Most of us have probably viewed the story of Martha and Mary in Luke 10 as a story that leads us to stop being busy like Martha and spend more time at the feet of Jesus like Mary.
Now... Before we go any further, it goes without saying that it is important to spend time with Jesus. It is well assumed that many of us (especially in the age of the smart phone) are busy, even busy doing stuff for God. All of us need to be confronted with the fact that we are busy, we need to slow down and we need to spend time with God.
While this is novel and the most popular way of looking at this story in Luke 10, it appears that there may be something more beautiful going on. Listen close.
In the first century the culture of a home was much different than it is in Western society today. In the first century there was male space and female space. This even shaped the way a home was set up. The front room was male space and the back room would have been female space.
In Luke 10 we see that Jesus and some of his followers arrive at Martha and Mary’s and while Martha is adamantly working away in preparation, Luke shows us that Mary is listening to Jesus and sitting at his feet.
Now, here is the point where we need to pause and ask a few important questions. If Jesus was in the house, where would he have been? You guessed it: the male space. And where was Martha? Well, we know she is working away and it is presumed that she is in the female space of the home.
But the big question is this: where is Mary?
Well, Mary is in the male space. And what is she doing? She is sitting at the feet of a male rabbi.
You see this isn’t a story about being less busy. This is about the revolutionary Jesus changing the way we must view women. Mary violated the custom of the day to sit at the feet of Jesus in the male portion of the home.
You also have to get that this is why Martha is upset with Mary. She is not upset because she is lacking help from Mary with the preparations for Jesus' arrival. Martha is upset because Mary is culturally where she does not typically belong.
Mary stepped out from where she culturally belonged and the crazy thing is that Jesus didn’t stop her. He embraces and affirms her right to be there.
Not only did he affirm Mary, Jesus goes as far as rebuking Martha:
...“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.”
Jesus welcomes and defends women where they were not culturally welcomed. No wonder years later the Apostle Paul would echo the heart of Jesus when he said:
“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Because in God’s kingdom everything is flipped upside down. Everyone is equal.
For further teaching on women and the church, listen below: