Now it came to pass as they went that He entered into a certain village and a certain woman named Martha received Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary which also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving and came to Him and said, “Lord dost thou not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she helps me.” And Jesus answered and said unto her; “Martha, Martha thou art careful and troubled about many things. But one thing is needful and Mary hath chosen that good part which shall not be taken away. Luke 10:38-42.
It is the week of the feast of tabernacles. The Feast of Tabernacles is an 8-day biblical Jewish holiday celebrated on the 15th day of the month of Tishrei (varies from late September to late October). The Jewish name for the feast is Sukkot or Succot. Sukkot has a double significance. In Exodus 34:22 the feast is agricultural in nature. Also called the Feast of Ingathering, Sukkot signifies the year’s end and marks the end of the harvest time and the end of the agricultural year in the land of Israel. The religious significance of the Sukkot is found in the book of Leviticus. The religious significance commemorates (serves as a memorial or reminder) the exodus (the departing of bondage and slavery) from Egypt and the dependence of the people of Israel on the will of God. Leviticus 23:42-43.
For more information on the Feast of Tabernacles: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sukkot.
Again…. It is the week of the Feast of Tabernacles and Jesus along with the disciples is heading towards Jerusalem. They enter into a certain village, Bethany, which is a suburb of Jerusalem. Jesus goes to the home of Mary and Martha. In the 11th and 12th chapters of John it is recorded of Jesus’ interactions with Mary and Martha, so it is safe to say that this particular time is not the first time that Jesus has been to Bethany and visited with both Mary and Martha.
The text states that Martha received Jesus into her house. There is a great possibility that Martha is the dominant female figure in the home. Perhaps she was the older of the sisters and maybe the motherly one. Older siblings seem to take the oversight in many areas with the tendency (many times unintentionally) of overlooking the individuality and capabilities of the younger ones. We’ll see the validity of this statement as we further journey through the events of this particular day.
The text doesn’t mention that the disciples entered the home with Jesus. Perhaps He dismissed them to go into the village to visit with friends or family, or maybe to just hang out and have a little fun. Jesus’ stopping in Bethany to see the sisters was not a “just happened to be in the neighborhood” occasion. He stopped in Bethany for purpose.
Customarily when visitors dropped by, especially if they’d journeyed from afar, the hostess would wash their feet and give them meat. Unfortunately, today’s society lacks the hospitality that was shown by Martha in this text. In today’s society some of us wouldn’t dare open the door for an unexpected guest. We’ll sit and watch them through the window or the peep hole until they leave and then say, “I wonder what so and so wanted” all the while orchestrating the lie, we will tell when we do see them again and they say, “I stopped by your house the other day, and no one came to the door.” Today’s society says, “if you don’t call before you come…don’t come!”
Then there are those of us who will answer the door for an unexpected visitor and our hospitality is still shot. Wash feet? Offer meat? The visitor better not even think about pulling his or her shoes off and if they didn’t eat before they arrived…. tough! Some of us wouldn’t dare to offer a glass of water. We hardly give unexpected visitors a chance to warm a seat.
Flip the Scripts has posted a very thoughtful piece under our food for thought category entitled: “If Jesus Came to your House” Check it out.
Again…customarily when visitors dropped by especially if they’d journeyed from afar, the hostess would wash their feet and give them meat. In keeping with part of the custom, we see that Martha has gone to prepare a meal while her sister Mary sits at the feet of Jesus to hear His word. Perhaps the two sisters fulfilled the custom in part. Perhaps Mary had washed the Master’s feet and sit to hear Him as he spoke. Mary’s action of sitting at Jesus’ feet is an action that showed that the disciples were not with Jesus in the house. Judaism didn’t allow for the public call or show of a woman in the place of discipleship and literally taking a seat at the feet of a teacher said, “I am a disciple.” Had the disciples been present there might have been no small disturbance regarding Mary’s seating. Personally, I find it very offensive that a teacher wouldn’t allow a woman to sit at his feet as a disciple, but it was perfectly acceptable for a woman to kneel at his feet to wash them. In this portion of the text Jesus again shows as He has in so many biblical passages that segregation is not allowed in the Kingdom of God. Oh, Jesus had purpose for His Bethany visitation.
Let’s take a closer look in on the sisters. Both of them are ministering. Martha is ministering for Jesus and Mary is ministering to Jesus. Both sisters are mentally involved in their ministry. Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus with her mind wide open receiving and grasping every spoken word of the master. She shows a hunger to hear his words through both her attentiveness and through sitting where the laws of religion didn’t allow. Oh, Mary was being enlightened through the words of the Lord. On the other hand, as we look in on Martha, we can see that out in the kitchen she was entertaining some unhealthy thoughts as she ministered for Jesus. Somewhere during the preparation of the meal for Jesus something went wrong. It appears that Martha became frustrated. The text reads “But Martha was cumbered about much serving.”
Cumber carries the meanings of to hinder hamper, to overload or burden, to inconvenience, trouble.
Wow… so let’s insert the meanings of cumbered into the text. “But Martha was hindered about much serving. Martha was overloaded or burdened with much serving. Martha was inconvenienced and troubled with much serving.
There are numerous insights that can be taken from this passage of the text. I will speak of one of these insights to my own hurt…. Some customs and traditions followers will put and have put us in the same state that we see sister Martha in right now. There are some customs and traditions that oust the Spirit of God, that won’t even let the Lord in. Throughout the reading of the Synoptic Gospels, we can see where this is true. Some customs and traditions frustrate the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus came breaking some of these barriers.
Now…we see that Martha has become frustrated, overwhelmed and in these type conditions there will come thoughts that are not very pleasant. The bible doesn’t state the things going through her mind, but her actions leave room for some very thoughtful speculations. Perhaps the chicken wasn’t browning right, or the rice was getting a little sticky. Maybe the flour dough wasn’t rising like it usually did. Perhaps being like me, Martha lost the dish cloth somewhere among the pots and pans. It’s always good to have more than one on hand. Maybe the fire in the wood stove wasn’t heating to its normal capacity. There could have been numerous of physical things that brought on the frustrations to the ministry that turned from a ministry to a mere task.