Lessons from a Dinner Party: The Priority of Worship & Communion with Christ

TEXT: Luke 10:38-42


Last week was Vision Sunday. During that service we were greatly encouraged to hear from different people in our church as they presented the areas of ministry that they will oversee this year. It is certainly an exciting time in the life of our church.

As I considered this throughout the week, I was both cheerfully optimistic and soberly contemplative. Let me explain. My heart is full of joy at the thought of people willingly entering into service for the Lord, but at the same time I am very aware that ministry can be a distraction from the most important thing – fellowship, worship, and communion with Christ.

We have spoken a lot about balance in recent days, and this message will again help us find the “centre of the see-saw” when it comes to worship and service.

Last week we deployed many people into areas of ministry and this message is timely because it will help us to understand how worship must precede service if it is to be honouring to the Lord.

Join me as I preach the first in a two-part series today entitled: Lessons from a Dinner Party #1: The Priority of Worship & Communion with Christ.

“Now as they went on their way” (10:38a).

As this account is only found in Luke’s gospel, it can be a little difficult to determine where this story fits in the chronology of Jesus’ ministry. Most commentators believe that Jesus had just returned from Jerusalem after the Feast of Tabernacles recorded in John 7:10.

There is little doubt that this verse refers to Jesus and all 12 of His disciples.

“Jesus entered a village.” (10:38b)

The word “village” refers to a “a small, generally unfortified settlement. Often the common sleeping place to which labourers in the field return; a hamlet.

A village was not a notable place. It did not have a large population and it relied upon a nearby city to assist with any financial needs and protection. On the whole, it was an unimportant place.

This village was Bethany (John 11:1) which was 2 miles from Jerusalem (about a 45 minute walk) on the east slope of the Mount of Olives.

The Village of Bethany is mentioned by name 11 times in the gospel, and it appears to have been a favourite location for Jesus and His disciples.

We are told that Jesus lodged there (Matthew 21:17); dined there (Mark 14:3); was anointed there (Mark 14:3-9); ascended to heaven from there (Luke 24:50-52); and raised Lazarus from the dead there (John 11:1-44).

In that day, and in ours, important people are found in the cities. This is where the action is. This is where influence, wealth, and fame are established. If you want to get somewhere in life, you move to a city and make yourself known.

It is interesting to note that Jesus was constantly found in relatively unpopular and unimportant places. He frequented the country towns, villages, and hamlets of His day (Galilee, Gadarenes, Gennesaret, etc.).

Does this not speak to Christ’s concern for all people: the affluent and those in poverty; the important and the unknown; city-dwellers and those in the wilderness; the centurions and the widows; the pharisees and the Samaritans; the rich men and the demon-possessed; the publicans and the pariahs?

The fact that Jesus entered a village, sat down with ordinary people, and taught them God’s truth, should bring us great joy. When building His kingdom, Jesus did not show respect to persons, He did not gravitate to those of high intellect, wealth, and influence. He simply taught the truth to all who would “welcome Him into their lives.”

This should be our testimony too. We should not consider a man’s station in life, but simply that he needs the gospel. Whether he is the town drunk or the mayor should have no sway on our desire to reach him for Christ.

“And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house” (10:38c)

Who was Martha in the Bible?

We meet Martha on three occasions in the Bible, and each of these provide us with some insight into who she was.

First Mention: Luke 10:38-42 (our text)

Here we observe the following about her:

  1. Martha was probably a widow because the home is called “her house”, and she was likely the older sibling because Mary and Lazarus were living in her home (Luke 10:38-39).
  2. Martha was a caring and honourable older sister to her siblings having provided a home for them.
  3. The invitation for Christ to come over was given by Martha which indicates authority (Luke 10:38)
  4. The name Martha means: “The lady, mistress, or master (feminine form)”.
  5. Martha was hospitable and desired to be a good hostess to Jesus and His disciples.
  6. Martha was hardworking and concerned with providing good food, well-presented, and of a standard appropriate to the occasion.


Second Mention: John 11:1-27

Here we observe the following about her:

  1. Martha was independent and unafraid to speak her mind (John 11:20-21).
  2. Martha was a woman of faith. She believed that Jesus had power to heal Lazarus (John 11:22, 27).
  3. Martha had an understanding of the gospel and the resurrection (John 11:24).
  4. Martha believed the truth about Jesus and that He was the fulfilment of OT prophecy.
  5. Martha was very practical (John 11:39).


