We continue our series LOVE PRAY EAT, with this week’s message on Luke 10:38-42…
In Jesus’ day, women didn’t welcome religious leaders into their homes—men did. But no men are connected to Mary and Martha in this story. Perhaps Mary and Martha are widows; perhaps they never married; perhaps they are orphans. But whatever the case, a self-respecting religious teacher concerned for his reputation would not be seen hanging out at the house of two single women. Except Jesus.
As with much of history, in the first century the practicalities of hospitality such as purchasing and preparing food, cooking, serving meals, and cleaning up fell to women. In Greco-Roman times women were not allowed to vote nor hold elected offices, but were limited to the domestic sphere. Things were similar for Jewish women like Martha and Mary. The home was the woman’s place, the father had total authority over her until twelve and a half, the duties of a wife were bound to the home and her husband was essentially her master. Boundaries were present within the Temple area that excluded women, and women were not permitted as students of the Bible. A woman’s testimony was not permitted in a religious court and they carried an inferior status along with children and slaves.
Jesus and his disciples are travelling on mission and preaching and teaching in towns and villages, when they are offered hospitality (food and lodging) by Martha. Both Mary and Martha seek to serve Jesus; Mary by listening attentively to the teaching of Jesus, and Martha by providing food and hospitality. However, in this instance, Jesus forbids the domestic duties of providing hospitality to take priority over teaching his disciples. It is not the preparation of the meal that Martha is corrected for, but the placing of the meal at the centre of attention and trying to take a disciple away from learning at the feet of the master. Jesus and his disciples rely upon the hospitality of Martha for their mission, but the mission comes first; cooking and cleaning second.
Theologian Shannon Jung outlines six practices that he encourages churches and Christians to consider: saying grace, sharing and hospitality, communal feasting, preparing food, fasting, and honouring our bodies. Prayerfully consider these and how you use your home, gifts, time and resources to serve Jesus’ mission in your everyday life. How could we do this more as a church?
Artwork by Jan Vermeer van Delft, 1654