The Best Dish On the Table
Luke 10:38 ¶ Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home.
Luke 10:39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying.
Luke 10:40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.”
Luke 10:41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things;
Luke 10:42 there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”
Jesus went to visit some of his very dear friends and had arrived at their home. Jesus didn’t travel alone, but his entire company of followers were with him and caring for them took a great amount of effort. This was Martha’s home, and as such she had taken upon herself the responsibility to be the hostess and care for the needs of her guests, which was no small feat.
Jesus was about the business of preaching the gospel everywhere he went, and more than likely, many a sermon was preached in the homes of friends and all those who would welcome him. I can just imagine that Jesus didn’t waste a lot of time with small talk, but instead got right to the task of teaching and preaching.
What Jesus had to offer was truly “the best dish on the table.” (Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament) But Martha was occupied with all the other dishes! She was a good hostess and was trying to care for the needs of all of those who had appeared at her home. Being a good hostess, not only did she want to feed the people there, but she wanted to do a really nice job of it and so she busied herself making many different kinds of foods that could be spread out on the table. She was not trying to get attention for herself but believed this was the way in which to show her love and appreciation for her Lord.
Martha became quite irritated with her sister who was not helping with all the work of being a hostess and asked the Lord to send her back into the kitchen! Surely that was where Mary, a woman belonged! But Jesus had come to turn everything upside down and this included the traditional tasks which may have been performed in the home. The concern was not about a meal made up of many courses, the focus was to be on the message which was being spoken in the front room. A fancy meal was not necessary for the best dish on the table was the one being spoken by Jesus. Mary had figured that out and was willing to put aside the traditional duties and soak in the word, and Jesus affirmed her in this behavior.
What Martha was doing wasn’t bad and it was what she had been taught to do. Mary, however, had discovered that the kingdom transcended the boundaries of human life and leads us into a place where the priorities are different. Fancy food on the table may have been a sign of great hospitality, but when the best dish on the table is being served at the feet of Jesus, we stop worrying about all those other dishes and are satisfied with simple human food so that we can focus on what he has to offer. His meat will last forever.
Mary had already stepped into the new kingdom that Jesus had brought to earth and Martha was just beginning to figure it out. Our later encounters with Martha reveal that she heard this word from the Lord and changed her priorities. It was a lesson well learned.
Think about the day today and all that it has in store. There is much to be done! It seems there always is much that needs to be done, but does it have to be done to the extent that it excludes time to be with the Lord? Are we focusing so much on doing things for Jesus Christ — and wanting to do them extremely well — that we forget that the very best we have to offer may be sitting there unused.
There have been times in the life of the church that we spend hours working on planning events and making sure that every single detail is its absolute finest. There is nothing wrong with that, unless it is done to the exclusion of the one thing that should take center stage — Jesus! You can just imagine that Martha was spending hours on numerous fancy little dishes to put out on the table. Her heart was in the right place but the whole time she didn’t realize that the best part of the meal was already prepared. She could have made something simple so that the attention would have all been on the main dish — Jesus! And she could have been learning from him as well.
We need to evaluate where we spend our time and energy. Do we actually spend time doing things that can become a distraction from our personal time with the Lord. Are we chomping down on little appetizers instead of getting to enjoy the main meal because we’ve not left time for him? Mary chose the better way, and ultimately Martha did as well. Their eyes were opened to the new kingdom, one in which the things of this world “grow strangely dim.” They put the things of the world behind and sat at the feet of the Lord, all the while being transformed into kingdom citizens who knew what it meant to eat from the best dish on the table.
Lord, may I be fed from you today, and may the distractions be few. Amen.