The One Thing Needed This Season


"Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed...”—Luke 10:41-42

It’s a busy time. We hustle from store to store, event to event, juggling holiday expectations and hopes of joy. A familiar Bible story (not the traditional Christmas one) holds a deep lesson for this season:

Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem to die. As He traveled about the country, He stopped in Bethany to visit two sisters, Mary and Martha. Before the journey’s end, He would stop many more times to teach and minister, but here, with these good friends, He stopped for rest and refreshment. The inner battle that threatened to consume Him intensified daily as He prepared to go to the cross.

Martha, eager and excited, celebrated His visit by offering the best her household could afford. She fussed about the kitchen, banging pots and pans, stoking the fires, dishing up food, pouring wine, determined to prepare Jesus the best meal He would ever eat. Wouldn’t most of us do that?

While Martha scurried about, her sister Mary simply sat down at Jesus’ feet and listened to Him talk. Eventually, Martha stopped long enough to cry, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

We usually look at this story from the point of view of Mary and Martha’s needs. But Jesus had a need as well: peace and quiet. With the cross before Him and turmoil brewing inside Him, He needed to draw strength from loving friends. He had turned to Bethany to find an oasis. Outside, hundreds, even thousands of people could gather into a crowd with just one miracle from His hands. Martha’s home could be the calm before the coming storm — which is what Mary gave Him, and Martha, despite her good intentions, did not.

“One thing is needed,” Jesus said. Mary tuned into the one thing Jesus needed, and ultimately, what she needed as well.

With all our efforts and all the best of intentions, we can end up doing the right things but doing them our way. We like to do good our way, to be kind our way, to be Christian our way. But if our way doesn’t turn out to be the best way, we get offended and think we’re not appreciated by God and by others.

True communion and fellowship requires that first we listen to others, attempting to hear what is really being communicated—and forget ourselves, as we become lost in another’s needs. Everybody has something to say. Everyone wants to be heard. The problem is, nobody is listening.

Mary listened and perceived that all that Jesus wanted was for her— and her sister— to draw as near to Him as possible. Jesus tried to stop Martha, to slow her down, to interrupt her busyness as He called out to her, “Martha, Martha…only one thing is needed.”

How many of us are missing that “one thing,” that most important thing, this season?