July 18, 2010 (Lectionary 16)
Psalm 15 (1)
Psalm 52 (8)
Prayer of the Day
Eternal God, you draw near to us in Christ, and you make yourself our guest.. Amid the cares of our lives, make us attentive to your presence, that we may treasure your word above all else, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
Alleluia. Blessed are those who hold the word fast in an honest | and good heart,
and bear fruit with pa- | tient endurance. Alleluia. (Luke 8:15)
1a. CONTEXT: Luke 10:38-42
This story, which Luke alone preserves for us,
follows directly the parable of the "good Samaritan."
That parable accents active concern for the neighbor, even
when he or she falls outside one's own ethnic or religious
group. Some suggest that Luke places the story of
Martha and Mary right after the parable of the good
samaritan to warn hearers that discipleship is not,
however, to be reduced to service for others; it must also
involve "sitting at the feet of Jesus" to hear the word
1b. TEXT: Luke 10:38-42
Martha and Mary
38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus  entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. 40 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.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary.  Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
 10:38 Greek he
 10:42 Some manuscripts few things are necessary, or only one
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles
38Ἐν δὲ τῷ πορεύεσθαι αὐτοὺς αὐτὸς εἰσῆλθεν εἰς κώμην τινά: γυνὴ δέ τις ὀνόματι Μάρθα ὑπεδέξατο αὐτόν.
39καὶ τῇδε ἦν ἀδελφὴ καλουμένη Μαριάμ, [ἣ] καὶ παρακαθεσθεῖσα πρὸς τοὺς πόδας τοῦ κυρίου ἤκουεν τὸν λόγον αὐτοῦ.
40ἡ δὲ Μάρθα περιεσπᾶτο περὶ πολλὴν διακονίαν: ἐπιστᾶσα δὲ εἶπεν, Κύριε, οὐ μέλει σοι ὅτι ἡ ἀδελφή μου μόνην με κατέλιπεν διακονεῖν; εἰπὲ οὖν αὐτῇ ἵνα μοι συναντιλάβηται.
41ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ εἶπεν αὐτῇ ὁ κύριος, Μάρθα Μάρθα, μεριμνᾷς καὶ θορυβάζῃ περὶ πολλά,
42ἑνὸς δέ ἐστιν χρεία: Μαριὰμ γὰρ τὴν ἀγαθὴν μερίδα ἐξελέξατο ἥτις οὐκ ἀφαιρεθήσεται αὐτῆς.
Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition
© 1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart;
The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition
© 1975, United Bible Societies, London
2. ANALYSIS: Luke 10:38-42
The text's genre is best described as "pronouncement
story." Jesus' final pronouncement in 10: 41-42 serves as
the climax of the story. The text can be outlined in the
• Setting with chief characters named;
• Contrast between reactions of Mary and Martha
• Pronouncement of Jesus
--challenge to Martha (41b-42a)
--commendation of Mary (42b)
The pericope commences "and as they were going, he
[Jesus] entered into a certain village; and a certain
woman named Martha received him." Immediately her
sister is introduced to the hearers. This prepares for the
contrast between the two women's reactions to the visit of
The fact that Martha was there to welcome Jesus hints
at an established relationship with him, though we are not
told this directly.
She is extending hospitality to a friend, a courtesy
relied upon by travelers in the biblical world. Less
typical to that world would be a household without a male
as head (cf. John 11: 1ff.), a situation implied by the
story. Only the two women are mentioned. Note that even
the accompanying disciples, referred to in 10:38 [autous],
drop out of the story. Clearly, the story concentrates on
the two women and Jesus' interaction with them. Moreover,
since Gospel stories seldom name their characters, it
seems likely that these two women -- Martha and Mary --
held an important place in the memory of the earliest
Now we must inquire more directly into the meaning of
this brief story. Just as the previous story (10: 30-35)
yields its meaning by developing a contrast, one between
the Temple functionaries and the Samaritan, so too this
story's point relates to the contrast between the two
women. Fitzmyer puts it succinctly: "...the contrast is
seen between the reactions of Martha, the perfect hostess,
and of Mary, the perfect disciple" (p. 892).
By positioning herself at Jesus' feet, Mary has
assumed the listening posture of a disciple (in Acts 22: 3
Paul indicates that he was brought up in Jerusalem "at the
feet of Gamaliel" -- a famous Jewish rabbi). Martha, in
contrast, was concerned about offering service to Jesus
([diakonia] means serving another in most practical ways).
Extending hospitality to the traveler/guest was in fact
viewed by Jews as a sacred obligation. It was this duty
which was causing Martha anxiety. Or to put it more
precisely, it was Mary's failure to share this obligation
which was really disturbing Martha (10: 40).
As Tannehill (pp. 136-137) helpfully points out,
Martha is fulfilling the role expected of a woman --
providing for the guest (assuming there were no servants
to serve the meal), while Mary was indulging in a highly
questionable activity by assuming the role of a disciple
learning from a rabbi. At that time it was unheard of for
a Jewish rabbi to enter a household in order to teach
The story's climax in 10: 41-42 challenges Martha by
commending Mary's choice. Jesus' pronouncement begins
with the double addresss, "Martha, Martha," a rhetorical
device in biblical dialogue to overcome the resistance or
density on the part of the one addressed (see, e.g., 22:
31 and Acts 9: 4). Fitzmyer suggests "The repeated name
gently chides" (p. 894). According to the story, Martha
has badly misunderstood what is at issue, and the "Lord"
dramatically claims her attention. His final words draw
contrast between the "many things" about which she is
troubled and the "one thing" needful which Mary has
chosen. The story ends with Jesus' commending Mary for
choosing the "good part" [ten agathen merida], thereby
challenging all "Martha" hearers to rethink their
The key phrase "and of one thing there is need" [enos
de estin chreia] is ambiguous, perhaps by deliberate
design. By the end of the story, the hearers realize that
Mary's attentive posture before Jesus is to be preferred
over Martha's harried and complaining approach to
hospitality. But the hearers are not told precisely what
"the one thing needful" is. Is the story saying that
enjoying and benefitting from the Lord's presence is more
vital for us than frantically serving the Lord? Perhaps.
Mary's posture is a receiving and self-transcending one,
while Martha's activity -- though aimed at the Lord --
exhibits anxiety and self-concern.
Finally, it should be noted that Luke, as he does
elsewhere, narrates the story to make it the church's
story. Jesus is described as "the Lord," a title used by
the post-resurrection community. Twice Jesus is referred
to as the Lord (10: 39 and 10: 41) as well as Martha's
addressing him as the Lord (10: 40). Luke has shaped this
story to make it immediately relevant to Christian
communities. Christians need to ponder what Jesus'
pronouncement means for their way of discipleship.
3. STRATEGY: Luke10: 38-42
1. This story addresses the"Marthas" of the
congregation, or better yet, the "Martha" in all of us.
It is so easy to allow our dedicated service "to the
Lord", whether it be painting the church or cleaning up
after a wedding reception, to become poisoned by an
attitude resentful of others who do not appear to be
sharing the burden of work. Suddenly, our service towards
others--at home, church, or work--can be undercut by
feelings of obligation and resentment.
2. This text intends to focus our attention on the
"one thing" needful. Mary was enjoying and learning from
the presence of the Lord. To quote Talbert:
Mary is characterized by an undivided attention
to Jesus himself. She is also one who receives from the
Lord. Martha was distracted, not wholly focused on
The reason was her "much serving" (vs. 40).
Her desire to work for Jesus distracted her focus on Jesus
and prevented her receiving from him what she needed (p.
As pastors, we need to devote some serious thought to
how congregational life contributes to distracted and
harried activity which reduces time and space for "sitting
at Jesus' feet." It would be tragic for us to be consumed
by "much serving" and miss "the one thing needful."
4. REFERENCES: Luke 10: 38-42
Fitzmyer, Joseph A. THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO LUKE
X-XXIV. The Anchor Bible: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1985, pp.
Talbert, Charles H. READING LUKE: A LITERARY AND
THEOLOGICAL COMMENTARY ON THE THIRD GOSPEL. New York:
Crossroad, 1982, pp. 125-126.
Tannehill, Robert C. THE NARRATIVE UNITY OF
LUKE-ACTS: A LITERARY INTERPRETATION, Vol. 1, Philadelphia: Fortress
Press, 1986, pp. 132-139.
Exegete: James Bailey, PhD.
Mary Magdalene, Apostle
July 22, 2010
Ruth 1:6-18 or Exodus 2:1-10
Psalm 73:23-28 (28)
John 20:1-2, 11-18
Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, your Son first entrusted the apostle Mary Magdalene with the joyful news of his resurrection. Following the example of her witness, may we proclaim Christ as our living Lord and one day see him in glory, for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Alleluia. This Jesus | God raised up,
and of that all of | us are witnesses. Alleluia. (Acts 2:32)
LEXEGETE © 2010