Jesus tells us, “there is need of only one thing.” Find for this Sunday the one thing in each of the texts that helps us to know what Jesus means. That one thing is the gospel. How is it expressed?
The expression translated in our text as “Mary has chosen the better part” is probably better translated as “Mary has chosen the better portion.” Jesus is making a pun here. He means that Mary is consuming the only truly necessary food: she is feeding her mind and spirit as one of his students. . . And he's gently inviting Martha to sit down to the feast as well.
Contemporary society is full of Marthas. I am constantly amazed at the sheer busyness of many women's lives, especially those who have children—and of the busyness of their children's lives as well. . . . There is no time to be together as a family, nor, for the individual family members, any time to stop, to rest, or to be refreshed. Everyone is frantic—and exhausted.
. . . Who among us would want to have missed a chance to sit at Jesus' feet because they were out in the kitchen rattling pots and pans, or running the kids to soccer practice, or out in the driveway hosing off the car? This does not mean that it's okay to sit there being a couch potato when someone else is doing all the work. But it does mean that we—and our children—need to take time to refresh our spirits, to pray, read, dream, think. It is time, in short, to stop the busyness. To find time for one another. To find time for ourselves. And to find time to sit at Jesus' feet and, like Mary, to take the better portion for ourselves. – Judy Buck-Glenn
The good news in this story is the freedom Jesus offered to both sisters: for Martha, the freedom to let go of her anxiety and worry, in order to spend time enjoying the company Jesus offered at that moment. . . ; for Mary, the freedom to soak in the comfort and joy of Jesus' presence. . . – Carol J. Noren
Sarah’s laughter at the visitors’ announcement of her impending child is not part of this story. It is such a favorite moment in scripture, it seems almost cheating to know it is there around the corner but not included today.
What is the focus of this event if not Sarah’s incredulity? It is the hospitality shown to strangers who, as we are plainly told is the LORD, appearing in the guise of three men. The exact identity of the visitors is manifold and confusing – just as are we individuals to each other when we meet. There is always more "there" than meets the eye. Abraham and Sarah demonstrate the welcome due to those who drop into our lives. Those visitors bring surprising news and unfathomable joy. Can we see it?
The beautiful Christ-hymn in verses 15–20 invites awe and wonder at the place of Christ at the center of God's work, celebrating the majesty of Christ as the image of God and firstborn of creation. Interesting and surprising are the echoes of claims made by imperial Rome concerning Caesar. When Colossians describes Christ in terms very similar to those used by the cult of the emperor to honor Caesar, the “hymn” becomes a prophetic word spoken against the empire's hubris. It is Christ, and not Caesar, in whom the fullness of God is present and through whom God is making peace in the cosmos. It is the way of Christ—forgiveness, generosity, trust and sharing—by which God is renewing the world. The way of Caesar—domination, violence and greed—embodies the evil from which Christ saves. – Aaron J. Couch
Judith M. M. Buck-Glenn is associate rector at Christ Church Episcopal, in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania.
Aaron J. Couch is a co-pastor of First Immanuel Lutheran Church in Portland, Oregon.
Carol J. Noren, a United Methodist pastor, is the Wesley W. Nelson professor of homiletics at North Park Theological Seminary. She served churches as pastor in Minnesota for twenty years.
Homily Service 40, no. 8 (2007): 31-38.