what was given to them. More, they were to “heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you’” (vs 9). Who the King of that kingdom was? The King in the kingdom of God was, of course, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself – now on His way to Jerusalem, to the cross, and then to heaven to the throne at God’s right hand.
To their great delight, the 72 tasted the power of this kingdom of God right away. Look at vs 17: they returned with joy, reporting that “even the demons submit to us in Your name.” Exciting!! In a world of evil, with so many bitter fruits of the fall into sin, this was obviously glorious news! This was encouraging!
But Jesus, brothers and sisters, is more tuned in to reality than these 72. For He tells them, vs 18: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” Why did Satan streak from heaven to earth? That’s because his kingdom on earth is under attack, and Satan won’t take that lightly! So he’s come to earth to engage the battle. And the battle will be intense, so intense that there’s comfort for the disciples in the fact that their names are written in heaven (vs 20); Satan shall not be able to pluck them from the Father’ hand.
Why this material is important? It’s important, congregation, because the anecdote concerning Martha and Mary happened –says vs 38– while Jesus and His disciples “were on their way” – where to?– to Jerusalem. It happened while Satan had come down to earth to direct his battle. More, Martha and Mary knew that Jesus was en route to Jerusalem, and knew about the coming of the kingdom of God. I say that because Luke recorded in 10:1 that the 72 were sent “to every town and place where [Jesus] was about to go” – and by definition that includes Martha’s village. The man who appeared at Martha’s door was not a stranger to Martha and her sister Mary but at a minimum had already been introduced by a pair of the 72 Jesus had sent out earlier. Martha and Mary knew that their guest claimed to inaugurate the kingdom of God. That is why Martha addresses Him as ‘Lord’ and why Mary is described as sitting at the ‘Lord’s’ feet.
That makes clear, then, too, what Jesus was talking about, what Mary wanted so badly to hear. If the 72 had to go to the towns to heal the sick and declare that the Kingdom of God was coming, Jesus was surely not talking about how pretty Martha’s marigolds were. Count on it that Jesus Himself had to answer questions on precisely the subject the 72 had been sent to proclaim – and will have used the opportunity to expand on what the coming of this kingdom meant. And it’s while Jesus is talking about these things that Martha steps into the room with her demand to have Jesus tell Mary to get to work.
We realize: that timing determines the flavour of Jesus’ reply. He speaks here as Lord, as King! He’s on His way to the throne, and while on His way spending the night in this village. He’s on His way to the throne, and while on His way very aware that His enemy the devil has come down to Him in cunning rage. He’s on His way to the throne, and time is pressing – the enemy will not allow it to be otherwise! He’s on His way to the throne, and shall He now get caught in a domestic dispute? Must He stand between the sisters and sort out what they don’t seem to be able to sort out between the two of them? Must He, given where things are now at in this moment of history, actually show them what’s important?! But what’s important when Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem, on His way to heaven, what’s important when “the kingdom of God is near” and when Satan has come like a bolt of lightning out of heaven is obviously not how elaborate tonight’s dinner is going to be!!
You see, that’s why Jesus reprimands Martha as He does. Martha acknowledges Jesus as King, as Lord, and that’s why she comes to Him with the request that He please tell Mary what good kingdom manners are – help with the serving, get to work. But Jesus puts her in her place. “Martha, Martha,” He says, “you are worried and upset about many things.” Better: you’re anxious and stressed about many things, be it coffee, supper, sleeping arrangements, breakfast, and so on. But Martha, in the current circumstances –and you know what they are– “only one thing is needed.” What that one thing is? It’s being tuned in to the present realities, and as consequence recognizing that listening to Jesus’ instruction is more important then cooking up a roast. The listening to Jesus is, of course, what Mary was doing, and that’s why Jesus can say in the closing words of this story that what Mary chose to do “will not be taken away from her.”
We come to the last point:
3. The Lesson of Jesus’ Answer.
We don’t live in the days of Jesus’ travel from Galilee to Jerusalem. In fact, Jesus has long ago completed His travels, including His suffering in Jerusalem, His death on the cross, His resurrection from the dead, and His ascension into heaven to the throne over God’s world. He’s today firmly in control of His kingdom, so much so that the entire world is His kingdom. The Satan who fell like lightning from heaven in Luke 10 to direct his battle on earth has long ago been defeated, and –says the Lord in Revelation 20– has even been “bound … for a thousand years” – and that period represents the entirety of the New Testament dispensation, including today. We, then, don’t live in the urgency of Luke 10…. And that would lead us to conclude that things are back to normal, that it’s OK for us to get back into the kitchen and focus on entertaining our guests well….
