Key: There is need of only one thing, and Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her. - Luke 10:42
Jesus taught that bold ministry, spiritual warfare, and compassionate service are tremendously important-but they still remain secondary to our own joy-filled, vibrant, simple relationship with the Lord. God's amazing grace is essential to both divine service and divine relationship, but Jesus makes the relationship the greater priority, the greater value. This remarkable truth is an underlying theme of Scripture, and an especially clear lesson Jesus taught to two sisters, friends of his: Mary and Martha.
In a riveting sequence of interconnected stories in the middle of the Gospel according to Luke, some of the costs, challenges, risks, rewards, and joys of following Jesus are explored (Luke 9:10-11:4). This extended text includes some of the most memorable passages in Luke, in order:
the feeding of about 5,000 men (S)
Peter's declaration (R)
Jesus' prophesy of this death and teaches devoted service (S)
the Transfiguration of Jesus (R)
Jesus healing a demon-possessed boy (S)
childhood as a model of Godliness (R)
affirmation of other people's service to God (S)
bumpy invitations to new followers of Jesus (R)
the ministries of 72 of Jesus disciples (S)
Jesus' soliloquy (R)
the dramatic successes of the 72 disciples' spiritual warfare (S)
the even greater importance of Jesus' disciples/followers being right with God (R*)
the parable of the Good Samaritan (S)
the pointed visit with sisters Mary and Martha (R*)
a teaching of a version of the Lord's Prayer (R)
This is a significant sequence of 15 events, each one full of amazing grace and wisdom for us. Starting with the feeding of 5,000 men, every second story or teaching elevates effectual service to God and to others. In the list above, these are marked with "(S)." In between these stories and teachings are stories and teachings that especially elevate our vibrant relationship with God - and these are marked with "(R)" or "(R*)." The two marked "(R*) stand out and are different because those texts include also Jesus' own comparison of the relative importance of effectual service for God and vibrant relationship with God. As splendid and precious as effectual service for God remains, vibrant relationship with God is even more important.
Jesus always elevates excellent, devoted, compassionate, grace-filled service to others - both in his exemplary life and his transformative teaching. However, an over-arching theme of these verses is that our own vibrant, grace-filled relationship with the Lord is even more crucial than excellent service.
Jesus made this precious teaching especially clear to his friends, Mary and Martha. A lesson of Christ's friendship with Mary and Martha is our friendship with God, by the amazing grace of Christ.