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What's essential for a disciple

June 12, 2023

Daily Scripture

Luke 10:38-42

38 While Jesus and his disciples were traveling, Jesus entered a village where a woman named Martha welcomed him as a guest. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his message. 40 By contrast, Martha was preoccupied with getting everything ready for their meal. So Martha came to him and said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to prepare the table all by myself? Tell her to help me.”
41 The Lord answered, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things. 42 One thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the better part. It won’t be taken away from her.”

Daily Reflection & Prayer

In New Testament times, to “sit at someone’s feet” meant learning from that person. (In Acts 22:3, the literal Greek phrase the apostle Paul used to describe his education was “at the feet of Gamaliel”.) In this story, “Martha did what the culture valued in women: cleaned the house and cooked the food. Mary did what the culture valued in men: became a disciple.” * Jesus put no gender, educational, or status limits on who he wished to teach. He wanted all his followers to grow spiritually by study.

  • Jesus (here and elsewhere) challenged gender role stereotypes. One sister was “preoccupied with getting everything ready for their meal,” the other one “sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his message.” Which one sounds more like the way you live your life? Jesus said, “Mary has chosen the better part.” Are there ways in which you are choosing, day by day, to “sit at the Lord’s feet” and learn more by studying his message?
  • Jesus did not downgrade the value of Martha’s role as hostess. He simply pointed out that it, like the men’s work as fishermen, should not be life’s highest priority. He said, “One thing is necessary” (or, as The Message ** rendered it, “One thing only is essential”). What would making Christ the only truly essential thing in your life look like? How would it affect your priorities, time use, leisure activities and other choices? How might it offer you greater freedom in your life?

Lord Jesus, I have lots of things I have to do. It’s hard to stop all my doing to “sit at your feet.” Help me recognize how important that is to my growth as your follower, and act on it. Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Valerie Nagel

Valerie Nagel

Valerie Nagel was born, raised, and attended college in California. Her Master of Divinity degree is from Duke Divinity School. She was ordained in the Rio Texas Conference where she served as an associate pastor in the Austin area and San Antonio. From congregational care and welcoming guests to leading in worship, Valerie loves the ministry of the local church. She feels blessed to have served as a pastor since 2011. She juggles ministry with being a mom to Caleb (born 2012) and Jacob (born 2015), friend, avid reader, lover of the outdoors, beginner to the world of CrossFit, and foodie.

This is one of the stories from the Bible that when I read it, I take several deep breaths. As a woman who has been a part of the church since I was born, heard many sermons on this passage, and listened to people criticize Martha, I immediately feel defensive. When I feel my anger, fears, hurts, and any other feeling getting big inside of me as I read or hear a Scripture passage read, I pause and ask God to meet me in the middle of what I’m thinking and feeling. While studying Scripture with others has included unhelpful teachings about this and other passages, it has also been when I’ve studied Scripture in community and heard sermons that I’ve found healing, hope, and God’s invitation into deeper discipleship.

One of the sermons I heard that helped heal some of my defensiveness was when a pastor pointed out that Jesus says Martha’s name twice: “Martha, Martha.” Rather than hearing sharp criticism, the preacher heard Jesus’s love for Martha. Several Biblical characters hear God calling their name twice. Out of the burning bush, Moses heard God’s voice saying, “Moses, Moses.” Jesus loved Martha. When she was busy and feeling alone the answer to her question, “Don’t you care,” is yes, Jesus does care. He invited her into a deeper relationship with him, laying aside the busyness that was getting in the way of their friendship.

The word that stands out for me from this passage is “distracted.” Whatever we are doing–reading Scripture, filling up a bag with food for a hungry neighbor, praying, singing a song in worship on Sunday morning–if we are preoccupied with other things then we’re missing the deep connection with God that is possible. When we turn our hearts, minds, and bodies towards God whatever we do can be an act of love. Sometimes we’ll sit quietly with God. Sometimes we’ll share a boisterous laugh with our small group. Whatever it is that I am doing, sometimes I need to slow down and ask myself, “Why am I doing this?” and “Am I focused on God?”

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* John Ortberg, Who Is This Man? The Unpredictable Impact of the Inescapable Jesus. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012, pp. 54.
** Peterson, Eugene H., The Message Numbered Edition Hardback. Navpress. Kindle Edition.