(Luke 10:38-42; 11:5-8)
We are entering into Week 3 of our study of Luke’s ‘Travel Narrative‘. Today we look at two stories that both build upon what we’ve learned so far in the previous two weeks. Let’s go to story number 1:
Luke 10:38-42 – it is generally conceded that this story is chronologically misplaced. We see from John 11:1 that Mary, Martha, and Lazarus their brother, lived in Bethany, which is 2 miles ESE of Jerusalem. That would place this story at the end of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. Since we know that is not the case, expositors have theorized that this event took place some other time when Jesus was around Jerusalem. Some believe that Luke placed this story here because it gives an appropriate example of one of the two ‘greatest Commandments’ that we reviewed last week. The story of the Good Samaritan beautifully pictured “…Love thy neighbor …” (Lev.19:18), …. whereas our story today practically displays for us “… Love the Lord your God with all your heart …” (Deut.6:5). Regardless, the Holy Spirit has placed it in this position in God’s Holy Writ. Let’s see how it relates to what Luke, through the Spirit, has placed around it.
V.39 – “… Mary …” – Martha’s sister sat herself close to Jesus’ feet …on the floor … taking in the Master’s teachings.
V.40 – “… But Martha …” – … she was frazzled!! She’s cutting up vegetables, … tending a pot of broth on the stove, … watching bread in the oven, … getting out the serving utensils and bowls, … placing wine into cups; … it is absolutely amazing that she has pulled this off so far. But poor Martha has just had her ‘last nerve’ jumped upon, and she goes to Jesus….
” … came to Him …” – Dr. Luke chose an excellent Greek word that the NIV translates as “…came…”. The word, Ephistēmi, means ‘to stand by‘, … or ‘to stand over‘. As it turns out, Martha actually did both. She boldly (possibly inappropriately) walks up to the Teacher while He is teaching and stands next to Him …. while at the same time towering over her ‘slacker’ sister (Martha’s opinion, … not mine).
” Lord, don’t You care (lit. ‘ … is it nothing to You …’) that my sister (not referring to Mary by her name, … Martha is ticked …) has left me to do the work by myself? …” We must remember that Martha is having to prepare and serve a meal, ‘…by herself …’, for a group of probably 20 or more. “… Tell her (again, not using Mary’s proper name) then to help me! ” – The word ‘then’/’therefore’ …which is present in the Greek (the NIV apparently thought it unnecessary) … implies that Martha’s question was rhetorical. <‘It is obvious my sister is shirking her responsibilities … we can all see that, can’t we?>
V.41 – However, look at Jesus’ response; “Martha, Martha, …” – … we have noted before that when a word or phrase is repeated in these early languages, that particular word or phrase is being emphasized. Jesus’ next words are specifically directed at His overworked student; “… you are worried and upset about many things.” (Martha’s possible thought – ‘Yeah, about 20, to be exact …’)
V.42 – “… but only one thing is needed.” – Here is the contrast that we, as Disciples of Jesus, must deal with; 1) Is what Martha was doing, wrong? No, hospitality was expected to be practiced amongst the Jews for a guest or guests. In fact, it is commanded of the New Testament Body of Christ to behave this way (1 Pet.4:9; Rom.12:9-13). 2) Then why didn’t Jesus tell Mary to go help Martha? Because Mary had “… chosen what was better …”. There can be in the Body of Christ, here on earth, ‘good’, … and ‘better’. Neither is sinful, … it is just that one is ‘better’ then the other. We see another example of this contrast in 1 Cor.7:36-38. 3) In this instance, what is Jesus calling ‘better’? Intimate time with the Master, … hanging onto His Words, … that is the thing that “… will not be taken away from her.”
And it is not because Mary was more ‘cerebral’ and studious than Martha. Go to John 11:17-27 and note how theologically sound Martha is when conversing with Jesus about her brother’s death. The woman knows the Truth! But when we get to Mary’s and Jesus’ interaction in vs.28-36, we don’t see Mary quoting Scriptures as Martha did earlier. We see Mary totally heartbroken at the loss of her brother. And as she breaks down and cries at the tomb, our Lord’s closeness to this woman manifests itself with weeping as well.
Look at Martha and Mary at a dinner given in Jesus’ Honor (John 12:1-8). We again witness Martha serving, … and Mary at the feet of the Master, … pouring out expensive perfume on the Master’s feet. But this time, Mary’s ‘offering’ to the Master receives the ire of certain disciples, … complaining of the wastefulness of her actions. This time Jesus gives a sterner rebuke (“Leave her alone …”) to those who take offense at anyone who has a special closeness to the Lord. Jesus loved Martha, … as well as His disciples, … but it does seem that the closeness Mary desired to have with her Savior was equally reciprocated by our Lord …
… and that is ‘better’.
In story number 2, we see that relationships come into play once more.
Luke 11:5-8 – We note the word ‘friend’ appears 4 times in these 4 verses. We see a ‘friend’ asking a ‘friend’ for food for another ‘friend’. In vs.11-13, Jesus brings to the forefront the father/child relationship. In both of these cases, we hear Jesus declare that heavenly versions of these earthly relationship are much more fulfilling, … and no doubt should be prioritized. Jesus called His disciples His “friends” (John 15:12-15); … Jesus instructed His disciples to address Almighty God as “Father” (Matt.6:6-9). We know how important and precious these relationships are within the human realm. We see here that Jesus places that same preciousness and importance on the relationships we have with Him. So too, our God desires that kind of intimacy within our interactions with Him, as well as with each other … for establishing priorities in life, … for receiving answered prayers, … and for enjoying intimate time in our God’s presence! That is why I love the phrase,
…’stay close to Jesus’. He so honors it when we do!