A Reflection

This coming Sunday is the 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time  and the story of Martha and Mary. In yesterday’s post we considered the gospel text and offered some thoughts about it as regards “place” in our culture. Today we offer a final reflection on this passage.

Part of Culpepper’s (Luke, New Interpreter’s Bible, 232) final “Reflections:”

In its own way, the conjunction of the stories about the good Samaritan and the female disciple voices Jesus’ protest against the rules and boundaries set by the culture in which he lived. As they develop seeing and hearing as metaphors for the activity of the kingdom, the twin stories also expose the injustice of social barriers that categorize, restrict, and oppress various groups in any society (Samaritans, victims, women). To love God with all one’s heart and one’s neighbor as oneself meant then and now that one must often reject society’s rules in favor of the codes of the kingdom — a society without distinctions and boundaries between its members. The rules of that society are just two — to love God and one’s neighbor — but these rules are so radically different from those of the society in which we live that living by them invariably calls us to disregard all else, break the rules, and follow Jesus’ example.

To judge from the story of the Samaritan, Martha should have been praised for her practical service to Jesus. Her action, in fact, is neither praised nor condemned, but she is challenged to consider her priorities. The whole gospel is not contained in loving service to others, no matter how important that is. Christian discipleship is first and foremost personal adherence to Jesus. There must be time to listen to his “word;” devotion to Jesus is the one thing required. This relationship shows itself in loving service, but without prayer, care for others’ needs may not be love.


  • 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)
  • Brian Stoffregen, “Brian P. Stoffregen Exegetical Notes”
  • Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich and Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 1995) 

Scripture quotes from New American Bible by Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. © 1991, 1986, 1970

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