Hello, and welcome to the STC podcast. My name is Casey Strine, I’m a member of the STC staff, and I’m excited to be sharing a few of my reflections on the Gospel of Luke with you this week.
Today, we will look at Luke 10, verses 25-42, focusing on verses 41-42.
This passage contains one of the most well known stories in the Bible: the parable of the Good Samaritan. Maybe I’m crazy, but I’m not going to talk about it. If you want to know what I think about that part of the passage, then I’d encourage you to listen to what I said about it two years ago during one of our Holy Week meditations.
Today, I want to talk about the story at the end of the passage where Jesus engages with Martha and Mary. This story is also familiar, so you might know it too. When Jesus arrives at the home of Martha and Mary, two of his disciples, they respond to his presence very differently. Martha makes herself very busy with all the tasks in the home that need to be done. We’re not told what they are, but given the presence of Jesus and a sizeable group of his followers who may not have eaten for a while, may need places to sleep that night, and probably a good deal of cleaning up after, we might have a guess at the size and shape of Martha’s task.
Mary, by contrast, ignores all this and sits at Jesus’ feet to listen to his teaching. Indeed, this choice not only makes Martha’s job larger, but infuriates her. Martha goes to Jesus—clearly the most influential person in the house—to point out the issue and ask for some help. One might conclude this makes a lot of sense, and that Martha has chosen the better course of action. Recall, this passage comes immediately after the parable of the Good Samaritan, a story in which the model person is the one who gives of his time, money, and effort to care for another person. That summary makes it sound like Martha is doing what Jesus has just commanded.
However, Jesus says exactly the opposite. He tells Martha that she is distracted and that there is only one thing of real value happening in that house at this moment: Jesus is teaching, and everyone—including Martha—should listen.
In this situation, where no one appears to be in serious need, Jesus explains that the most valuable thing on offer is his teaching. Luke is trying to tell us is that in each situation it is our call as followers of Christ Jesus to ask what is it that Jesus would have prioritised. It is not always easy to know, but it is what we are asked to do.
Sometimes the Christian life is described as being formed into the image of Christ Jesus. That is to say, God calls us to try to think, feel, and act like Jesus would so that we will carry on his ministry in this world. Retraining our mind, emotions, and bodies to follow Christ is the definition of Christian formation. Being more Christlike is, at its most basic level, teaching ourselves to be joyful about those things that make God joyful and heartbroken about those things that make God heartbroken.
In this situation, Jesus explains that it is the time spent with him, hearing his teaching, that will bring joy. Martha’s work, by contrast, causes her worry and produces relational tension.
Why does Luke put these two stories right next to one another when they seem in some way to contradict each other? I think that he wants us to see that the Christian life cannot be just acts of service for others, though those are essential to it. Likewise, the Christian life cannot be just listening to the teaching of God, though that is a crucial part of following Christ Jesus. Rather, the Christian life formed in the image of Jesus is one that includes both, attempting to keep them in balance.
What is God saying to you today about where your life could be more Christlike? What thing is God asking you to prioritize, perhaps against your natural instincts, in order to be more like Christ Jesus? That is what God asks of us today because that is what it means to be more Christlike.
READING: Luke 10:25-42
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’
‘What is written in the Law?’ he replied. ‘How do you read it?’
He answered, ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind”; and, “Love your neighbour as yourself.”’
‘You have answered correctly,’ Jesus replied. ‘Do this and you will live.’
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’
In reply Jesus said: ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half-dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. “Look after him,” he said, “and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.”
‘Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’
The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’
Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.’
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’
‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’