Hello, Mary and Martha: I’m Luke, and I’m preparing to write a Gospel. I’d like to have your perspective on that unusual day when Jesus came to your home for a meal. I know it’s been several decades, but I imagine you remember it quite well. I’ll let you go first, Martha. What stands out in your mind?
Well, for me, it was totally shocking that this amazing teacher—Rabbi, we called him—accepted the invitation for dinner. He had never been here before and seemed truly glad to come, giving no hint of condescension toward us. What an honor it was.
Mary and I were accustomed to working together preparing meals, and it was obvious that this would be a special meal with Jesus present and would require extra time and effort. So I was rushing around getting things in order, while Jesus was speaking to those that had assembled.
Okay, Mary, your turn. How did things unfold?
Well, first, I must give credit to Martha. All of us women were trained in domestic duties, but Martha seemed to take those responsibilities more seriously than most and excelled at them. Frankly, I wasn’t particularly pleased with confining women to household chores.
So for me to be able to join those listening to this amazing Rabbi was too good to be true, in spite of the fact that women weren’t usually welcome in such settings. But I considered it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I also realized it would mean abandoning Martha, but what was I supposed to do? Listen to Jesus or clean fish?!
So not only did I join the group, but I sat on the floor right at Jesus’ feet, which was an indication of special commitment to him. I wanted to be more than just a hearer; I wanted to become one of his disciples, which, frankly, was unheard of for rabbis in our day.
Okay, Martha, what were you thinking with Mary leaving you hanging high and dry?
Hmmm. Looking back on the situation, I now wish I had reacted differently. My initial reaction was self-centered, concerned about the extra time it would take to finish the preparations all by myself. It also seemed inappropriate for Mary to step out of her domestic roles and join those listening to Jesus.
But as I see it now, if I had been thinking of others first, I would have been glad for my sister’s desire to sit at Jesus’ feet. What a privilege, and who was I to object to that? I certainly could have managed the meal preparations, even if it took some extra time.
Wow! It’s great to see your change in perspective, Martha. So, Mary, what do you think I should emphasize in my Gospel about the lessons from this experience?
I’m not totally sure, but I can think of several. Looking back, many of the events in Jesus’ life had something to do with meals and hospitality. Eating together allowed Jesus to share his heart, to develop close relationships, even to bind himself to others. Also, Jesus believed strongly in working hard and serving others, so what Martha was doing wasn’t wrong; the issue was apparently about attitude and priorities. Also, Jesus frequently emphasized the importance of thinking of others first, even if it wasn’t the most convenient thing to do. Putting others first is an act of humility, and Jesus certainly modeled that. Also, Jesus often seemed to go against the cultural norms of our day. For example, he associated freely with women and with Samaritans, which most Jewish men would not consider respectable. Also, though eating was obviously essential, spiritual food was even more important to Jesus; I remember him saying one time, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about” (John 4:32).
Whoa! That’s a lot, Mary, and more than I’m going to be able to fit into my Gospel. Maybe I should just give a bare-bones account of the event and let readers figure out those things for themselves. But one thing I think I will do: by putting the story of the Good Samaritan right before your story, it may help readers to spot some significant contrasts between the Samaritan and Martha.
I certainly want to thank you two for giving me the inside scoop on that significant event in Jesus’ life. It will be interesting to see if any of the other Gospels tell the same story.
Eyes to the sky, feet to the ground
Salvation includes the long anticipated, greatly desired return of the Son of Man in full glory. The truth pulses from Paul’s heart, filling his writing with passion.
He explains, “…our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11). Paul sounds like he believes Jesus returns this week! One disciple exclaims, “Keep your eyes to the sky!”
Even today disciples of Jesus find comfort and certainty in the promise of Jesus’ return. The quickening phrase of our Lord’s nearness in return is an encouragement, particularly in troublesome days.
Yet, it has been more than 2,000 years and we have to wonder, if Paul was confused (as some might explain). Was he counting in human terms, possibly bypassing the wisdom of Peter? Many disciples also find strong confidence in Peter’s words, “God is not slow in keeping his promises as some count slowness…” (2 Peter 3:8-9). Shelia is one of those people.
Deeply sighing, rushing air over her lips and into the closed car Shelia thought about her exhaustion. Wishing she could rub her feet while driving and smiling to herself she whispered, “Guess that would not be a good idea.”
Shelia’s idea of time is based on her job. Thirty-six hours a week she walks hospital hallways and follows her director’s daily saying, “Let’s go out there and kill those viruses!”
“His talking makes me weary,” she said to herself.
After a twelve hour shift her feet ache. Her work as an employee for Environmental Services (formerly housekeeping) occupies a much higher profile in the days of the Covid-19 pandemic. This reality means extra time and extra steps as well.
Coming to a church gathering on Sunday morning she heard a message emphasizing Christ’s return. It was also a message which encouraged confidence and trust in God’s timing. When she began piecing the Scripture passages together she wondered how God’s view of time fit into her life.
What does it mean to “live wisely” among not-yet-believers?
I can’t help but think of the three images Paul gave to Timothy (2 Timonty 2:4-6).
Paul wrote about soldiers who don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life. Our culture offers endless diversions which enamor us, distract us, consume us, and define us. In other words, these pursuits “tie up” our time, our focus, our energy, our time, and our money. Even good things can be used by the Devil to keep us from the few, necessary things.
Paul encouraged Timothy to “follow the rules” like an athlete. Cutting corners isn’t a good way to save time. Living wisely involves integrity and a clean conscience. Often it is patience and perseverance, not speed, that pay off.
A farmer who works hard will enjoy the fruit of his labors, Paul tells Timothy. Lazy self-indulgence is not wise living. Working hard at the right things is.
