ONLY ONE THING IS NECESSARY.
In the name + of Jesus.
Our Lord Jesus Christ chooses his words carefully. That is why it is so valuable to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the Scriptures. They will guide you in all truth, and they will keep you from being led astray. It is always good to know what our Lord does say and what he does not say.
So, pay heed to what our Lord says: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.” (Luke 10:41-42) Now, Jesus does not say that only one thing is useful or helpful or good. Indeed, there are many things in our world that are useful and helpful and good. It is good and useful for you to serve your neighbor in whatever capacity God has given you to do it. Dentists clean and fix teeth. Car mechanics keep cars running. The mayor oversees the order of the city. Parents nurture, discipline, and care for their children. The husband devotes himself to the well-being of his wife, and the wife submits to the care and protection of her husband. These are all useful and helpful and good. Through the diligent and faithful service of people in their various vocations, God blesses people in our world.
People are blessed by the work that you do. You are also blessed by the work that other people do. There is no denying these things. But as good as these things are, they are not necessary, which is to say, these things do not bring you God’s salvation. You are not saved by having the dentist clean your teeth, and you are not saved because you put in an honest day’s work. Many things are helpful, useful, and good; and most people do them. But only one thing is necessary.
Now consider Martha. Jesus had come to her home. Likely, he had come for a festival at
. Rather than staying in Jerusalem Jerusalem, he stayed with Martha and Mary and Lazarus in nearby . These siblings all knew who Jesus was. They confessed him as Lord and Christ. He was the most honored guest their house would know. Bethany
Now, if you had Jesus coming to stay at your home, wouldn’t you also go overboard to make sure he was treated well? You would make your home immaculate. You would prepare the best meal you knew how. You would be a flurry of activity. Martha was. She wanted to be sure that her guest—her Lord!—was going to receive royal treatment in her home. And so she was busy, exceedingly busy. There was so much to do, and it was all important.
That is probably how you feel about your life, too. You have many obligations, many responsibilities. Your life is filled with stress because of schedules, meetings, deadlines, and bills. You might even feel like leisure time is something you have to cram in. If you look at all of the things that fill your weekly schedule, chances are none of them is wicked. Your job, your house work, your exercise, scheduling appointments, running your children to these appointments, checking e-mail, or checking what’s on TV—none of these is wicked. Much of it is important, because it benefits you and your family. It is useful, helpful, and good. But it can also turn into distractions and excuses. It did for Martha.
Martha was a busy woman. Mary, however, was getting on her nerves. It wasn’t that Mary was getting in the way. It was that Mary was doing nothing! Martha was busting her tail, and Mary was sitting on hers. She implored Jesus to tell Mary to do something helpful, useful, and good. Jesus surprised Martha. Jesus told Martha that Mary was doing what was good! He replied, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)
Only one thing is necessary. Only one thing is crucial and essential. Only one thing has everlasting value. So, finally, only one thing is good—Jesus Christ. I suppose it looked like Mary was doing nothing as she sat on the floor, but St. Luke tells us that Mary sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. (Luke 10:39) Mary craved the one thing that was necessary. She yearned to hear her Savior’s voice. For, she knew that Jesus alone has the words of eternal life. He alone is the source of forgiveness and salvation. He alone is the way to the Father, the light for those living in darkness, the resurrection and the life. Only one thing is necessary, and it is Jesus.
Jesus Christ has come to serve us because we have done neither good nor the necessary works of God. Often our works and our words are harmful instead of helpful, devoted to our own glory and gain rather than to the benefit of our neighbor. But all Jesus has done, he did for your good, your gain, and your glory. He did the good you need, and he died for the evil you have done and for the good you have failed to do. He has taken your sin and suffered the harm you had coming. Jesus has paid the price.
His greatest work, his necessary work, was completed at the cross. But the benefits are not given there. Jesus gives his benefits where his word is preached and his sacraments are administered. So, to receive the only thing that is necessary, the Church, like Mary, sits at Jesus’ feet. You crave to hear the words of comfort and peace from your Lord. You renew your baptism by confessing your sins and receiving the Lord’s absolution. You kneel at the communion railing to be given the body and blood of the Lord where the Lord strengthens and keeps you in the one true faith. Jesus’ gospel comes in many ways, but it is the only thing necessary. For, the Gospel is the only thing that saves you.
Mary’s posture demonstrates how God’s salvation is entirely his doing and his gift. As we noted earlier, Mary sat and did nothing. The Lord gave, and she received. The Lord served, and she rested. And so it is for the Church. Here is your Sabbath rest. Here the Lord serves you. You rest; the Lord works. The Lord gives; you receive.
Only one thing is necessary—the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the where the Lord is at work for you. This is how Jesus delivers you from death and the devil, makes you a member of God’s family, comforts your grieving heart, soothes your anxious soul, calms your fearful mind, and guarantees your eternal life. This world will always give you problems and pressures which will make you anxious and troubled. If you long for peace from a hectic pace, if you long for comfort in a painful world, if you crave relief from an accusing conscience, if you desire assurance of God’s mercy, if you are looking for a life without stress, without misery, without sickness, and without death—then flee to Jesus. Take time to sit at his feet and do nothing. Let him serve you. It is not only useful, helpful, and good, it is the only thing necessary.
Go forth from here and carry out your tasks and responsibilities. Do not despise these things. Jesus did not call Martha a wicked woman for her diligent service. Likewise, God gives you your tasks and responsibilities so that you can serve others, glorify him, and demonstrate your faith. Such service is good and helpful and useful. But remember: Only one thing is necessary.
Therefore, the Church, like Mary, sits at Jesus’ feet. This is your greatest service to the Lord. By doing this, you honor him as your gracious Redeemer. It is your clearest confession of faith. By doing this, you acknowledge your total dependence upon Jesus for your salvation. Sitting at Jesus’ feet is your most important work all week, and it is necessary. This is where the Lord gives his blessings and his gifts. This is how Jesus bestows forgiveness and salvation. This is the good portion, and it will not be taken away from you.
In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.