As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42
In this passage, we find Martha (sister of Mary and Lazarus – all very dear friends of Jesus) inviting Jesus and his disciples into her home on Jesus’ way to Jerusalem. This invitation led to a sudden influx of other guests eager to hear Jesus and his riveting message.
Anyone familiar with Middle Eastern standards of hospitality is aware that Martha instinctively gathered all her household resources and more to offer comfort and nourishment to her guests. Needless to say, this large, spontaneous gathering overwhelmed her.
In the midst of her superb display of hospitality, Martha saw her sister, Mary, sitting at Jesus’ feet, immersed in his words. In distress, she interrupted Jesus and called for help.
We might interpret Martha’s cry for help as an unreasonable demand and that Jesus shamed her for being distracted by mundane tasks. A closer look suggests Jesus invited his generous hostess to modify, even abandon, traditional hospitality norms to simply enjoy his presence.
Like Martha, I’ve been tempted to complicate preparations for guests. In the past, I’ve considered multiple new recipes, fussed about cleaning and decorating my house, and given the “eye” to family members who didn’t help after guests arrived. This routine has often left me frazzled and limited my ability to enjoy the uniqueness of the moment.
Even though I’ve streamlined my preparations in recent years – even meeting in other settings besides my home – I’m forever drawn to focus on cultural ideas of hospitality rather than first asking Jesus how he wants to meet my guests with his marvelous insights and generosity.
Give some thought to refreshing your hospitality habits. Ask Jesus to show you places to invite guests he’s arranged for you, how to interact with them, and how to make Jesus your guest of honor.
By Kathleen Petersen