When Paul talks about making the most of every opportunity, I think he is talking about opportunities to share the message about Jesus within conversation.
Notice that Paul didn’t tell Timothy to take out a bazooka and blast all his spiritual ammunition at the little daylight that appeared for the gospel in a conversation. “Gracious” and “attractive” are the words he uses. This has a gentler sound to it.
The best context for impactful conversation is relationship with friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers. Let me remind you of the BLESS approach we heard about on Sunday. Opportunities will arise as we bless people.
Begin with prayer. As the parable of the soils reminds us, seed only does well on good soil. Prayer is one way to begin working the soil. If you haven’t already signed up on the Bless Every Home website (www.blesseveryhome.com), I encourage you to do so.
Listen with care. We often miss opportunities because we’re so worried about what we should say next that we forget to listen. Listening is what friends who care do. Start there. A “gracious” and “attractive” conversation includes lots of listening. Chances are, if you listen well, the favor will be returned.
Eat together. Something happens across the dinner table that doesn’t happen across the work desk or even the backyard fence.
Serve in love. If you have listened well, you will know how to serve. However, this is not a one-way street. You can allow your friend to serve you, too. Two-way service opens up the opportunity for a genuine two-way conversation.
Share your story. The best opportunities are those where you can personalize the truth of the gospel by telling your story. What has God done for you?
When we are intentional about blessing other sin this way, we are not wasting time. We are living wisely.
1 Peter 4: 7-11
Tick, Tock, the metronome of time clicks its beats. One year ago, we never would have dreamed that 500,000 lives in the United States would be swallowed up by Covid-19 and yet time marches on. We often cannot imagine our lives or the lives of those we love ending. We tend to act as if we have all the tomorrows imaginable, to obey God and His direction in our lives. How do people spend their time? What drives how you spend your time and energy? If a person believes in the eternity taught in the Bible, how will that impact how you spend your time allotted on this side of heaven?
Read 1 Peter 1:17, 1 Peter 4: 2-3, and 1 Peter 5:6; what does Peter have to say about time? Awareness of his own impending martyrdom informed his emphasis on time. (John 21:15-19, 2 Peter 1:12-14) Peter reminds us, “The end of all things is near...” (1 Peter 4:7) Tick, Tock, Tick Tock, the beats of life continue. With Peter’s reminder of the urgency set before us, what should our response be? “…Therefore be alert and of sober mind SO that you may pray.” (1 Peter 4:7) If we agree with Peter’s urgent assessment, how can we focus on prayer? Prayer dependence places our service and words in God’s strength, yet finding time to pray does not often make our to-do list of life’s urgent tasks. Ryan Dobson, son of James and Shirley Dobson, related how he and his sister would come home as teenagers and see their parents on their knees by their bed praying for he and his sister. To this day, when he calls his parents, they often respond with “we were just praying for you.” His parent’s dedication to prayer impacted him personally, far beyond his parent’s fame.
Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock, Life leaves a time of difficulty at our door. In our times of deepest need and greatest anguish, we long to find comfort and hope. God has provided His people to be His hands and feet and wrap His words of spiritual encouragement around us. “If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things, God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 4: 11)
Tick, Tock, the metronome of eternity continues to beat. How will you choose to invest your time in God’s Word and “be alert of a sober mind so that you may pray?” (1 Peter 4:7) George Muller has said, “The most important thing I had to do was read the Word of God and to meditate on it. Thus my heart might be comforted, encouraged, warned, reproved, and instructed.”
What would you do if you were told you had only one day to live? What thoughts would go through your mind? Finish that last task on your to-do list? Spend time with that special loved one and your family? Enjoy your favorite dinner? There is only so much you can do in 24 hours, of course, so this is a serious—though hypothetical question.
Maybe it would be helpful to consider Paul's advice to the Ephesians in today’s reading: “. . . be careful how you live. . . . Take full advantage of every day as you spend your life for his purposes (vv. 15-16). Perhaps that was Paul's way of saying, "Seize the day!"
If you logged your waking hours tomorrow, what would it include?
As in Paul’s day, we too “are living in evil times." And like the early church believers, we must not ignore what's going on in the world around us, hoping it will somehow disappear or that it's all just a very bad dream. Rather, we should be trying to make a difference in the lives of the people we encounter at work, at school, in the mall, or at the club. Paul advises that if we live wisely and with understanding, we “will have discernment to fully understand God’s will."
What are you doing each day to understand God's will, so you can impact others during these "evil times?"
The temptation for some might be to spend their last 24 hours in a bar, drowning their last day in a bottle, hoping to die in unconsciousness. Once again, Paul has something to say to such a thought: "And don’t get drunk with wine, which is rebellion; instead, be filled with the fullness of the Holy Spirit." Do you understand what Paul is saying here? Don't be controlled by some earthly substance you can ingest; rather, be controlled by the Holy Spirit. And look what follows! And your hearts will overflow with a joyful song to the Lord Jehovah (vs. 19)
Assuming you haven't been told you have only so many more days on the earth, what are you doing to "make the most of every opportunity?" Opportunity for what? Each of us will have different opportunities. Even if you're unable to leave home, there are ways you can impact someone else. Everyone needs to be encouraged. We all need each other. Opportunities are everywhere. So, rather than log what you did at the end of the day tomorrow, make a list of ways you can "make the most of every opportunity tomorrow." Paul instructs us to "Always give thanks to Father God for every person he brings into your life in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. And out of your reverence for Christ, be supportive of each other in love" (vv. 20 & 21).
Don't let tomorrow go by without making the most of every opportunity to bless someone.
Seize the day!
(Scripture verses are taken from The Passion Translation®, BroadStreet Publishing®)
jbd & gmd