Sitting at Jesus’ Feet as Legalists Burn Holes in the Back of Your Head – Luke 10:38-42

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her,“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)

One could say that most Christians are either like Mary or like Martha.

The sisters seem to model two modes of operation. We can describe them as grace and law; life and death; easy and heavy; light and dark; open and closed; and yin and yang. Mary is tuned into life, while her sister is tuned into the world. John says the world is a distraction from life, for it lures us away from a peaceful abiding at Life’s feet. This is “the good portion,” for sure and if we press into it (Luke 16:16) with diligence, all that comes with sitting there will always be ours to enjoy.

Martha was constricted and wound up. She was anxious and must have been miserable because she really wanted her sister’s company. She may have also been jealous, but what we do know, as implied in the text, is that Martha had a compulsion to some sort of housework at the moment. What strikes me, is that just like legalistic Christians, she demanded that her sister, who represents Christians who are grace-oriented, forgo taking it easy at the Lord’s feet for her anxious and troubled orientation.

What’s worse is, Martha tried to manipulate Jesus. She came to Him with a guilt trip and a bossy attitude, saying “don’t you care…tell her to….” I can picture her in the kitchen giving her sister the death stare, as though she would burn a hole in the back of her head if she could shoot lasers from her eyes like Superman. She probably huffed and puffed; grunting to send her sister the message that she should be in there helping her sister, only to be completely ignored by Mary as she took it easy.

Like Martha, the legalists are really pissed that others in God’s house are taking it easy and not worrying ourselves to death about every little wrong. They scold us and try to manipulate us; if Jesus were here in the flesh, they’d try to order Him to order us to exchange freedom for their religious bondage.

Misery loves company.




2 thoughts on “Sitting at Jesus’ Feet as Legalists Burn Holes in the Back of Your Head – Luke 10:38-42

  1. It was common in those day’s for women to automatically take the position of service while the men sat and talked. It was expected of them. So when Mary did otherwise, it was natural for Martha to be jealous. Jesus saw that Mary was ready to break with tradition and take the higher road of spiritual growth, and was not willing to take that away from her. Much as his message was for gentile as well as the Jewish. It was also for women as well as men.

    • Certainly gender roles played a role in the backdrop. This makes it even more poignant that Jesus permitted such customs to not be adhered to, as he did on other occasions. It also shows the Gospel writers as being more progressive than some today give them credit for.

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