Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Martha and Mary

If you are following the lectionary readings for each Sunday, you will notice that some passages are skipped, and we pick up a few verses later.  Last week we read the parable of the Good Samaritan, and the week before that we read about the seventy being sent ahead of Christ.  There is a passage in between, and whenever you do your devotionals, no matter what you use, always go back to raw scripture and look at the context and the missing verses, because the Holy Spirit will reveal things to you.  Here is what we missed:

21 At that same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 

22 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

23 Then turning to the disciples, Jesus said to them privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! 

24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.” (Luke 10)

So, Jesus is telling his disciples that he is glad that the Father has hidden things from the intelligent and wise and have revealed them to infants.  Are we not to be intelligent?  No, just not intelligent BY THE WORLD'S STANDARDS.  Are we to be infants, not that we are to be SIMPLETONS, but we are to be SIMPLE.  We are to approach the throne of God without agenda, without our complex self-centered-ness.  Jesus is essentially describing the attitude and nature of a true disciple.

Now, when we read this passage in context, what do we see?  We see Jesus telling his disciples that they are not to be intelligent by the world's standards but simple toward God, and the very next verse we get:

10:25a Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus.

Now that we have context, we can see that this lawyer is immediately displaying his worldliness.  Wasn't he just listening?  The words "just then" prove that these two events happened together. It's very important that we get the context, so that we can learn as much as we can about who God is, and who we are in our relationship with him.

Before we come to Christ, we are like the lawyer, we are intelligent and wise by the world's standards.  After we come to Christ, the Lord simplifies us, and we become a disciple.  Look at today's gospel passage:

10:38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home.

10:39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to what he was saying.

10:40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me."

10:41 But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things;

10:42 there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her."

Before we come to Christ, we are preoccupied with the world like Martha, but after we come to Christ, we become disciples and begin learning at the feet of Jesus.  Now, obviously this is not an "all or nothing" game.  There are times when we are like Martha, and there are times when we are like Mary.  Just because we behave like Martha does not mean that we are no longer Jesus' disciples.  The more time we spend in scripture, and more time we are behaving like Mary, the more we are becoming Jesus' disciples.

Look at our Old Testament reading:

Genesis 18
18:1 The LORD appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day.

18:2 He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground.

18:3 He said, "My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant.

18:4 Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree.

18:5 Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on--since you have come to your servant." So they said, "Do as you have said."

18:6 And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, "Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes."

18:7 Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it.

18:8 Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.

18:9 They said to him, "Where is your wife Sarah?" And he said, "There, in the tent."

18:10a Then one said, "I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son."

Now, once again, some verses have been left out.  Let's look at those verses:

And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him. 

11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. 

12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?” 

13 The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 

14 Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.” 

15 But Sarah denied, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid. He said, “Oh yes, you did laugh.”

Why did Sarah laugh?  Because she knows BETTER than God.  She is intelligent by the world's standards.  She knows that a woman of her age cannot have a baby.  What else has Sarah done with her worldly intelligence?  She decided that the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham for a son had to come through her handmaiden Hagar.  She "solved" God's problem with her worldly intelligence.  We can see where that decision has gotten us.

However, Sarah is saved through her husband.  We can be worldly like Martha and still be saved.  We can be learning at the Lord's feet and still be overwhelmed and distracted by many things.  Paul once again explains what is happening in his letter to the Colossians:

1:19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,

1:20 and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

1:21 And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,

1:22 he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him--

Through Christ's death, you are reconciled to God.  He has brought you from a worried and distracted Martha into a learning and simple Mary, learning at his feet.  However we can be in both camps at once.  C.S. Lewis helps us with a shocking quote:

"You do not have a soul."

This is frightening until we read the second half:

"You ARE a soul.  You have a body."

When Jesus saves us, he brings our souls--ourSELVES--too his feet.  However, since we have a sinful body, too, that sometimes hangs back and continues to worry and distract us about worldly things.  Remember, scripture is food for the soul.  We have been feeding our bodies all this time, but now we are to feed our souls with the Word of God.  As the soul becomes more vibrant and strong, it will be able to drag the bloated and sinful body along with it to the feet of Jesus.

Pray that we will continue to learn who God his, who Jesus is, and that our souls will continue to grow healthy and strong.