So, Which is It?
Yesterday I read the story of Jesus going to the home of Mary and Martha in Luke 10. This is a very familiar story, and that always carries with it a risk of giving in to the temptation to simply autopilot through the text.
But a couple things struck me today. One in particular is something that may seem very elementary – and it is really – but it grabbed me and wouldn’t let go.
Jesus has just finished telling the story of the “good Samaritan.” As he moved on in his journey he comes to a small village where we find the home of Mary and Martha. We know that hospitality is important to Jesus – both giving and receiving. In fact, when Jesus sent out the twelve in chapter 9, the disciples were taught how to receive hospitality and were to depend on the willingness of others to offer it. In chapter 7, when Jesus was anointed by the “sinful woman,” the pharisee’s unwillingness to offer simple courtesies of hospitality is counted against him.
We also know from the story of the Samaritan (the story IMMEDIATELY before this one), that Jesus has little patience for people who engage in religion and ignore the needs of their neighbor.
So why is it that while Martha is busy offering hospitality and Mary is ignoring those duties in order to hear some religious teaching, Jesus says it is Mary that has chosen the better thing? Doesn’t that directly contradict the point of the previous parable…and several other teachings in Luke?
Let me encourage you to slow down and allow this to roll around before immediately jumping to one of the canned answers about this passage. It was a temptation that I had to resist as well. We need to take a page from our Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters and soak in the mystery and paradox for a moment, rather than instantly clamoring for logical defenses.
Perhaps this would make a good passage – and maybe right now is a good time – to slow down and pray through these words.
God, what is there here for us? Why are these two stories next to each other in this way? Teach us, Holy Spirit.
What do you hear? How do you read it? I have 2 responses that struck me, but I’d like to see if anyone else might want to weigh in first…