LUKE 10:38-42 - Choose The Better Portion

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The only thing that matters in this world is delighted devotion to Jesus Christ

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We gather here today seeking the comfort and refreshment that can only come in the presence of our God and Savior Jesus Christ. He has poured out His riches of mercy on us abundantly, even in the midst of our sorrow at the great loss that our church family has suffered. The years that we had together with Pam in worship, ministry and study of God’s Word together were a living example of just how good and glorious and sweet and delightful Christian fellowship can be. I often told Pam that her and her family’s presence at Bethel was a sign of God’s kindness to us as a church—and she would usually respond with her classic “Pfffft!” But it was true, and we all remain immensely grateful to Him for having been allowed to walk a stretch of this road together with her.
We’ll have time soon to gather and celebrate the way she wanted, with a hymn sing—we’re definitely going to give Psalm 136, “Ever and Aye” a shot!—but for this morning I want to take some time and do the other thing she loved more than anything else—dig into God’s Word together! Lord willing, we’ll pick up again with our series on the Christian and the conscience next week, but for today I wanted to spend some time together considering this picture of Jesus and Mary in Luke 10.
I don’t know about you, but when I consider Pam’s life, this image from the passage we just read describes her and her life more perfectly than any other verse of Scripture—or any other illustration or example anywhere. And I want to make something abundantly clear here—because I can just see her sitting right there absolutely glaring at me right now—this sermon is not going to be about Pam. She only ever wanted one thing for herself, and she only wanted one thing for everyone else in her life—to see and delight in Jesus Christ more than anything else.
And so I want us to turn to this passage, not to see Pam better, but to see Jesus better. But in the process, I want us to see how the kind of devotion Mary had to Jesus helps to create the kind of joyful, vibrant faith and trust and hope and delight in God that flows through the life of someone who pursues knowing and loving Christ the way Mary did here—and the way all of us experienced through Pam’s life. So let’s learn together from God’s Word how we can grow into this kind of maturity. What I think these verses say to us—Jesus said it Himself here—is that
The only thing that matters in this world is DELIGHTED DEVOTION to Jesus Christ
So here in our passage, Jesus comes to stay at His friends’ house—Martha and Mary, and we learn later on that her brother Lazarus lived with them as well. Lazarus must have been out of the house at this point, or perhaps he was sitting there with Jesus—God doesn’t choose to tell us here in these verses. The focus is between Martha, Mary and Jesus.
We read in verse 40 that Martha was “distracted with much serving” as she was getting a meal ready for Jesus and His disciples—who, like Lazarus, are not mentioned here. It’s been noted elsewhere that Martha was distracted with something good—she wasn’t being pulled away from Jesus because she was toying with sin or indifferent to Him. She wanted to show her love for Him by serving Him.
I’m drawn to the way that Jesus describes Martha’s emotional state here in this passage, because it feels so much like the days we are living through as a church family. Jesus says in verse 41:
Luke 10:41 (ESV)
41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things,
Of course, in this context Martha was being anxious and troubled about all the details of putting on a good dinner for Jesus and His disciples. But take those words to heart regarding the way we are anxious and troubled these days. The word “anxious” here has the idea in the original language of “being pulled in different directions”—does that sound familiar to you? It feels like you’re being pulled apart at the seams—so many fires to put out, so many decisions to make about how to respond to the pressures and anxieties and crises these days bring you. Like the old U2 song, you find yourself “running to stand still”.
Jesus tells Martha that she’s anxious and “troubled about many things”—the idea under the English translation “troubled” involves a sense of turmoil, uproar, or commotion. Is there any better way to describe your day-to-day life in 2021? Every day you wake up to more news about government tyranny, economic disaster, social upheaval, Congressional incompetence and abdication of responsibility—there is no shortage of turmoil, uproar and commotion to trouble you. Take a moment and read verse 41 to yourself with your name instead of Martha’s, and see if it doesn’t fit perfectly where you are this morning.
And how does Jesus minister to you this morning? How does He release you from that anxiety and turmoil? He turns your attention to Mary:
Luke 10:42 (ESV)
42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
The answer to that turmoil, that anxiety and the pressures of the many things that weigh on you is to turn to the one necessary thing in this world—delighted devotion to Jesus Christ!
What does that delighted devotion to Jesus Christ look like in our lives? Let’s look at Mary’s actions here in these verses to see how we can cultivate that same kind of delighted devotion, that “one necessary thing” that Jesus calls us to in this world.
The first thing that we see from Mary’s actions here is that delighted devotion to Jesus Christ means

