As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what He taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to You that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”Luke 10:38-42
- Why does Luke call it “a certain village”?
- Why would Luke mask the fact that we are actually talking about Bethany and call it “a certain village” instead.
I will answer on Luke’s behalf but I strongly suggest you ask him at your first opportunity. Did you realise you will get an opportunity to ask Luke yourself? But I suspect it won’t be for a long while after you first arrive because you will be busy worshipping Jesus. Then when it comes time to ask I wouldn’t mind betting that you won’t have to ask because you will just know (as you are known). This I say, not Luke, much like Paul writes on occasions, ‘This I say not the Lord.’
I think that Luke has likely masked the name of Bethany with the comment “a certain village” because his purpose is not to present a chronological account of the journey, but rather he has used it / positioned it here for a teaching purpose. It is likely he didn’t draw attention to the fact that he was talking about Bethany, because it appears too early in the story. They are not yet near Jerusalem. But his purpose is not a chronological account of the journey. Rather, the Journey is a spiritual journey. Could it be that the thoughts here are connected with the first question of the expert in the Law in the section before this, namely: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” If you want to inherit eternal life then sit at his feet and hang on every word Jesus has to say. I told you yesterday that the term “sitting at his feet” was exactly what the disciple of a Rabbi was to do. Always be close by His feet. Wherever He moves, you must follow. Hence the Rabbinical saying, “Cover yourself in the dust from your rabbi’s feet.” How much more this Rabbi ! Hence the fact that Mary chooses to position herself at her Master’s feet. She is held in rapt attention by everything He said to her.
Why should Martha be so upset about the situation?
Martha clearly has chosen what she thinks to be important. Her priority is to do the cultural thing of serving the guest. Yes, this is all right and proper but is it of the highest priority? Some of us have all sorts of expectations on us that others or we ourselves have placed there. It may be that we are caught up in the treadmill of expectation that means my house has to be spotless before guests come. Maybe you learned that from your parents. But why can’t a house be a little “used” when guests come? Oh I am not saying mess everywhere, but the fact that our house is in a state of being used is not a problem. Why does the meal have to be prepared before the guests come? Why can’t it happen in the context of the guests there? Often these issues are part of the expectations we put upon ourselves. Learned through our culture or our own families, but it is not necessarily right. There are different ways of doing things. Oh, I understand one aspect of having the meal prepared beforehand or the need to have some help to get things done is so that the one doing the preparing (normally the wife), doesn’t miss out on all the conversation and social interaction. Now that makes sense. That is a good reason for having help. It is quite possible Martha was upset because she too wanted to be “in there” with Jesus and not missing out on the conversation. But she was most likely able to do that anyway. I am sure her kitchen and dining room was an open plan affair. Ha ha why do I say that? Because I have seen the archeological remains of her house? No, because the houses back then had one open area where the living and cooking and everything else took place. I think Martha could be a part of it. Besides all that they are having lunch with Jesus, the one who fed 5000 people with 5 loaves and two fish. If it is really a matter of food preparation, leave it to Him.
Besides it was her choice to set her own priorities. Did you realize it is your free choice to set your own priorities in life? You don’t have to bow to the priorities or demands of what others put on you. Within your family or outside of it. You are your own person and you can decide what is important for you. The problem is, some of us have a different sense of what should be a priority and what shouldn’t. Most of those expectations were established early for us by our parents. But in your own household, you have the freedom or the liberty to determine your priorities in your own immediate family. Oh, others will criticise and make their comments. But who is to say what is wrong and what is right? That is all learned human response. It is interesting to see what Jesus said about it when we get to that point.
Why didn’t Mary help?
