Mary, Martha and Jesus, some reflections: redivivus

I’m going to be off-line for an indeterminate period, laid up in the Mater Clinic in Dublin undergoing heart surgery (as one does!). So rather than leave the blog dormant, I thought I would trawl through the archives for some posts I like, or which got a particular reaction from my reader!

This one was posted originally on 2 October 2007.


What options did Martha have, when Jesus arrived, other than to prepare some food? (Luke 10:38-42)

The casual application of this story worries me a little.

It seems to me that in a culture of hospitality it is imperative that strangers/visitors are welcomed with food and shelter (38/39). To do otherwise is shaming, not just for the family concerned, but also for the whole village. Anyone acting in such a way would be shunned.

This is the cultural norm. This is ‘how we do things around here.’ Martha is being true to the expectations of her community and to her upbringing.(40)

So, what if Martha DID choose Mary’s way? She would be bringing shame on the whole community. She would be throwing over generations of tradition and good practice. She would be breaking ranks.

She would be slapping her community in the face, telling them there are more important things.

And something else disturbing. Jesus commends Mary and colludes in the humiliation of Martha. “Mary has chosen the better thing..” (42)


Is this story REALLY about spending more time with Jesus in preference to rushing about?

Or is it first of all about examining the culture and practices which we accept as given? Is it also about finding a space for outsider voices which serve to highlight to us the dead hand of tradition that constrains us and holds us in thrall? Does it invite us to consider the things we have grown far to familiar with and which may be deadening us to the subversive call of Jesus? Is it about identifying the barriers to following in the Jesus Way?

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