It wasn’t just Jesus that came for dinner that night. It was Jesus + perhaps 12 or 72 or more. And they weren’t exactly expected. There were no cell phones, no text messages and nothing to give advance notice. Just a strong, very strong social value that when guests come, you meet their every need and more.
Of course everybody had servants but they were the number of servants necessary for a small farming operation and household. The number of disciples with Jesus was significantly larger. There was a lot of work to be done – kill the cow perhaps for dinner (was not a quick process), do the shopping, prepare the dishes and more. It was a lot of responsibility on very short notice.
And then there was that sister.
When the crowds came, she did not spring in to action to help. Everyone else was running around like haywire and working hard with all the preparations that had to be done. It was important not only socially as hospitality was a high value, but everyone needed to eat!
And there she sat. On the floor. Just talking.
Martha would have loved to be with Jesus just listening. But being the responsible one she plowed forward, fuming at her sister. To say the dishes clanked loudly would be an understatement. And when her anger reached its boiling point it spilled over onto Jesus. Did he not see her? Did he not value her hard work? Did he not care that she was frazzled because her sister was so irresponsible? How many times had she had to take up the slack. Mary was impossible. And she, Martha, so very exhausted. Anger has a breaking point. Martha broke.
“Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
A simple, “Mary, would you help your sister for a few minutes and we can talk after dinner” would have sufficed. A simple acknowledgement and appreciation for Martha’s hard work would have soothed some wounds. But no.
Jesus saw it differently.
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Worship. Few things are needed but only one is necessary.
Few things are needed in this day, today. But only one is necessary.
Only one is necessary!