Bible Study – April 2024

Conversations: Jesus and … Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38–42)

Holy Spirit, we ask you for insight. Bring God’s Word alive to us, please – in Jesus’ name.

If you unexpectedly invited some people to your home for lunch, what kinds of preparation would you need to do? (discuss in twos or threes – 4 minutes?)

Share some feedback responses.

Let’s turn to our short reading. Ask someone to read the verses slowly …

Now, ask someone else to read the verses slowly, and as you listen, imagine being in Martha’s shoes… (then pause)

Again, ask someone else to read the verses slowly, and as you listen, imagine being in Mary’s shoes… (then pause)

Describe how you felt “in Martha’s shoes” and then “in Mary’s shoes”. Why?

Extending hospitality today is likely to be much more casual than it was back then, although that, too, can depend on how strong the traditions are in the culture of our personal context. For example, Asian and Indian customs may be quite different from our laid-back Aussie customs.

Luke has no previous mention of Martha and Mary. Prior to their mention, much has been happening. Perhaps Martha had seen Jesus and his disciples somewhere previously, or had heard they were coming through her village, so she offered the hospitality of her home to Jesus.

Earlier, in Luke 10:1–9, Jesus gave instructions regarding receiving hospitality to seventy-two other disciples before sending them out to where he planned to go. They were to find the person of peace, to then stay there, receiving the local hospitality, ministering to people there. Here with Martha and Mary we see that hospitality being offered.

John’s Gospel, written much later than Luke, gives other details, including that it was where Lazarus also lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead; and that this was the same Mary who poured the pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume, over Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. The name of the village where Mary and Martha lived was Bethany, about two miles from Jerusalem.

Read John 11:1,2; 12:1–3.

In Luke 10:40, and in John 12:2, we see Martha serving through hospitality. Perhaps she loved cooking, and it was her gift of service to others? And of course, food preparation is needed in daily life, even though it may not be a favourite activity for some of us, who may prefer to do other things.

Do you enjoy preparing food? Why/why not? (discuss in twos or threes – 4 minutes?)

Meanwhile, Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet, presumably with others, listening to what Jesus was saying. In a culture where women prepared the food for guests, something gave Mary the courage to radically break with those expectations in order to listen to Jesus. It certainly indicated a hunger to understand what Jesus was teaching.

If you were either “Martha” or “Mary” in circumstances like this, what would your conversation be like? (discuss in twos or threes – 4 minutes?)

There’s no mention in these verses of Martha talking to Mary. Instead, Martha seems to have the freedom to interrupt Jesus in his teaching. Jesus was obviously “at home” with them, very welcome to be there.

Jesus responds to Martha by saying her name twice. Can you imagine Jesus talking like that to you?

Why might he have repeated her name like that? (some responses)

A closer look

There’s a special tenderness of reproof in Jesus’ response to Martha. Has anyone ever done that to you, to help you calm down and take notice? Through repeating her name, Jesus helps Martha to stop, to listen, to know she is heard; even to recognise her own need to take up his radical invitation for her also to sit and receive, to feed from him. Perhaps we likewise need to be flexible, indeed, to ask others to help with food preparation so that we set aside time to receive spiritual food ourselves?

“Sitting at Jesus’ feet” signifies readiness to receive from him; to be still, to absorb his Word as the very food of his Kingdom life. I can imagine there were plenty others sitting at Jesus’ feet that day also, because generally we read of the ordinary person wanting to listen to Jesus. In our busy rushed times, “sitting at Jesus’ feet” is not likely to happen unless we are intentional to set aside time.

The gentle reproof of Martha is aimed not at her hospitable activity for an influx of guests, but at the “fret and fuss”, her not recognising her need to receive from Jesus as Mary was doing. For any of us, perhaps the key is our attitude of heart? For those who spend time preparing and serving food, as well as those who simply turn up to eat it?

Do we welcome Jesus to be “at home” with us, welcoming his Kingdom life, letting him change us, even letting him serve others through us without “fret or fuss”? For no matter what our work is, that is where Jesus is serving through us. And when someone serves us, it is also Jesus serving us.

What catches your attention in these last few paragraphs? What might the Lord be saying to you through that?(discuss in twos or threes – 5 minutes?)

Conversations include listening as well as talking, observing and being present to each other. Sometimes that can be uncomfortable. But as we engage in real conversations, we encourage one another and grow in loving one another. Thereby letting Jesus serve them through you! Does that surprise you?

We pray: Holy Spirit, continue to give us insight to these things. We ask in Jesus’ name.

About the Author

Ruth Olsen

Together with Steen, Ruth is thoroughly enjoying retirement with its opportunities to do things there wasn’t time for earlier, including helping someone learn English, learning French (to practise with two of her grandchildren); and continuing many other activities such as being rostered as a singer in Sunday 10.00am worship bands, small groups, grandchildren, reading, journaling, caravanning – also interstate when borders allow etc. She has lived in Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, New South Wales, the ACT, New Zealand, and is now back in South Australia. There’s no time to be bored!

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