Sermon Reading by Elder Gani Ong (Prepared by Rev. Lance Filio)
First of all, I would like to greet our brothers and sisters in Christ here at Field of Grace Reformed Church. On behalf of ZCRC (Imus) consistory, let me express our joy and thanksgiving to God for the work of gospel in your congregation. May our God the Father continue to call his people through the preaching of his Word. May our union with Christ bind us together in love. And may the Holy Spirit transform our will, regenerate our hearts and renew our minds.
We also share your gladness and thanksgiving for growing ministry there at Ilaw ng Sanlibutan Christian Fellowship Church. We pray that the Spirit will continue to illuminate God’s Word as you all continue your journey towards reforming the church. May the Word of Christ dwell richly in all of us. Amen.
Our preaching this morning is a continuation of your study of the Gospel written by Luke. At this point in the narrative, Jesus sets his face to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51). Knowing his time is now short, he prepares his disciples for the events to come. After his rejection in Nazareth and his acceptance in Galilee, Jesus’ public ministry will soon come to an end and his disciples needs to understand the cost of following him.
So from Luke 9:57 to 10:23, Jesus explains to his disciples the difficulties of discipleship. As Christians, we will greatly suffer from the hands of God’s enemies, we will experience great distress, and even rejection from this world. And yet while the path to discipleship is hard and often difficult, it also an occassion for great joy. It is life blessed by God himself. Jesus promised his disciple not only the cost of discipleship but also its good portion.
This is where our preaching will dwell on this morning. In sum, we can say that the good portion of discipleship comes to us in our union with God through Christ and by His Spirit. While there is a cost to following Christ, and being his disciple will eventually lead us to life to suffering, we can take comfort from the fact that God also brings us to the good portion of discipleship, and they are worshipping God, hearing his Word, receiving his Sacraments, and fellowshipping with God’s people. These are the benefits we receive for being united to Christ through faith and by the Spirit. They are the good portion that comes with discipleship.
We will learn all these as we study this passages from Scripture in Luke 10:38-42. I will read it as an introduction so we can follow its exposition later.
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “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.” (verses 38-42)
From this I have organized our preaching into two sermon points: 1) The Burden and Complaint of Martha; 2) The Worship and Adoration of Mary.
Before we begin, let us pray:
Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
The Burden and Complaint of Martha
Prior to Jesus entering Martha and Mary’s house which is a probably in Bethany (cf John 11-12), Luke wrote it together with Jesus’ story about lawyer asking about inheriting eternal life. This was the story of the Parable of the Good Samaritan which emphasizes for us his follower about the importance of loving our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31). The question who is our neighbor is answered simply as those who are in need.
Jesus was critizing those who claim to love God and yet hate their neighbor. John exhorts us to the same teaching when he wrote: If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen (1 John 4:20). Scripture is not saying we must love God at the expense of others. Rather, it is teaching us that our love for God results to a demonstration of our love for others.
Loving God and others comes from true faith, taught to us from God’s law, and reflects to the glory of God to others. These are the good portion of discipleship. They are the positive disciplines of disciples. Aa Christians, we are called to mortify sin and vivify righteousness. We live in self-denial and at the same time, glorify and enjoy God for who he is and what he has done.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan and this story about Martha and Mary is pair by Luke to highlight for us the good portion of discipleship. They are loving God and others. The parable focuses on the importance of loving others and now in our story of the two sisters applies this parable to highlight the priority of loving God in order than we may love others.
Martha was intentionally contrasted here with Mary to establish the source of our love for others namely the worship and adoration of God. This we will discuss in our second point but focusing on Martha, verse 38 to 40a reads, “Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving.”
In contrast to Mary who was found sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to God’s Word, Martha on the other hand was burdened by the her service to others. We found her complaining about it to Jesus and she even demanded him to rebuke Mary for her apparent neglect. She complains, “And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” Jesus gently corrects Martha in his reply and we will again pick this up on our second point.
First, let me clarify that Jesus was not endorsing the apparent neglect of Mary or even dismissing the service of Martha. Martha is not being portayed here as a hypocrite or even as an unbeliever in contrast to Mary. Martha’s service and her love for others is commendable. However, Jesus needed to gently rebuke her to teach his disciples the fountain source of our ministry to others, and it is found in the love of God.
As a pastor, keeping the sabbath as a delight has been challenging given the burden of our circumstances today. As your ministers and elders labor to serve every one in the congregation, we often lose ourselves in getting the work done without examining ourselves if we are delighting in them or being burdened by them. We often foolishly think that as long we performed our duty to other then we must have demostrated our love for God.
