Life is often busy. We are often on the move thinking about what we are doing or what we need to do. Our busyness sometimes diverts our attention from how Jesus serves us every day. We like to get things done. Achievement feels good. But sometimes in our daily routine, we lose sight of who God is and what He is doing for us. As Christians, we are sometimes more like Martha than we are Mary – we think more about serving Jesus than Jesus serving us.
Martha opened her home to Jesus and welcomed him in. She was glad to have him in her home. She was ready to serve him. And she did. Luke 10:40 says, “Martha was distracted with much serving.” She was busy serving her guests. She wanted things to be just right. Maybe she was straightening up or preparing food or simply adding her hospitable touch to everything. The Lord was in her midst and she was going to make sure things were done right. And there was her sister, Mary, sitting at the Lord’s feet listening to his teaching. Mary wasn’t doing anything, and it bothered Martha. In her desire to serve, to do what needed to be done, Martha grew frustrated with her sister’s inattention and inactivity. She went to the Lord, presumably during his teaching, and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me” (Lk. 10:40). Martha was pretty distraught. And I don’t think Martha was thinking, “How could Mary be interested in his teaching?” It wasn’t that the Lord’s teaching was unimportant for Martha, she just wasn’t thinking about it; she was prioritizing other things. And right there was the problem. Serving the Lord was actually distracting her from the Lord. He was teaching, but she was too busy and burdened to listen.
Our serving Jesus and others can distract us from how Jesus is actively serving us, and sometimes we miss the goodness and benefit of his loving service. Mary was resting and drinking in the Lord’s teaching. And Jesus’ response to Martha reveals Martha’s heart: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things” (Lk. 10:41). As Martha served in her home, she was worried, upset, distracted, and bothered. And Jesus added, “but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Mary was the one truly honoring the Lord by sitting at his feet and receiving his wisdom and insight. Jesus was serving Mary and Martha; Mary was benefitting, Martha was not. In those moments, Mary had chosen the necessary and better thing – listening to the Lord teach. That is where Martha’s anxious and troubled soul would be quieted and calmed. Friends, it is important that we serve Jesus but never at the expense of receiving the truth of Jesus.
Years ago, there was an idea that I heard some Christians express. It went something like, “Church is not about you. You don’t come to church to receive, you come to church to serve.” And I think this idea was combating the consumeristic mentality that many have about church. They assume it’s everyone else’s job to make them comfortable and happy in their church experience, and they show little to no interest in loving and serving others. And that mentality should be questioned. But to say that we don’t come to church to receive is naïve. Receiving is not necessarily consumeristic. See, within our local churches, Jesus is serving us through means. Of course, we are commanded to love and serve others, we are the body of Christ, but we must also recognize Jesus is feeding and strengthening us through the ministry of our local church. He is providing his means of grace for our growth and flourishing. To busy ourselves with serving the Lord and others only to miss out on the Lord’s teaching is actually quite detrimental to our spiritual health. I’ve seen this happen with nursery workers who serve the wee ones weekly but at the same time rarely or almost never sit at Jesus’ feet in the worship service. It’s not good when our service of the Lord is distracting us from the Lord.
Do you know why Jesus is called Christ? It has to do with how he continues to serve you, his beloved. Jesus is called Christ because he is God’s Anointed. He is the Anointed One. But what is his anointing all about? Heidelberg 31 answers the basic but important question, “Why is He called ‘Christ,’ that is, ‘Anointed’?” The answer helps you understand how Jesus continues to serve you:
Because He has been ordained by God the Father and anointed with the Holy Spirit to be our chief Prophet and Teacher, who has fully revealed to us the secret counsel and will of God concerning our redemption; our only High Priest, who by the one sacrifice of His body has redeemed us, and who continually intercedes for us before the Father; and our eternal King, who governs us by his Word and Spirit, and who defends and preserves us in the redemption obtained for us.
Remember those three things: Jesus is your Prophet, Priest, and King. He is more – he is our best friend, our Savior, our Lord, our Lamb, our Light, our Groom, etc. – but Prophet, Priest, and King all relate to his identity as the Christ or Anointed One. They each describe how Jesus serves us as the Christ.
Prophets, priests, and kings were ordained by God to their office and were also anointed for their office. God ordained Jesus as the Christ and anointed him with the Holy Spirit (Heb. 1:9; Lk. 3:21-22; 4:18). This means he is our preeminent Prophet, sole High Priest, and everlasting King. In these roles, here’s how Jesus continues to serve you:
- As your chief Prophet and Teacher, Jesus reveals the truth and will of God to you in his Word. His Spirit helps you understand, believe, and apply Scripture. He graciously gives you shepherds and teachers to nurture and equip you through preaching, teaching, and shepherding (Eph. 4:11). The Word and sacraments ministry of your local church is the means by which Jesus serves you as your chief Prophet and Teacher.
- As your only High Priest, Jesus has offered himself as your atoning sacrifice which has reconciled you to God. However, he continues to serve you as Priest in his ongoing intercession. He continues to plead your case before the Father (Rom. 8:34). He is your Advocate (1 Jn. 2:1). When you sin, your High Priest intercedes for you and with supreme authority defends your justification and forgiveness. His atoning life was and is enough for you to escape condemnation to enjoy everlasting fellowship with God. The confession of sin and assurance of pardon in worship should comfort you because of how Jesus continues to serve you as your High Priest.
- As your eternal King, Jesus governs you by his Word and Spirit. All authority in heaven and earth belongs to Christ as King, and Christ has given elders (the church) the responsibility of Word and sacraments ministry through which you receive the ministry of Christ (Matt. 28:18-20). Those ordained to gospel ministry are to faithfully extend to you the Word and sacraments as the means through which you receive the shepherding of Christ. This is Christ your King serving you. His Word and Spirit govern you. As King, Jesus also defends and preserves you in the redemption he obtained for you. He promised to never leave you or forsake you (Heb. 13:5). Jesus not only redeemed you, he continues to defend and preserve you. He powerfully keeps you in the grace and redemption of God.
It’s comforting to know that Jesus never ceases to serve us. We receive because he serves. What a blessing our local church is for us. In and through our local church our Prophet, Priest, and King cares for us. Let us love and serve one another selflessly, but let us also ensure that our love and service do not distract us from the ministry of Christ to us. Jesus is our Christ who continues to serve and help us. For this we are grateful.
Quotes from the Heidelberg Catechism are taken from Zacharias Ursinus & Jonathan Shirk, The Heidelberg Catechism (Manheim: Small Town Theologian, 2021).
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.