Nourished by meals with the Messiah
Joel S. Heckendorf
Bethany buffet (Luke 10:38-42)
The Thanksgiving turkey has barely settled in your stomach, and you’re already planning the Christmas cookie assortment. Ever since God said in Genesis, “They will be yours for food” (1:29), eating has played an important role in our lives. Jesus also came and ate with friends, disciples, and others. Fully human, the Son of Man came “eating and drinking” (Matthew 11:19). We continue to invite him to be our guest at mealtime.
“Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest”
“Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest.” Martha didn’t rush through those words as a precursor to, “Please pass the potatoes.” She truly wanted Jesus to be a guest in her home. Martha often gets remembered for being on the wrong side of Jesus’ rebuke, but don’t miss the compliment: “Martha opened her home to him” (Luke 10:38). Considering the circumstances, her “Welcome” was more than a word on her doormat; it was evidence of her faith in Jesus.
Welcoming Jesus was not cheap. Remember, he didn’t travel alone. Martha couldn’t just instruct her family, “F.H.B.” (Family-Hold-Back), in order to stretch the mutton when Jesus landed at her Bethany home. Jesus usually arrived with 12 hungry students. I don’t mind if my son brings a few friends home for supper, but if he brings the whole basketball team I get concerned about the grocery bill. Not Martha! She welcomed Jesus and his disciples into her home without counting the cost.
It wasn’t only her checkbook. Having Jesus in her home also had the potential to cost Martha her safety and reputation. This Bethany buffet occurred during the “year of opposition.” Jesus was no longer viewed as a popular miracle worker. He was increasingly viewed as a rebel who stood up to the “righteous” religious rulers. Yet, Martha “opened her home to him.” May we too pray and live in such a way that invites Jesus to be our guest.
“And let these gifts to us be blessed”
At the same time, Jesus did not come to be served. He came to serve. This was a difficult lesson for Martha to learn. It’s difficult for us too. Among the readers of this article are Sunday school teachers and funeral-meal preparers, choir members, ushers, canvassers. councilmen, coffee roasters, and parent/teacher organization leaders. You may be tired of being the 20 percent who does 80 percent of the work. Thank you for your service to the Lord. Your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
But, “Martha, Martha,” is your service getting in the way of being served? Even if you think it’s not, listen to your Savior, “Only one thing is needed” (Luke 10:42). Like Martha, your service is a blessing to Jesus’ work and his people. But the Savior’s primary goal is to serve you. That’s a lesson Martha’s sister Mary knew well.
Have you ever been told as the host, “Just sit down and enjoy the meal”? That’s what our Savior says to you. Sitting at Jesus’ feet with Mary, we are served endless helpings of forgiveness, inexhaustible portions of peace, limitless servings of grace, and an all-you-can-eat buffet of blessings.
Like Mary, may our prayer be, “And let these gifts to us be blessed.”
Food for thought
1. What helps sharpen your focus on “the one thing needed”?
Examples may include:
- Actually writing in “Bible Time” on our calendars.
- Enlisting an accountability partner.
- Link your reading of God’s Word to your personal prayer life.
- When you read the Bible, look for yourself and your Savior in every text, story, prophecy, and promise.
- Set asidefive minutes daily to read God’s Word and ask, “What is God telling me through this text for this particular day?”
- Tell someone else what you learned or thought. Telling others helps clarify our thoughts.
- Devotional books or lists of key Bible texts can help guide our meditation.
2. How have you learned not to count the cost of service?
By focusing our eyes on what Christ has done for us, our service will feel less forced. “Christ’s love compels us” (2 Corinthians 5:14,15) is the key to joyful service. This same focus also humbles us so that we are glorifying God’s name in what we say and do and not glorifying ourselves.
3. Read Matthew 6:25-34. What comfort do you have concerning the worries of this world?
One of the most comforting truths of Matthew chapter 6 is the fact that our heavenly Father takes care of the birds. If he takes care of the “stuff”—even the little “stuff”—of this world, we don’t have to worry or get upset.
Contributing editor Joel Heckendorf is pastor at Immanuel, Greenville, Wisconsin.
This is the first article in a 11-part series that looks at Jesus as a mealtime guest and how he blessed his fellow diners—and us—with his living presence. Find the article and answers online after Dec. 5 at wels.net/forwardinchrist.
Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.
Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.
Author: Joel S. Heckendorf
Volume 104, Number 12
Issue: December 2017
Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us