Yet that, brothers and sisters, would not do justice to Jesus’ answer. The urgency of our moment is indeed different than the urgency of Martha’s moment in Luke 10. But that doesn’t mean that our moment has no urgency. Satan may be bound, but he’s not without clout and danger in our world! The same book of Revelation that describes Satan as bound describes him as furious, and gone off to make war against the people of God (Revelation 12). More, it’s true that Christ has received the throne of the world, but in this world there remain so many people who refuse to acknowledge Him as king. Since they don’t acknowledge Christ as King, they live for this life with its pleasures and fulfilment – and that puts its own pressure on the people of God in turn to do the same. Because of temptation from the devil, the world and our flesh, there’s so much that can readily distract us from the one thing that’s needful, that can pull our eye away from the urgency of today’s moment.
That’s why it’s important to notice how the apostle Paul worked in 1 Corinthians 7 with the lesson of Jesus’ answer in Luke 10. Paul has to address the question whether fathers should let their daughters get married (vss 25ff). Paul knows of no specific word from the Lord Jesus Christ on the topic, and so has to work with other aspects of the Lord’s revelation. Then he says, vs 26: “because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for you to remain as you are” – if married, stay married; if unmarried, stay unmarried.
“Because of the present crisis”: what’s that a reference to? Paul expands in vs 29: “what I mean, brothers, is that the time is short.” So: those who have wives should lives as though they don’t, those who mourn as though they don’t, those who are happy as though they’re not, those with property as though it’s not theirs to keep, those who use the things of this world as though not caught up in them. Why? “For this world in its present form is passing away.” His point? This world won’t last. In fact, the end can be at any moment. So, get your priorities right! Marriage isn’t everything; in fact, there won’t be any marriage in the New Jerusalem. Roast dinner for your guests isn’t everything; in fact, when the Lord returns that roast will burn. Paul sums it up with the words of vs 35: “I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.”
Undivided devotion: that is what Mary displayed as she sat at the feet of the Teacher as He traveled from Galilee to the cross and to His throne! Undivided devotion: that allows for no distraction, no anxiety and stress about the demands of hospitality. Martha, meanwhile, “was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.” Hers was not an “undivided devotion to the Lord” that reflected where things were at in the Lord’s world.
Here, then, is the lesson of Jesus’ answer to Martha. The one thing that is needed is “undivided devotion” to the Lord – and such undivided devotion is tuned in to where things are actually at in the Lord’s progress towards in working salvation. The Christians of Corinth were not living in the days before Jesus went to the cross and so did not share the tension and the suspense that belongs in Luke 10 – when Satan has come down to champion his claim against Jesus of Nazareth and will use anything to distract attention away from Jesus’ words about the coming of the kingdom. The Christians of Corinth lived in the days before Christ’s return on the clouds of heaven to destroy sin and Satan completely, and that brought its own urgency, its own priorities – and, says Paul, ensuring that your daughters get married off, important as that may be, is not one of those priorities. Priority is always the Lord Himself, and everything else has its place under that priority. Organizing coffee, preparing supper, being a good hostess has its place, undoubtedly, but not as ends in themselves; such good activities have their place only as subsets to an undivided devotion to the Lord.
What, then, is the lesson for us? We live in the shadow of Christ’s second return even more strongly than did the brothers and sisters of Corinth when Paul wrote them his letter. In other words, the time is today shorter than it was then! But that puts urgency and suspense and tension into the air today. Christ comes again at any moment, and Satan knows that well. So he does his best to distract, to get us caught up with the stresses and strains our social expectations impose upon us, to have us think we need to keep up with the Jones’. In the process the things that have to be done on grounds that Christ is coming any moment get pushed to the back-burner, and then I’m thinking of things like ensuring that the children are ready to meet the Lord, that the Word of redemption goes out powerfully through us into this world, and so on.
“One thing is needed,” says Jesus, and that’s “undivided devotion to the Lord”, to where things are at in His program. Being conscious of what Jesus Christ is doing today determines what the Christian will do, determines what is important for the Christian. That focus will never cause embarrassment, but will be a treasure never taken from the devoted child of God.
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