One Thing Is Necessary (Luke 10:38-42)

Scripture Text: Luke 10:38-42

One Thing Is Necessary (MP3)

One Thing Is Necessary (Sermon Text)


In the middle of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount found in the Gospel According to Matthew, Jesus made two main statements. He told His disciples to not focus on the things we care so much from this earth (e.g. wealth and possessions), but to focus on laying up treasures in heaven. We should focus on things that bring eternal rewards, things that you can take with you when you die. The other thing Jesus said to His disciples was for them to not worry about the things of this world, but rather to seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness first. That does not mean we should not plan or work, but it does set our priorities. We need to be first and foremost focused on the things of God, on His will. Remember the Lord’s Prayer (really the Disciple’s Prayer): Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10). Today, I would like for us to consider another thing Jesus said and answer the question: what is necessary? What is it that we must do? I am certain that we each have some answers to that question. We each have things in our lives that we feel we must do. Go to work. Pay off the mortgage. Plan for retirement. Take care of our health. But, what is absolutely necessary for us to do? Similarly, what is absolutely necessary for the church as a whole to do?

Martha and Mary

Today’s passage finds us in a village where Jesus was visiting two women, named Martha and Mary. Most likely, these are the same Martha and Mary whose brother Lazarus Jesus raised from the dead. If this is true, then the village Jesus was visiting was Bethany, about two miles east of Jerusalem. As would often happen when Jesus went anywhere, He had something to say to the people. Look at the following verses.

Luke 10:38–39 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.

Perhaps Jesus entered the village to teach. Perhaps He was just visiting His friends and used the time to teach them while He was there. Either way, Jesus was at Martha’s house, and her sister, Mary, was sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him teach. Literally, she was listening to God the Word speak the Word of God. Her posture was that of a committed disciple who wanted to learn from the Master. If this is Lazarus’ sister, Mary is also one of the women who anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive ointment and wiped his feet with her hair. If that was her, she was at the feet of Jesus then. She was at the feet of Jesus now, a disciple’s proper place. There was someone else who was found at the feet of Jesus. Look at the following verse.

Luke 8:35 Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid.

After Jesus saved the man from his demons, he man went to the only place that he needed to be – at the feet of Jesus. That is where Mary was. But, that was not where Martha was. She was hard at work serving those who were there, and Martha had something to say to Jesus. She had a complaint for the Lord.

Do Not Be Distracted with The Unnecessary

Do you feel as though you are doing too much? Martha was a servant, which is good.  Martha also seemed to take her responsibility to serve others very seriously. She was worried and upset about all the household chores that needed to be done that she became irritated with her sister Mary, who was not helping her with those chores. Look at the following verses.

Luke 10:40 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.”

Maybe Martha also wanted to hear Jesus, but the tyranny of the urgent prevented her from doing this. Have you ever had something that just had to be done right then, and it caused you to miss some other opportunity? Maybe Martha’s preparations or serving were unnecessarily elaborate. Maybe she put too much time and energy into something that was not that important at that time. Have you ever felt that you were spending way too much time on something when your time could have been better spent elsewhere? Either way, Martha was busy serving, and she thought Mary should also have been busy with her. Martha even sounds a bit accusatory to Jesus. She asked Him, “Do you not care about what is happening here?” Maybe she thought Jesus was not concerned about the fact that she was doing all the work and Mary was literally sitting down on the job. Some of us are like Martha. There are things that need to be done and someone is not doing what we think they should be doing.

In this moment, Martha was distracted by what she thought she needed to do. The so-called urgent tasks that Martha thought was more important pulled away her away from the one thing she ought to have been doing at the moment. Her duty and work held her captive so much that she was missing the most important thing she could do at that moment. Even as I prepared this message, I realized that I was distracted with other things. God showed me that I was not choosing the best thing at the moment. I had to stop and pray right then, confess my sin, and ask God to help me focus on Him and His Word. Some of you may even be distracted right now, not really listening to this message. You are distracted by something else. Maybe you are thinking about a meeting later. Maybe you are thinking about what decisions the church will make. Maybe you are thinking about lunch. But right now, may we not be distracted by other things, but rather focus on the Word of God and worship Jesus!

Do Not Be Anxious and Troubled About Things

I am sure Martha thought that Jesus would surely reprimand her lazy sister. I mean, Martha was working hard in the kitchen making sure everyone was served, while her sister was literally sitting down on the job. Martha was having to do it all. Surely, Jesus would call out Mary for her laziness. Surely, Jesus would reprimand Mary for not doing what she needed to do right then. Well, that was not exactly what the Lord did. In fact, Jesus called Martha out for being anxious and troubled, when she should not have been. I recently had a conversation with someone about setting priorities. This person had a loved one who was sick and in the hospital. He should have been spending time with his loved one and focusing on her, yet he seemed too concerned about other things. He was anxious and somewhat troubled about other business. He was being a Martha. Look at how Jesus responded to Martha.

