Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Wearing blinders - Martha, continued
Did you identify with Martha in our story on Monday? Some of us are more like Martha in our Christian walk, while others are more like Mary. Personally, if I'm honest about it, I am a "Martha" more of the time than I am a "Mary." Maybe you are like that, too -- we have qualities of both women within us. Sometimes we may let our busy lives of service distract us from spending time with Jesus and listening to His word. It's important to note, though, that while Jesus gently admonished Martha for being worried and upset, He did not say that serving was a bad thing. Service is indeed a good thing, but sitting at Jesus' feet is best.
Let's dive in again!
We saw in our scripture passage that it was Martha who was head of this household (a woman named Martha opened her home to him. Luke 10). There were two siblings who were part of the household: Mary and Lazarus. No parents are mentioned, so perhaps these were siblings whose parents had passed away. Apparently, they'd left a comfortable home for them to live in, since it was large enough to accommodate Jesus and the disciples, as well as others who would travel with Him and listen. The three seemed to be affluent, since they had a large house, and since Mary could afford the expensive perfume that she applied to Jesus' feet in John's gospel (chapter 12). As we studied previously, it was a special gift, not something used everyday.
These three people were friends of Jesus. (Pause for a moment and let that sink in. Awesome, eh?) They behaved with the Son of God in a friendly, natural way; they spoke to Him in much the same way that they would speak to each other. There was neither formality nor fear here. They spoke their thoughts openly, and Jesus seemed very comfortable in their company. It was perfectly natural that they would open their home to Him, and offer Him hospitality and fellowship.
Women in that era had a multitude of tasks to complete each day -- check this out:
Drawing the water for the household's use for the day
Only after the water is drawn can you wash dishes and utensils
Wash family's clothing
Clean the house (Get ready for Jesus to come!)
Grinding grain for bread or unleavened cakes, then mixing, kneading, baking
Purchasing vegetables and dried fruits at the market
Choosing and purchasing meat for an important occasion's meal
And don't neglect the carding, spinning and weaving of different thread to make items for the house, for the family's clothing, and for the servants' clothing, as well . . .
No washing machine and dryer. No dishwasher. No microwave or bread maker. No sewing machine. And just because you were affluent enough to have servants, you still had to make endless decisions and supervise, supervise, supervise. Instructing the servants in how you wanted things done was an almost never-ending task!
Then, when an important visitor came to call, all of these everyday tasks became even more important. The "to do" list could go on and on . . . and it's not so different from the lists that we make for ourselves today. The tasks may seem overwhelming, and they may be exhausting. But they are not unimportant -- and that is a significant distinction. Jesus' words to Martha shouldn't be taken to mean that these tasks can be ignored. But these should never, ever take the place of daily contact with the Lord of our lives!
Let's change gears here, just a little. Have you noticed that sometimes Jesus would upset a few apple-carts in peoples' lives? He didn't necessarily obey the "norm" for its own sake, did He? We've seen examples when we studied John's gospel that Jesus didn't mind doing or saying things that other people considered unusual.
He did that here, too. It was a little bit unusual for a single man to be a guest in the house of a single woman. Not to mention that he'd brought twelve of His closest friends! (Oy. No wonder Martha was distracted!!)
Secondly, the person who received the closest tutoring, the privilege of sitting right at the feet of the rabbi, was usually the highest ranked male student in the temple. Not a female. Not Mary. Mary was quietly breaking the rules that said study was for males.
Is it possible that when Martha burst into the room and demanded that Jesus tell Mary to help her with the household preparations, that she had some blinders on?
Was Martha missing the "big picture?"
We'll conclude our study tomorrow.....