I. TO SIT at Jesus’ FEET (Luke 10:39)

Luke 10:39 (ESV)
39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.
Where Mary sat was a significant sign of who she knew Jesus was. It’s important to note that she didn’t sit next to Jesus as if He were a colleague or an equal—she sat at His feet. To sit at Jesus’ feet means to
Be a DISCIPLE of His teaching
She didn’t approach Jesus and His teaching as merely some curious intellectual pursuit—she wasn’t just interested in ancient history and Christian philosophy. She wasn’t sitting at Jesus’ feet because she had some mere academic interest in morality and ethics. Mary was all in to become obedient to Him. She wanted to follow Jesus, not just explore His teachings.
And to sit at Jesus’ feet is also to be in a position of waiting on Him—to
EXPECT the BLESSINGS of His teaching
Mary sat at Jesus’ feet because she was waiting for Him to bless her—she came to Jesus expecting to be changed. She didn’t sit at His feet just biding her time, just going through the motions of discipleship. She wasn’t sitting there because it was merely expected of her to be there; she was waiting at His feet because she knew Him to be a Teacher who would always reward her for her attention.
The only thing that matters in this world is our delighted devotion to Jesus Christ—to sit at Jesus’ feet as a disciple, and

II. TO LISTEN to His TEACHING (Luke 10:39)

Luke 10:39 (ESV)
39 ...Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.
Mary’s delighted devotion to Jesus was marked by the high priority that she placed not just on sitting at Jesus’ feet, but listening to His teaching. Picture the scene again—the commotion and distractions all around as Martha went about the preparations for the meal—but Mary wasn’t distracted by any of those things—delighted devotion to Jesus means
in the midst of those distractions. All too often when we sit down at Jesus’ feet with our Bible, expecting His blessing as we read His Word, the distractions just pile up on us, don’t they? Whether it’s your personal time with Jesus during the week or when you come here to worship, those distractions and cares all seem to come and pile up on us—all of a sudden you remember that appointment you have or that bill that came due, or one of the kids suddenly lands in crisis mode over something. Focusing on Jesus at that moment doesn’t mean that you utterly ignore all those things with a steely resolve and pretend you don’t see or hear them; it means rather that you can say, “Yes, I’ll get to all of those things in good time, but right now they can wait—I want to hear from Jesus first!
Martha was distracted, but Mary did not allow other distractions to draw her away from gaining more of Christ. It was important to her to listen to what Jesus said, to set those distractions aside for a moment and focus on what Jesus was saying. And part of that focus means
of what Jesus was saying. This was certainly a characteristic of Pam’s listening to Jesus’ words, wasn’t it? Delighted devotion to Jesus means searching out what He says to us, striving to get everything we can out of it—chewing on His words, writing them down, asking for clarification and looking for resources to bring more understanding. Taking Jesus’ words and examining your habits and thought patterns and priorities in light of what He says to you. Delighted devotion to Christ means being deliberate and intentional in your listening. In the midst of all the distractions and cares and pressures of your daily life, delighted devotion to Christ means that you delight to listen to what Jesus says, focused on understanding and applying His words.
In the midst of the anxiety and troubles that pull us in so many directions, Jesus says that there is only one thing that is necessary—he tells Martha in verse 42 that “Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her”. “Choosing a portion” in the Old Testament means to receive an inheritance:
Psalm 16:5–6 (ESV)
5 The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. 6 The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
Psalm 27:4 (ESV)
4 One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.
Jesus says that Mary has chosen her portion—she has chosen Jesus Himself as her inheritance. And so we see from this that delighted devotion to Jesus Christ means that

III. His PRESENCE is your TREASURE (Luke 10:42)

In the midst of all the anxiety and cares that pull you in so many directions, in the days when you feel as though you are weighed down by sorrow or grief or stress, the “good portion” of your inheritance in Jesus is
The source of all your STRENGTH (Psalm 73:26)
Psalm 73:26 (ESV)
26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Mary didn’t have to look to herself for willpower or stamina or strength or fortitude—she knew her own strength would fail and fade. But her portion, her inheritance, was God’s strength, that He would be faithful to keep her when her own strength failed.
Having Jesus as your good portion also means that He is
The place of all your REFUGE (Psalm 142:5)
Psalm 142:5 (ESV)
5 I cry to you, O Lord; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.”
When Mary was anxious and troubled by many things, her refuge was Christ—He is the one she could fly to for comfort and protection. She had a rock to stand on, a sure and steady anchor to hold on to—even though everything around her might give way, her portion and inheritance in Christ would never fail! He would never let anything pluck her out of His hand! What better portion can you possibly ask for than to have Jesus Christ Himself as your inheritance?
And Jesus says that this portion Mary has chosen—this delighted devotion that she made her inheritance—will “not be taken away from her” (v. 42). In the moment, Jesus is telling Martha that He is not going to tell Mary to get up and leave her place at His feet and go peel potatoes in the kitchen. But beyond that immediate situation, surely what Jesus is promising here for you when you choose Him as your inheritance is that