Luke 10:41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things,”

Notice the double address, “Martha, Martha”. Jesus said the same thing to Peter (“Simon, Simon”) when He told Peter that Satan wanted to sift him like wheat, but Jesus prayed for Peter that his faith would not fail (Luke 22:31). Jesus addressed Paul the same way, too, when He called him on the Damascus Road – “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4). Here, Jesus seems to answer Martha gently. Jesus notes how Martha was consumed by anxiety over ordinary matters. He said, “You are worried and upset about many things.” Maybe you can relate to Martha. Maybe you are worried and upset about something, or many things. Maybe life has not treated you fairly and you are upset about that. Martha was consumed by the work that needed to be done. Ultimately, though, such worries choke out the Word of God (Luke 8:14).

Are there things that are bothering you right now. What are you anxious about? What are you worrying about right now? Some of you are anxious about things going on in your life. Maybe you are worrying about your health. Maybe you are worrying about your work. Maybe you are worrying about the future of the church. What ever is upsetting you, is worrying about it accomplishing anything for you? Will you solve whatever issue it is by worrying about it? No! Life is full of things that will consume our lives and steal our joy, if we let them. Therefore, resolve to not let life’s many troubles steal one more minute of your joy. Resolve today to not let your situation define your reality. Resolve today to not be anxious and troubled about many things. What will you choose to do?

Do Choose What Is Necessary

Remember, I mentioned earlier that I would like for us to consider what is necessary? What is it that we must do? Maybe by now you know what that is, or maybe you at least know what it is not. Martha was distracted with many things that kept her from what should have been her highest priority—spending time with Jesus and learning from Him. Look at the following verse.

Luke 10:42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.

Jesus told Martha that only one thing is needed. Although serving is good, sitting at Jesus’ feet is best. Nothing is better than what Mary chose. It is best to sit at Jesus’ feet and hear God’s Word. What feeds the soul is more important than what feeds the body. Mary seems to have known that listening to Jesus was an extraordinary opportunity. Being at the feet of Jesus and just listening to Him speak was an incredible opportunity that was way more important than other concerns. Jesus said that Mary had chosen the good portion, and it would not be taken away from her—neither now to help Martha in the kitchen, nor for all eternity. The good portion, spending time with Jesus, learning from Him, is never wasted time. It will remain into eternity when all of the other things in life, the things that took up so much of our time, the things we thought were so important, will be gone. Mary choosing the good portion sounds like many Old Testament passages where our greatest possession is close fellowship with the Lord as one’s “portion” in life. For instance, consider Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, who might have been a little bit anxious in his life. After he declared the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, and God’s faithfulness is great, he then wrote the following.

Lamentations 3:24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

People can be so consumed with doing that they miss what is important. If there is anything more important than serving Jesus, it is simply being in His presence. There is a temptation, even among believers, of substituting religion for relationship, work over worship, or service over being in the presence of God. People are drawn to please God by doing, when what God really wants is you with Him. Before the gospel is a call to doing, it is first an invitation to be in the presence of the Lord. The gospel is a call to be with the Lord. To be a disciple of Jesus means to be with Him and to listen to Him. However, we should not press this into saying that serving God is always wrong, or doing the Word is not important. We are absolutely called to “do the Word” and to serve others. What we must not do is elevate those things over the necessary time we spend with God and His Word. Let us choose time with Jesus and savor the moments we have with Him. Let us put aside the busyness of life, the many concerns we have, the many distractions that fill our day, and spend time with Jesus. When are those times?

  • Prayer time: Do you spend time in prayer, simply enjoying the relationship you have with the Lord? When you pray, do you spend time listening instead of speaking?
  • Bible time: Do you spend time reading, studying, learning, and meditating on God’s written Word? God has said so much to you in the Bible. Shouldn’t you read it?

Make the necessary time to spend time with Jesus. That time is far more important that any other time we spend. God created us to enjoy Him…so spend time with Him.


Therefore, are you a Martha or a Mary? Are you busy with various things, or are you enjoying the one necessary thing, spending time with Jesus? Are you sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening and learning from the Master, or are you too busy with other things, too troubled with the things of this temporary life? What does this passage say to us as a community of God’s people on mission for Him? As we consider the future of the church, let us not be distracted by what may not be important. Let us, instead, focus on what truly matters, being God’s people who are in love with Jesus and who will follow Jesus wherever He leads us. Let us not be distracted by too many things, too much service, too much period! Let us not be anxious and troubled about the things present or the things in the future. Let us choose the good portion that will not be taken away – a relationship with our Lord. This is good news. Thanks be to God. Amen!

This sermon was delivered at Good Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest, NC. More information about Good Hope may be found at the following site:

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