Third Mention: John 12:1-8

Here we observe the following about her:

  1. Martha was serving again (John 12:2).

This is amazing. Having been lovingly rebuked by the Lord previously, Martha returns to service, but this time she makes no comment about Lazarus who was “reclining at the table” or Mary who anointed the feet of Jesus. She serves lovingly, willingly, and humbly, yet all the while, listening carefully to all that Jesus was saying, no doubt!


Martha was a godly woman who welcomed the Lord Jesus into her home. Please bear in mind, when Jesus entered a home He did not go alone. At least 12 other men also entered. That’s a lot of food, preparation, etc. Martha gladly rose to the occasion and was a tremendous host.

“And she had a sister called Mary…” (Luke 10:39a)

Who was Mary in the Bible?

We also meet Mary on three occasions, and from these we gain a clear picture of who she was.

First Mention: Luke 10:39-42 (our text)

Here we observe the following about her:

  1. Mary was the sister of Martha (probably the younger; Luke 10:39).
  2. Mary was commended for wanting to be near the Lord and learn from Him (Luke 10:42).
  3. Mary remained silent in the face of her accuser, demonstrating humility and meekness (Luke 10:41).


Second Mention: John 11:20-33

  1. When Mary hears that Jesus is on his way, she remains seated in the house (John 10:20).
  2. At Christ’s invitation, Mary responded quickly (John 10:28-29).
  3. Mary falls at the feet of Christ in reverence and worship (John 10:32) – Quite a contrast in the way these ladies approached Christ even though they said the same thing.


Third Mention: Matthew 26:1-6; Mark 14:3-9; John 12:1-8

  1. Mary broke an alabaster jar of spikenard (pure nard) and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair (John 12:3).
  2. It is likely that this sealed alabaster jar (approximately the size of a can of soft drink) was Mary’s dowry or inheritance and it was worth one year’s wage (300 denarii).
  3. Mary demonstrated what true worship and surrender looks like (John 12:3)
  4. Mary remained silent once again in the face of mockery and accusation (John 12:5-6).
  5. Mary had great insight into the death and burial of Jesus (John 12:7).
  6. Mary’s act of worship is immortalised in the Scripture and the gospel (Mark 14:9).


Every time we meet Mary she is at the feet of Jesus! Here she is wiping His feet with her hair, that is, laying her glory at His feet.

Mary of Bethany was a remarkable woman – humble, reverential, and unaffected by those who would detract from her acts of worship.

“Who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching” (Luke 10:39)

In ancient times, learners or disciples would sit at the feet of their teachers as a symbol of respect and humility. This posture denoted the fact that she was attentively listening to His instructions, and eager to learn His doctrine.

The same is said of Paul who was “educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers” (Acts 22:3).

Mary eagerly listened and hung to every word that dropped from the Master’s mouth. She was absorbed, focused, fixed, engaged, and listened with rapt attention to all that Jesus had to say.


This is a far cry from the “Christianity” we see today. Contemporary Christianity is all about noise, activity, commotion, and frenzy. Sitting silently at the feet of Jesus has almost been universally disregarded.

Are we sitting at the feet of Christ? Are we listening to what He says?

The truth is this: you will either sit at His feet as His disciple in this life or you will be the enemies under His footstall in the next!

“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’” (Luke 10:40)

The text now provides us with a stark contrast between Mary and Martha.

The word “distracted” in the Greek only appears in this passage. It means “to be drawn away, over-burdened, preoccupied, anxious and worried, mentally confused or troubled.

The key word here is “much”. It is not wrong to be serving, but it is wrong to be serving to the point that you are distracted from the most important thing.

Martha had an important guest in her home. It was not wrong for her to provide food and meet the practical needs of those in her care, but being drawn away, over-burdened, and distracted by these tasks was wrong.

Her focus on the less important matters led her to frustration with her sister and the Lord, resulting in speech that was punctuated by sharp tones and rudeness.

Martha got into a flap and her agitation got the better of her. Consider the downward spiral:

  1. Martha became frustrated and possibly jealous in her heart (10:40)
  2. Martha did not approach her sister privately (10:40)
  3. Martha interrupted Jesus publicly (10:40)
  4. Martha spoke with sharp tones (10:40)
  5. Martha blamed Jesus for not taking necessary action (10:40)
  6. Martha accused Jesus of not caring (10:40)
  7. Martha made demands of Jesus (10:40)


Now at this point it is important to remember that Martha loved the Lord and was a disciple of His. Her intentions in providing for Him were commendable, and we must not judge Martha too harshly.

However, as with all sin, it rarely stops at one. The compounding nature of sin is seen in Martha’s distraction from what truly mattered, leading to frustration, resulting in bad communication, irreverence, and finally, proud demands.

