Most people I know consider Jesus to be a pretty fair-minded kind of guy, at least until they consider the story of Mary and Martha. What do you think?
One day Jesus visits a certain village where Martha welcomes him into her home. She has set up an ancient equivalent of a meet-and-greet for Jesus. Martha’s house is packed with curious villagers who have been hearing of Jesus for quite some time and never had a chance to see or hear his words of wisdom for themselves. As the convener of the party, Martha has quite a task at hand. Ancient hospitality customs dictated that she make the guests feel at home, which included providing food and drink. Any of Martha’s female relatives would have been expected to help her in the kitchen while the others reclined and enjoyed conversation.
So Martha’s scurrying around preparing cheese plates, gathering olives, figs, and dates into bowls, making hummus, baking flatbread, filling and refilling water pitchers and wine glasses. As she works, she expects her sister Mary to help, but Mary is quite content simply to sit at Jesus’ feet and take in his wisdom.
Martha is a little perturbed. After waiting expectantly for Mary’s help, Martha is fuming. Bursting out in front of everyone Martha exclaims, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.”
One might expect Jesus to have a little compassion for his host. One might even envision Jesus gently scolding Mary, reminding her to “Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself” or that “it is more blessed to give than receive.”
Nope. Instead of scolding Mary, Jesus scolds Martha. “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”
When we studied this passage at the Darkwood Brew Planning Team meeting last week, people offered some challenging objections to Jesus. They passionately defended Martha, asking why Jesus doesn’t seem to have a modicum of sympathy for someone who’s throwing a party – for HIM – and is working her tail off to provide hospitality – on HIS behalf – and has to work twice as hard because her sister is sitting idly by, listening to Jesus as if she’s one of the invited guests. Surely, Martha would have loved a few moments at his feet, too, but she was too busy taking care of everyone else, including her sister.
What do you think? Was Jesus being fair? (I’ll offer my thoughts tomorrow)
Feel free to leave your comments below.