Things have been a bit hectic with deadlines and the flu, but we’re going to continue the series on how to study the Bible.
We left off with an assignment:
Previous Assignment: Using your previous observations, find out more about the things you observed.
One of my observations was that Mary was “at the Lord’s feet”. The Holman Christian Standard Bible and Faithlife Study Bible both comment that “at the Lord’s feet” was the posture of a committed disciple.
Interpretation: Remember, we don’t want to become Bible scholars just to be good at trivia questions like on Jeopardy. We want to be able to understand and apply the Scriptures to our lives.
While I had always thought that Mary was doing what was better–learning from Jesus–I had never considered the thought that she wasn’t just listening attentively, but acting like a disciple. Upon a little more digging in some books I own (I have a lot because I love to read and study the Bible.), I found this quote from the Mishnah (an ancient Jewish source that teaches us a lot about Jewish thought a century before and two centuries after Jesus), “Let thy house be a meeting-house for the Sages and sit amidst the dust of their feet and drink in their words with thirst.” In general, it’s a good idea to find some agreement with scholars before suggesting an interpretation that is very different–but here I found agreement among several sources that Mary was taking the stance of a disciple.
For a 1st century Jewish woman to take the posture of a disciple would have been shocking. Was this why Martha was upset? Martha was “distracted” (v. 40) with the other details. If she were alive today, I could picture her stressing over all of the details to make sure the party preparations were going well and checking Pinterest to make sure everything looked great. (By the way, check out this article on the stress Pinterest causes many people!) But when Martha asks Jesus to get Mary to help, Jesus commends Mary–not Martha!
Then I began to look at the context of the verse. Luke places this right after the parable of the Good Samaritan. The Samaritan is commended for doing the the right thing–that is, loving his neighbor by serving the injured man. But Jesus had just taught that we are to love God AND our neighbor (Luke 10:27). The story of Mary and Martha illustrates the first part–loving God.
Assignment: Take one of your previous observations. Use the extra information and determine why that detail might be important. What can we learn from it?
(By the way, I have often studied something at length and not found anything significant. So, don’t be discouraged if some of your observations don’t lead you to a better understanding of the passage you are studying.)