Summary: Two sisters loved Jesus immensely - but only one cultivated her relationship with Jesus for which she is commended
Trinity 8 TSJ and WSG 17-07-2016
Luke 10:38-42 - Martha and Mary
To get to the root of a Gospel reading you need to look at it in context.
Darrell Bock in the NIV Application Commentary on Luke says this about our Gospel passage today within the context of Luke’s Gospel as a whole:
“Discipleship is one of St Luke’s great themes and Luke 10:25-11:13 focuses on this issue by highlighting relationships at three fundamental levels.”
The first relationship is with our neighbour (Luke 10:25-37), summed up in the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
Which we looked at last Sunday at All Saints in the Benefice service
The second relationship is with Jesus (Luke 10:38-42).
Here Luke records the famous gripe of Martha to Jesus about Mary not helping out in the kitchen when Jesus and his disciples came for supper, leaving all the work to Martha.
The third relationship was with God through prayer in Luke 11:1-13 culminating in the Lord’s Prayer.
The close positioning of these three relationships suggests a degree of interaction.
It implies that our response to God will have a result to our neighbour
In other words the vertical relationship
MAN---------------GOD (show a hand signal)
Affects the relationship
MAN ----------------- MAN (show hand signal)
When you look at these two hand signals you see the picture of a Cross.
And in fact these can only function correctly when we come to the Cross of Jesus.
Christianity is all about relationships.
The story in our reading today from Luke’s Gospel is about Martha and Mary and their relationship to Jesus.
Martha and Mary were sisters and good friends of Jesus.
And they invited him to supper at their house.
Martha was the older of the two and was busy with preparing and serving.
And she gets into a bit of a fluster when things don’t seem to be going well and so asks Jesus if he would be so kind as to send her sister to her in the kitchen to help her.
But Jesus gently rebukes of Martha telling her that Mary is doing the right thing spending time listening and interacting with Jesus rather than “doing something for Jesus”.
Martha’s relationship with Jesus was all about doing things for Jesus.
In contrast, Mary has a different relationship with Jesus.
She spends time with Him allowing Him to minister to her needs.
And so she has got caught up in conversation with Jesus and Jesus commends her for this.
Martha thought she knew what Jesus wanted – a banquet in his honour.
Mary actually knew what Jesus wanted – which was for her to spend time with Him.
I’d like to look at the sisters in a bit more detail because I think I can learn from both of them.
Being a bit of a workaholic myself, I feel an affinity for Martha.
Why Martha was still working on the meal when Jesus came?
We do not know.
Had she had too little notice of his coming or
was she trying to impress Him by preparing too many dishes?
Whatever the reason, when Jesus came with his disciples - she wasn’t ready.
As a result, she couldn’t spend time with him.
As it was her house, she felt responsible.
So instead of spending time with Jesus, she spent it in the kitchen – cooking.
She probably wished she had time to spend time with Jesus, but she had committed herself.
She was responsible for the meal. So she had to finish it.
When she found that she couldn’t finish preparing the meal herself, she probably said to Mary:
“Come on, Mary - if you help me we can get this finished much quicker together. Then, I too can come and listen to Jesus.
But we have to get this finished.”
But when Mary did not come and help, she flipped her lid and went to Jesus and complained.
"Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" Luke 10:40 (NIV)
I am not convinced that Martha’s preparations for the meal were wrong.
They were an important part of the meal.
The problem was that they distracted her from Jesus.
Our culture promotes busyness.
Steven Covey put it well when he said:
"People expect us to be busy, overworked.
It’s become a status symbol in our society - if we’re busy, we’re important; if we’re not busy, we’re almost embarrassed to admit it.
Busyness is where we get our security. It’s validating, popular and pleasing. It’s also a good excuse for not dealing with the first things in our lives." (Stephen Covey, First Things First, p. 33)
The fact is that Martha was the one with the problem, not Mary.
Her preoccupation with service had four effects.