As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:38-42
So often when we come to this passage we are asked, “Are you a Mary or a Martha?” And in reality, the truth is we are most likely a bit of both. Both these women received Jesus that day and it involved much more than being supplied with food and drink. We see Martha, as doing and, providing the reader with a positive example of how to be ‘properly’ hospitable when welcoming a guest into your home. She is mirroring exactly what Jesus hoped the 72 would receive when he sent them out earlier in the chapter. She is almost too preoccupied and becomes anxious and upset because she wants to get it right, really right. Jesus doesn’t condemn this but He does correct it.
A theologian Carter says, “The word ‘serving’ used was not common and does not exclusively designate the menial task of waiting at tables. Rather they denote the activity of an in-between kind, activity relating to a message (as a spokesperson)”. This view suggests that Martha’s concerns were not “with kitchen activity but with participation in leadership and ministry on behalf of the Christian community.” (Carter, W., “Getting Martha Out of the Kitchen” in Levine, A-J, (ed) A Feminist Companion to Luke, London: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002)
In the domestic sphere, a woman would sit silently at the feet of her husband. Another scholar Seim says, Here although Mary is silent she is not at the feet of her husband she is at the feet of her Lord and is receiving instruction which due to her portrayal as a disciple I am sure is not domestic. Seim believes, “Mary for her part is portrayed in the typical position of the pupil as she sits at the Lord’s feet. (Seim, T.K., The Double Message: Patterns of Gender in Luke & Acts) Both these women are well known as Jesus disciples and their posture, their interjections and their ministry here declare this to be so. They need a prominent mention in the list of some of Jesus’ most faithful disciples.
When do you prefer doing to sitting and listening? Martha too was a disciple and most likely did spend time listening to Jesus’ teachings and Mary was also a server. This story indicates there is a time for both. How do we know when we need to sit at the feet of Jesus? How do we know when it is time to put into practice the truths, He has taught us? When are we so anxious about getting stuff right, that we forget the importance of being and engaging?
PRAYER: God please don’t let me become so preoccupied with serving you that I forget to be your child and fail to sit at your feet and listen to you and the things you may want me to learn. Please make it clear when it is time for me to act. In Jesus Name, Amen
(written by Ange van der Leeuw)
SONG: Come Mary, Come Martha by Anna Purdum https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tE3UUDngvf8