“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’” (Luke 10:41-42).

It never ceases to amaze me how kind and loving the Lord is to His proud and foolish people. How often have we responded poorly and misunderstood our place before Him, and yet He speaks kindly to us- helping us to see and understand what is most important!

Although we cannot hear audibly the Lord’s response, it is clear that Martha’s outburst was met with Christ’s tenderness. He said, “Martha, Martha”. Christ’s repetition of a name has three important purposes: (1) A call to attention; (2) An affectionate call and; (3) gentle reproof.

Jesus demonstrated this with Simon (Luke 22:31), Saul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:4), and here with Martha (Luke 10:41).

We also observe in Jesus’ response that He reveals both the problem and the solution. This is really important to understand. Christ did not simply scold Martha for her anxiety and distraction, but also provided an answer and a solution moving forward.

Plenty of people are prepared to point the finger at our flaws, sins, and errors, but most do not help us determine the right solution and way forward. Jesus does.

The Problem

“You are anxious and troubled about many things…” (Luke 10:41)

The two words that Jesus uses, “anxious” and “troubled”, refer to an inward worry and an outward agitation.

The Lord Jesus does not leave Martha wondering, He provides a clear diagnosis of her sin.

The Solution

“But one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42).

The Lord Jesus’ response here has led to varied interpretations. There are basically two schools of thought:

  1. Jesus was referencing to the amount of food. In other words, one single dish would suffice for Him and His disciples. It was unnecessary to cumbered with much preparation.
  2. Jesus was referencing the attitude of worship and the act of listening and meditating upon His words.


Although there is a principle to be learned from simplicity in hospitality, I fail to see that Jesus was speaking about the number of dishes. It seems far more consistent with His overall teaching that He is referring to a concentrated attitude of worship and communion with Himself.

In other words, Martha was concerned for the physical food and Mary was captivated by the spiritual food.

This is further developed when Jesus says, “Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” In this context, it is clear that Jesus commends Mary for the decision to sit at His feet rather than be troubled by the less important aspects of entertainment.

The “good portion” is the best dish on the table – fellowship with Jesus. This is the spiritual application here.

Note also the perpetuity of Mary’s “good portion”. The text says, “which will not be taken away from her.” Sitting at the Lord’s feet has eternal value and ramifications. The food that Martha was preparing would meet some temporary physical needs, but what Jesus was dishing out would impact them forever.

One commentator wrote:

Martha, to whom life is a perpetual worry and weariness. She was a Christian in the real sense, for she loved her Lord; but she was a Christian who had not escaped from the fuss and weariness which make up the life of so many. Besides, all her bustle was really under a false impression, that the greatest compliment she could pay her Master was to give him a good physical feast. She never fancied that a good listener like Mary complimented the Master more than any banquet could.

Final Application:

If we are not careful and vigilant in our service and ministry, we will become distracted like Martha and lose sight of priority of worship and communion with Christ.

It is easy to get busy doing when what we really need is to be sitting at the feet of Christ.

It is essential that our service for the Lord flows out of our communion with Him. If we fail in this regard, we are heaping up wood, hay, and stubble against the day of judgment.

May we, like Mary, choose the good portion of sitting at the Lord’s feet and listening, worshipping, and in sweet communion.

Let me close with a poem written by Anson Randolph in 1820 from his works, “At the Beautiful Gate”

“Christ never asks of us such busy labour
As leaves no time for resting at his feet;
The waiting attitude of expectation
He ofttimes counts a service most complete.
“He sometimes wants our ear—our rapt attention,
That he some sweetest secret may impart;
’Tis always in the time of deepest silence
That heart finds deepest fellowship with heart.
“We sometimes wonder why our Lord doth place us
Within a sphere so narrow, so obscure,
That nothing we call work can find an entrance
There’s only room to suffer—to endure!
“Well. God loves patience! Souls that dwell in stillness,
Doing the little things, or resting quite,
May just as perfectly fulfil their mission,
Be just as useful in the Father’s sight,
“As they who grapple with some giant evil,
Clearing a path that every eye may see!
Our Saviour cares for cheerful acquiescence
Rather than for a busy ministry.
“And yet he does love service, where ’tis given
By grateful love that clothes itself in deed;
But work that’s done beneath the scourge of duty,
Be sure to such he gives but little heed.
“Then seek to please him, whatsoe’er he bids thee!
Whether to do—to suffer—to lie still!
’Twill matter little by what path he led us,
If in it all we sought to do his will.”