Friday, May 3, 2013

Martha, Martha

"Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, 'Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.'

And Jesus answered and said to her, 'Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.'” Luke 10:38-42 (NKJV)

The above passage from the Gospel of Luke is well-known as a reminder to keep one's focus on Jesus and to not let oneself become overburdened with lesser things. Well, at least it's been taught as such.

My wife and I belong to a small group in our church for married folk. As a lot of these groups go, there is usually a book that is used as a tool to guide the group along a topic or special concern for the group. In the book we are using, the passage from Luke was used. The questions asked were, "What kinds of avoidable pressures was Jesus trying to get Martha to release? How did He help her get a more accurate perspective?" My answers? "The business of trying to be the hostess with the mostess (intentional misspelling). He pointed to the one she was complaining about and told Martha that Mary was actually right. And I'm sure Martha 'appreciated' THAT!"

Apparently, I'm not as spiritually intuitive as others, and failed to see the wisdom that so many previous teachers had come up with concerning it. One of the people in the group was honest enough to admit that he wasn't really sure either what the passage meant, so he took some time to do some research and stated what some commentators of the passage had said. Things like, in that time, a meal was multi-coursed and it was socially expected to produce such a meal when entertaining. That was why Martha was so busy - it was expected! Now, I'm sure such commentators are learned individuals with many initials following their names, but I think they are full of hooey!

If you take a moment to look at the passage, you will notice that it stands alone. There really aren't any previous details in the verses before it to give you context. The verses following it shoot off in a different direction as well. So, when looking at the passage, you only have what you have to work with. And it gives me trouble.

Here is a bit of what we know, and don't know, looking at the passage (and I will be using the New King James Version as quoted above - if you look at other translations, you really won't read too much different):

In verse 38 we have "they went", "He entered", and "welcomed Him". In verse 40 we have "she approached Him and said". The "they" refer to Jesus AND His twelve disciples. "They" were traveling together. Did that mean that Jesus entered the village alone, or was His disciples traveling with Him? It's kind of like saying that "we put in a new driveway", but really mean, "we paid someone to put in new driveway".  Since Jesus is the main person, it can either be assumed that He went alone because Martha "welcomed Him", or that the disciples where there as well because "she approached Him and said" - which communicates she stepped through a GROUP to specifically talk directly to Him.

"… Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary …" (verses 38 and 39) Who's house? It says "Martha". Really? This is WAY before the ERA. I'm not saying it's possible or not. Just that we really don't know the makeup of the household. Was Martha married? Did Mary live in the house? We read in other passages that they have a brother named Lazarus. Did he live there as well? If Martha wasn't married, was this the family home? Were there parents? The reason for the questions is this: How many people was Martha serving? From the passage we can count three to be certain (Martha, Mary, and Jesus). But that number could be fifteen (Martha, Mary, Jesus, and His twelve disciples) - or greater with Lazarus, parents, and friends and neighbors. We don't know.

Now, we can make an assumption that Martha had servants (see "new driveway" comment above), but the pronouns and the comment from Martha pretty much convey that she was alone doing all of the preparation. If Mary, Martha's sister, lived there in the house (again, we don't know from the passage), Martha's annoyance with her would be more than reasonable.

What about the preparation? I really don't think Martha had ovens with timers, microwaves, or even gas grills to use as tools. Not having a lot of biblical references to meal preparation, we do know it took longer to cook something then than today. Regardless of the number of courses. I direct you to Genesis 18:1-8 where Abraham receives three visitors and they agree to a meal. I wonder how long it took to prepare a calf - without modern-day cooking equipment?

Now, let's add time to get ready for the meal to the mix. Do you think Jesus emailed Martha a couple of weeks in advance of His arrival? Probably not. In the passage concerning a tax collector named Zacchaeus, a man of minimal stature who climbs a tree to see Jesus' parade float, finds himself host when Jesus says to him, "Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house." (Luke 19:5b NKJV) Jesus seemed fond of inviting himself over for meals.

So now you know why I have trouble when Jesus basically scolds Martha and tells her that Mary was right to stay out of the kitchen (verses 41 and 42). I fail to see the "lesson".

What IS the lesson of this passage? In the small group my wife made a comment that I think really captures the essence (and being a "time" junkie, it really spoke to me): Live in the now. It is more important to focus on who you are with, than what you are doing. I think that's a lesson we all can take to heart.

© Emittravel 2013

1 comment:

  1. 'Jesus seemed fond of inviting himself over for meals.' HAHAHAHA! Thanks, brother, for starting my day with a laugh! I agree with your analysis. I feel a rant about God and time coming on. :)