Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Worship as Christ's Ministry to Us

Luke 10:38-42
38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. 40 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.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
In Luke chapter 10, we have seen Jesus' authority in sending out the 72 and giving them power to exorcise demons. Jesus is the Son who alone reveals the Father and gives eternal life. We also have seen Jesus' authoritative interpretation of Scripture as he confounds the expert in the law. Jesus shows how the law is unable to save us, so God sent his Son into the world on a mission of mercy to raise Adam's fallen race from death to newness of life. Now in the last passage of chapter 10, we see how Jesus' people must hear and treasure Jesus' authoritative words and Jesus himself. If Jesus is truly Lord with authority over heaven and earth and the eternal Son who gives mercy and eternal life, then his authoritative teaching must be received and welcomed. His words welcomed give eternal life. Martha had welcomed Jesus into her home, which was good. But true hospitality toward our Lord is to welcome Jesus' words into our hearts, for his words give eternal life.
It is easy for us to miss the ecclesiastical(1) setting of this scene. "Martha welcomed her into her house," and houses were the places where the apostolic and early church met. Churches were formed when the words of Jesus and Jesus himself were welcomed into the hearts of his people for salvation. Not only that, but the setting in this passage meets the three criteria for table fellowship: Jesus' presence, teaching, and a meal, for the very thing that Martha was busy preparing was a meal for Jesus and his very large entourage. So this is an ecclesiastical scene, and even more, a liturgical(2) scene. Our Lord's teaching will be followed by a meal. The Lord, the eternal Son of God come in the flesh, was teaching (Word) and would sit down to eat a meal (the sacrament foreshadowed).
The point then of this passage from an ecclesiastical and liturgical point of view is this: Jesus must serve his people before they can serve others. Arthur Just puts it like this:
"The issue here is whether one is first to serve the Lord or first to be served by him. This is really a question of the proper approach to worship. Mary has the right liturgical theology. She sits at the feet of Jesus to receive divine service from him. Instead of trying to serve Jesus first, she allows Jesus first to serve her with his gifts."
O how vital this point is, and how few understand it! We do not go to church primarily to give something (worship) to God, but rather we come to church, first of all, to receive something (teaching and grace/life) from Jesus Christ the Lord!
We must let God be God! We must let Jesus be Lord! To him belongs the glory of saving his people and continuing to save them! This means that he must serve us with his gifts, before we serve him and others. We come to our Lord Jesus Christ humbly each Lord's Day to first of all receive his instruction and receive his life. Mary gives us the right picture of how we come to Jesus each Sunday, and Martha the wrong.

1) "Relating to the clergy, church organizations, administration or governance. Contrasted with 'secular.'" Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms. Donald K. McKim. p. 85.
2) A liturgy is the order of a worship service. All churches, from the most informal to most formal, have a liturgy. Certain aspects of worship are done first, second, and so forth. Thus, the word, liturgical, pertaining to the liturgy of the church.

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