IV. You will never LOSE this PORTION (Luke 10:42)

All the things that Martha was striving after in this passage were good things—it is good and God-honoring to want to serve God and others, it is a noble and selfless pursuit to seek the good of the people that you love. But you know what? There is no guarantee that you will always succeed in those things, is there? Sometimes the anxieties and cares that surround us will rob us of the ability or desire to do the good things we want to do for Jesus and others—but when you choose Jesus Himself as your portion, you will never lose everything He is for you!
Mary chose the good portion of Jesus Himself as her inheritance—and when He is your portion, you will never lose Him
Through the TURMOIL of this WORLD (Rom. 8:38-39)
Christian, when you make Jesus Christ your portion, you have His promise that none of the anxieties or troubles that pull at you in this world can take away His presence! Can we find a better statement of this promise than Paul’s in Romans 8?
Romans 8:35 (ESV)
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
Romans 8:38–39 (ESV)
38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Jesus promises that when you make Him your portion, you have an inheritance that can never be taken away—through the turmoil of this world, and also
Through all ETERNITY in HEAVEN (Eph. 2:4-7)
In his commentary on this passage, Matthew Henry says, “If we sit with Him at His feet now, we shall sit with Him on His throne shortly!” And that is exactly what God’s Word promises to all those who choose Jesus as their portion—Paul writes in Ephesians 2:4-7,
Ephesians 2:4–7 (ESV)
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Mary chose the better portion of sitting at Jesus’ feet as His disciple; listening to His words, seeking to obey Him, living her life with Jesus as her greatest treasure—and that good portion was never taken away from her, either in this life or in eternity!
It is tempting for us to think about Pam in glory today, sitting at Jesus’ feet the way she always wanted to here in this life. But the Scriptures tell us that she has a far better seat today—seated with Christ on His throne, as He spends all of eternity showing her the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness towards her! The good portion that she chose here was never taken away from her—and she is reaping all of the delight and joy and glory of that eternal inheritance with Jesus forever!
Beloved, the only thing that matters in this world—the only necessary thing for you to do with your life—is to live your life at the feet of Jesus Christ. There is no other way to come to Him, after all—you can come to Him as an intellectual inquirer, you can come to Him believing that He offers good moral teaching to enrich your life—but all of those intellectual or academic or ethical motivations must eventually give way to the one place where Jesus will receive you: At His feet, calling on Him for salvation!
This is the most important thing you can do in this world—beyond all of the ambitions and goals and desires you have for your life, the most important thing in the world is to come to Jesus Christ by faith for salvation! Apart from Him, you have no inheritance that will last beyond your last breath on this earth. Apart from Him, you have no hope of anything but the judgment of God against your sin and rebellion against Him—but Jesus Christ died and rose again so that when you call on Him in faith, when you turn away from all of your wickedness and anger and lust and greed and bitterness and laziness and gluttony and arrogance and pride and fall at His feet in repentance He makes you His own child and gives you Himself as your inheritance forever!
So choose the better portion today—sit at His feet, listen to His teaching, make His presence your treasure—and rest in the anxiety and troubles and cares of this world knowing that you will never lose your great and precious inheritance of your Savior, Jesus Christ!
Ephesians 3:20–21 (ESV)
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.


What are some ways that you find yourself, like Martha, “anxious and troubled about many things”? What are some of the sources of anxiety in your life today? How does remembering that there is only “one thing necessary” help you change your focus to Christ in the midst of your anxieties?
What is the difference between “sitting at Jesus’ feet” as a disciple and merely exercising an intellectual curiosity or academic interest in Him? What are some characteristics of a disciple versus a mere “student”?
Jesus says that Mary chose “the better portion” by sitting at His feet. What does it mean that Jesus is your “portion”, or “inheritance”? What promises do you have in this life and the next when you make Jesus Christ your greatest treasure?
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