Welcome Him In

Luke 10: 38-42

As I mentioned last week, to me, all of Luke chapter 10 prompts us, its readers, and hearers, to consider who we are and who we long to be as followers and disciples of Jesus. This story of Mary and Martha puts a simple cap on this consideration.

Four friends went deer hunting. When they got to the woods they split up, with two going in one direction and two in another. After a fruitless day, not having seen hide nor hair of a deer, one pair returned to camp. They were grousing about their luck, or absence of it, when they heard a loud thrashing around in the nearby forest. Suddenly, one of the other pair of hunters came staggering out of the trees, laboring under the weight of an eight-point buck. “Come and help me!” he yelled at his two friends. They rushed over and gave him a hand and got the deer put away. The exhausted hunter slumped on the ground, drinking water in great gulps from a canteen. As his breath returned, he gestured a proud hand at the deer. “A beauty, ain’t it?” he asked, smiling broadly. The others agreed that it was. Then they noticed something was missing. “Where’s Fred?” one of them asked. “Didn’t he go out with you this morning? How come he didn’t help you with the buck?” The lone hunter replied, “Oh, yeah, we got to go get Fred. Some other hunter mistook him for a deer and shot him. Got him in the leg. When he fell over, he hit his head on a tree stump and knocked himself out. Fred’s lying on the path a mile or so back there.” “Somebody shot Fred?” the others cried out. “And you just left him lying there, alone and unconscious and carried that deer carcass in instead?” “Well now, looky here,” said the hunter aggrievedly, “ain’t nobody gonna steal Fred.”

We could say this story of Jesus being welcomed into Martha’s home is a story of priorities being recognized and honored. I’m inclined to begin discussing this encounter with Jesus by first saying this story makes me happy. Secondly, I’m not all that interested in bashing Martha and exalting Mary.

Lou Cannon, a political reporter from The Washington Post, wrote a book about covering Ronald Reagan as president. He included a story about the time James Baker gave Ronald Reagan a briefing book to study before the next day’s world economic summit at Williamsburg, Virginia. When Baker discovered the next morning that Reagan hadn’t so much as looked at the papers, he asked the president why. “Well, Jim,” said the president, “The Sound of Music was on.”

This story from the gospel of Luke makes me happy. My two stories, illustrating priorities, make me happy too, but again, I’m not into bashing Martha and exalting Mary. On the contrary, this story of Jesus at Martha’s puts the two women at interesting social positions in first century Palestine. Luke tells us it’s Martha’s house. Does she own the property, or has she inherited it? Regardless, Luke associates the house with Martha. She doesn’t sound like a second-class citizen. Mary is the one sitting at Jesus’ feet. It was inappropriate or simply unheard of in these days for a woman to be found learning from a rabbi in such a position. Scholars are left to believe that since Luke describes these women in these ways it’s assumed they were among the disciples of Jesus in those days. Again, this story makes me happy.

I’m happy, first, because there is a Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet. What strikes me first is that there is a Mary, a person who sits at the Lord’s feet to listen to what he teaches and shares. It’s in the gospel of John, chapter 12, Jesus was honored with a dinner where Martha served and Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive oil and wiped his feet with her hair. To sit at Jesus’ feet is a priority and not a regular circumstance that might permit us to go about our daily tasks and to listen from a distance while other things take priority.

What is it to sit at Jesus’ feet and learn from him? I venture to say, one sits that close in order not to miss a thing, a word, a morsal of what he might share. If you’re that close, your total attention is on him. You hear what he says, and you watch how he says it. Would anything he might say affect who you are and who you long to be? How could it not? This makes me happy because there is somebody sitting that close to Jesus.

What makes me happy, secondly, is that Jesus is in the house. This is a moment never be repeated. (I’ll never have this moment again) If it will never be repeated, let the guests serve themselves if there is any food to share. Better yet, as hosts for the crowd, set an example for all and sit at Jesus’ feet, both Mary and Martha. The phrase goes, “So heavenly minded that they’re no earthly good.” Mary is not heavenly minded. She’s sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening. Jesus isn’t in heaven. He’s in their house. IN. THEIR. HOUSE.

Martha’s home, shared by Mary and their brother Lazarus, was in Bethany. A simple home in first century Palestine may have had windows or maybe not; may have had a thatched roof made of straw or leaves or not. It may have been a simple room or multiple rooms. The house in Capernaum in Mark 2 was easily filled with people listening to Jesus teach. A simple home, like so many of ours, are made for families to sit and eat and spend time together, an intimate place for life together. This is what Martha welcomed Jesus into, her family’s home where they share their lives and food and joys and sorrows together. Jesus was welcomed there just like we have welcomed him into our intimate spaces and places, and he came whenever we welcomed him.

Mary is at Jesus’ feet, but Martha welcomed him into her home. Are we left with an inferior to a superior distinction between being at his feet verses him simply being at Martha’s house? Martha doesn’t deserve to be bashed. Mary’s at his feet but Martha welcomed him into her home. This is why this story makes me happy. Sometimes we’re sitting at his feet. Sometimes we again invite him into our home, an intimate setting, a place, and time to share.

He said to Martha she was distracted by many things though she was the one who welcomed him in. So often, the distractions are real, but isn’t it wonderful when he’s in our home, in our intimate surroundings. We can sit at his feet only after welcoming him into our lives.

Welcome Jesus again into your life, your intimate surroundings of joys and sorrows, of struggles and concerns. Your distractions are real. Those texts or calls, those visits or worries are bound to come. Mary sat at his feet, but Martha is the one who welcomed him in. Welcome him in again.

(Preached online, July 17, 2022)

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