38 While Jesus and his disciples were traveling, Jesus entered a village where a woman named Martha welcomed him as a guest. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his message. 40 By contrast, Martha was preoccupied with getting everything ready for their meal. So Martha came to him and said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to prepare the table all by myself? Tell her to help me.”
41 The Lord answered, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things. 42 One thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the better part. It won’t be taken away from her.”
Most of us have heard the story of Mary and Martha, and most of us have identified with either Martha, showing hospitality to Jesus and his followers, or Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet to learn. It’s human nature to pick sides, so we may say, to be “a Mary” is good or to be “a Martha” is bad. Jesus’ comment to Martha, who is “worried and distracted by many things” because she’s preparing food and caring for the guests, seems like a rebuke. Jesus tells Martha, “Mary has chosen the better part, and it won’t be taken away from her.” So if Martha stops serving, who will feed the guests?
Hospitality to guests and strangers was ingrained in first century society. So was relegating women to the purely domestic sphere of caring for others. Women were kept “in their place,” and yet Jesus sees beyond the status quo in his own circle, and smashes through everyone’s expectations, including ours! All are called to serve, all are called to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn. Jesus turns the world’s relegation of the powerless and the marginalized on its head, by calling the least of society to participate as disciples and leaders in the Kin-dom of God.
Jesus is smashing through the status quo with a new paradigm. And he’s using this everyday domestic scene to do it. Martha is a woman who is expected to serve the men, and eat in another room. Mary is not supposed to be able to sit at her teacher’s feet as a disciple, like a man, and be taught with the men. Jesus is showing the men that they can’t just be served, but they are to serve too. The rules of the world no longer apply, only the rule of God’s love.
Jesus’ comment to Martha is not a rebuke, but an invitation to be a disciple in the Kin-dom of God. Jesus is offering both Mary and Martha full participation in the Kin-dom of God. He is showing them they can rise above society’s and their own expectations to be disciples. Jesus is offering Mary and Martha an opportunity to share the good news with everyone, to invite people into new relationship with God through Jesus. To learn at the feet of their Savior and to go and share the good news of Jesus and the Kin-dom. This is the better part: to respond to Jesus’ invitation, to learn, serve and to share the good news with everyone, and when we do, it won’t be taken away from us.
by Jeneene Reduker
For Pondering & Prayer
Do you identify as a Martha, one who serves, or a Mary, one who learns? Jesus is smashing our expectations by saying we are all called to be disciples, learning, serving and sharing. Where do you see Jesus smashing the status quo in your life?
Prayer: Holy and Loving God, help us to recognize the status quo in our lives and transform us to be loving disciples in your Kin-dom. Amen.