The same thing holds true to the members of the church. We often find ourselves getting lost in the sea of familiarity and apathy every time a service becomes routinary and sterile. Part of our duty every Lord’s Day is prepare our hearts to receive God’s Word in readiness of faith and willingness to follow in obedience and yet often we develop an automatic and often cold response to this primary means of grace. We shower our pastors with compliments and flattery but remained distant and cold towards God. We mistakenly conclude that as long as I am doing duty as a member towards other, I must be demonstrating my love for God.
Beloved, this is the problem Scripture wants us to address this morning. The Holy Spirit is showing us that loving and serving other is rooted in the love of God, and our love for God comes to us because of the love of God. John explains, In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10).
The cure to our burden in serving and loving others is not addressed by demanding others to do the same. Rather, it is found in the adoration and enjoyment of God in worship. And this is what Jesus highlights in the attitude and action of Mary for our second sermon point.
The Worship and Adoration of Mary
In contrast to Martha, Mary finds the good portion of our discipleship and it is found in the adoration and enjoyment of God. The Psalmist once wrote: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Psalm 73:25-26).”
This verse is found in the Westminster Shorter Catechism as a proof text on the first question and it reads:
What is the chief end of man?
Answer. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.
To glorify God means to ascribe to him all our worship and praise but what does “to enjoy God forever” mean?
Simply put, it means to assign our ultimate happiness in God and his glory not only here and now but also in his new creation, the world to come. It means we set our affections to the object of our glory who is God himself. We desire him as our ultimate good for God himself is good. He is our summum bonum. In Psalm 73:25-26, the psalmist expresses the goodness of God and our desiring of him as our ultimate good.
Calvin in his commentary wrote:
“As to the meaning, there is no ambiguity. David declares that he desires nothing, either in heaven or in earth, except God alone, and that without God, all other objects which usually draw the hearts of men towards them were unattractive to him. And, undoubtedly, God then obtains from us the glory to which he is entitled, when, instead of being carried first to one object, and then to another, we hold exclusively by him, being satisfied with him alone. If we give the smallest portion of our affections to the creatures, we in so far defraud God of the honor which belongs to him. And yet nothing has been more common in all ages than this sacrilege, and it prevails too much at the present day.”
“It is highly necessary for us to consider what we are without God; for no man will cast himself wholly upon God, but he who feels himself in a fainting condition, and who despairs of the sufficiency of his own powers. We will seek nothing from God but what we are conscious of wanting in ourselves. Indeed, all men confess this, and the greater part think that all which is necessary is that God should aid our infirmities, or afford us succor when we have not the means of adequately relieving ourselves. But the confession of David is far more ample than this when he lays, so to speak, his own nothingness before God. He, therefore, very properly adds, that God is his portion. The portion of an individual is figurative expression, employed in Scripture to denote the condition or lot with which every man is contented. Accordingly, the reason why God is represented as a portion is, because he alone is abundantly sufficient for us, and because in him the perfection of our happiness consists.”
Our chief happiness is to enjoy God. It means we receive him as our “portion forever”. It means we suspend all search and abandon all effort to look for our happiness except in God and his glory. We take God as our portion and we live in content with him. Our restless souls finds rest in Him.
Geerhardus Vos wrote: “Legalism lacks the supreme sense of worship. It obeys but it does not adore.” And this is what Jesus wants Martha to understand when he said to her in verses 41 to 42, “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.” The good portion Jesus points out here is the worship and adoration of God. Like Mary, we “sit at the Lord’s feet and listen to his teaching.”
So Christian, we are called to this good portion of discipleship to love God with all our heart, mind, strength, and soul. And this takes priority over our service and love towards other. In fact, this is what fuels our concern for others.
We love because he first loves us. It is by his divine pleasure that brings us to a loving communion with him. He grants us the gift of faith so put our trust in his redemptive work, and enables us live in loving obedience to him. And this is our response of gratitude to the grace we receive despite of being guilty sinners. So let us pray for the sanctifying grace of God in lives.
This is the Lord’s Day, let us glorify God and enjoy him forever. Amen.
Brothers and Sisters of Field of Grace Reformed Church and Ilaw ng Sanlibutan Christian Fellowship Church, let us embrace God as the good portion of our discipleship. Let us worship and adore Him. May we continue to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Amen.