Mary had set her priorities. In the context of the over-arching nature of the question, “What must I do to obtain eternal life?” clearly we must do what the other Mary told us. “Whatever He tells you, do it.” (John 2:5). In the context of the expert in the Law’s question, to inherit eternal life we need to love God and others more than all else. We need to hang on to every moment we can in communion with Christ. Loving God with all your heart is Number 1. Loving your neighbour as yourself is Number 2. Mary has chosen Priority #1. You can’t fault her for that. Especially when she has a personal visit from the Son of God. It is like I told you before in the Gem 19 and 815) about my thoughts of meeting with Rod Laver, winner of two Tennis Grand Slams all in the one calendar year. Nothing would have higher priority than meeting him in the scheme of things, unless there was another who was of far higher priority to me. There is one, His name is Jesus. I have set my life priority. I believe Mary had set hers. It is now up to Martha to determine what is most important to her. I can tell you, if Jesus were in the room I would not be concentrating on cleaning it. I would be hanging on every Word he had to tell me. All else could wait. I don’t care if cultural rules tell me I should do something else first. He gets priority. Every morning. Mary had her priority straight. I am sure she was aware of Martha’s dilemma. I am just as sure Martha made her aware of it. But Mary had chosen Priority #1, and she wasn’t about to let it be overtaken by Priority #2 in loving her sister Martha. Not this time around anyway.
Why was Martha complaining to Jesus?
Martha was clearly miffed that her sister didn’t share her priority. Well, that is right, because that is Martha’s priority and not Mary’s, by definition. Oh, I am equally sure she was sending out the messages, making it clear to Mary what she thought about Mary’s choice. “There are cultural things we have to do Mary, the things our mother taught us to do when guests arrive. It is not right that you leave me to do all this work.” I am sure there was lots of huffing and puffing about it all. By the time Martha lets it all out, I am sure the tension had built up in the room. The verb used for “she came to Jesus” infers suddenness. Martha has suddenly stopped her feverish activity and SUDDENLY appeared before Jesus in an accusatory fashion. She has been trying to get Mary’s attention by her comments, by huffing and puffing about, by sighing loudly and all those other tricks that we use. How do I know all this when I wasn’t there? Just simply on the basis of human nature. She now thinks that she can get Jesus to pass a ruling on what her sister should do. How often we try to manipulate others to conform to our own personal agenda. I am sure she had every expectation that Jesus would back her in the cultural niceties of what was happening here. Jesus response must have shocked her.
“My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”
It is not that the cultural niceties were wrong. In their context they are all right and proper, but on this occasion they were not the priority. Mary’s priority was not earthly, it was heavenly. It is like Jesus would say, “You are worried and upset over all these details [and we – Mary and I are aware of it ] but they are not the priority.” The priority here is couched in terms of what must you do to inherit eternal life. The expert in the Law has answered well. Love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. That kind of priority makes all of these (household issues) fade into insignificance.
Note especially the word distracted [perispao]. Meaning to be pulled away or dragged from what is important, distracted, overtaken by considerations other than the priority. It is not that what Martha was doing was unnecessary or unimportant, but given the circumstances, there was one thing more important. Furthermore, set in the context of the expert in the Law’s question, it was moved front and centre. Martha missed it and then made things worse by trying to force Mary into her bad choices. How often we do that! The tensions come from our own wrong motives. (See James comments on that.)
But note Jesus’ reaction. Note the repetition. “Martha, Martha.” I am sure in the script for the play, it would read in brackets (said with compassion and understanding). There are a number of variations across the existing copies and versions we have of the Bible text. Let me give you my summation of them. “Martha, dear Martha“. “Dear, dear Martha.” “Martha, Martha my dear“. There is no hint of castigation in Jesus comments. He had compassion for her, given her choice and given her feelings as a result of her choice. But the fact remains, there is one thing worth choosing in all this and Mary has chosen it. It will not be taken from her, either by you Martha or by anyone else. Certainly not by Father God because her choice and reaction is totally in accord with His will.
I also asked the question yesterday, does “welcomed Him in to her home” infer this is the first time they meet? There are some textual issues centred around this but I don’t consider them important enough to dwell on. Since it has already taken me significant time to get this far, I will put that section back in the box.
After all, it’s all about priorities, isn’t it?
A lack of time is really a lack of priority. We always find time for the things we love. Make today count.Paul de Jong
Your PRIORITIES are proven by your actions; not by your intentions. It’s time to let your life do the talking!Brian Houston
Sometimes being B-U-S-Y just means Being Under Satan’s Yoke!Bob Gass
What other people think of you is none of your business.Regina Brett