This coming Sunday is the 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time and the story of Martha and Mary. In yesterday’s post we provided some context and raised the question of this gospel and the one in which the lawyer asks Jesus what he must do to gain eternal life.
Looking at these stories together, it suggests that the contrast is not between doing and listening, but between being anxious and not. Green (The Gospel of Luke) notes in a footnote (p. 436) that the contrast is not really between Martha’s doing or service and Mary’s listening, but between “hearing the word” (namely, discipleship) and “anxious” behavior (namely, the antithesis of discipleship).
Culpepper (Luke, New Interpreter’s Bible, 231) makes these observations:
The story of the good Samaritan then develops the meaning of the command to love one’s neighbor, and the story of Mary and Martha highlights the overriding importance of devotion to the Lord’s Word as an expression of one’s love for God. The story of the good Samaritan features “a certain man” (v. 30), while Martha is introduced as “a certain woman” (v. 38). The good Samaritan exemplifies the disciples’ seeing; in a similar way, Mary exemplifies the virtue of hearing (see 10:23-24). Moreover, both the Samaritan and Mary, a woman, represent marginalized persons — unlikely heroes. As a composite, they are model disciples: “those who hear the word of God and do it” (8:21).
All of the above is a continuation of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem (begun in 9:51) – where hospitality had been refused by the Samaritan villagers. Here in our passage, Jesus and the disciples are welcomed into a home by Martha.
- Joel Green, The Gospel of Luke, vol 3 of The New International Commentary on the New Testament ed. Gorden Fee (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 1997)
- R. Allen Culpepper Luke, vol. 9 in New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN.: Abington, 1995)
- Scripture quotes from New American Bible by Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC.