Blog / Book of the Month / The Host of the Feast / Luke 10:38-42 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday July 19th 2022 / Season Of Pentecost / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

The Host of the Feast / Luke 10:38-42 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday July 19th 2022 / Season Of Pentecost / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

The Host of the Feast / Luke 10:38-42 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday July 19th 2022 / Season Of Pentecost / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Rev. Ted A. Giese / July 17th 2022 / Season of Pentecost, Luke 10:38-42. The Host of the Feast

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to His teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord. Amen.

Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends, in the ancient world they had some very different customs and ideas around hospitality. And the Roman province of Palestine, this little kingdom of Israel in which our Gospel reading is unfolding, was greatly influenced by the Roman customs of the day, and by the previous couple hundred years of Greek influences as well, when it came to hospitality.

Now the text doesn’t say what kind of meal Martha is working on for Jesus but it might have been a good one because she’s working very hard to put it together, hard enough that she wanted her sister Mary’s help. Not all meals however were equal in those days. In fact today where we often work hard to give the very best we can to our guest when they arrive, the Roman culture of the day had this idea that you should get what you deserve based on how important you were in society and/or how important you were to the host of the party. As a result you could tell a lot about what the host thought about you and the other guests based on what was being served and how everyone was being treated. To illustrate this I’ll give you an example, a man of that time who was critical of this disparity in hospitality describes dinner at another man’s house like this, he asks this of the host of the party, “Why is not the same dinner served to me as to you? You take oysters fattened in the Luc/Rine Lake, I suck a mussel through a hole in a shell. You get mushrooms, I take hog funguses. You tackle turbot, but I [get] brill. Golden with fat, a turtledove gorges you with its bloated rump, but there sits before me a magpie that has died in its cage.”[1]

Hospitality and kindness, has been our focus the last couple weeks: Last week we heard Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan and two weeks ago we heard the account of Jesus sending out Seventy Two of His closest followers. What Jesus said to those Seventy Two will play a large part in the events of His visit with these sisters Mary and Martha in today’s Gospel, that’s because we see Jesus depending on the kindness of others just as He instructed the Seventy Two to do as they went out into the towns and villages. Now we aren’t told if this is Jesus’ first visit to Mary and Martha’s house but when you look at everything happening in Chapter 10 of the Gospel of Luke it looks like it might just be His very first time there at their house.

So to help better understand Jesus’ visit with Mary and Martha let’s refresh our memory and go back a couple weeks to the beginning of Chapter 10 and that reading where Jesus sends out the Seventy Two, saying, “Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road,” as an aside, if you do this you can’t rely on yourself, you really do need to rely on the kindness of stranger, Jesus continues, “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you.” Then Jesus says, “And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house.”[2] So, personal health reasons notwithstanding, when Jesus says, “eat what is set before you” what He is saying is, ‘you have no idea what people will give you – don’t be picky, don’t turn your nose up at what you’re given, don’t think that the meal is too good for you or beneath you, just eat what is set before you,’ … I guess whether it is roasted turtledove or magpie.

God the Father is gracious, Jesus values kindness and He himself shows kindness, and all of these things belong to hospitality. Think back for a moment to Jesus’ Parable of the Good Samaritan from last week: Where on the one hand we struggle at being the perfect ‘Good Samaritan’ in our daily life, acting more like the robbers or like the inhospitable men that passed by on the other side of the street wrapped up in the details of our own life and work,[3] on the other hand one of the things that that parable of Jesus teaches is that Jesus Himself is in fact the Good Samaritan and knowing Jesus and what He teaches we understand that He Himself was operating under the principle that, “whoever would be great among you must be your servant,” that, “whoever would be first among you must be your slave,” that, “even as the Son of Man,” this is Jesus speaking of Himself, “came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”[4]

Dear ones this is why Jesus is clearly the true embodiment of Good Samaritan of the parable and why Jesus is your true Good Samaritan, the one who faultlessly loves each of us like a neighbour truly keeping God’s law.[5] Consider how He shows mercy and kindness to you in your distress just as He rightly loves His heavenly Father with all His heart, with all His soul, with all His strength and with all His mind showing true devotion to both God and Man.[6] This sets the stage for when Jesus walks with “no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals” into the small village of Bethany about two miles east of Jerusalem on the southeast slope of the Mount of Olives. And when Martha, and her brother Lazarus, welcomed this Jesus into their house He would have, said to her, said to them, “Peace be to this house!” Jesus, prepared to eat and drink whatever was put before Him, then sat down and began to teach Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, who was attentively listening to Jesus all while Martha busied herself in preparing the meal. This, and Martha reaction, are the part of the story we likely remember best.  

It is unlikely that Martha was working hard in the kitchen to serve Jesus a magpie that had died in its cage. Regardless of what kind of meal she was working to serve Jesus, Martha had been sucked into the world of the day and was more focused on the serving of the meal than she was on her guest, not knowing that Jesus was already serving her sister something better than she could serve Him. Mary on the other hand had discovered the one needful thing and was receiving it from Jesus. When we become excited to serve Jesus we must also remember not to let this cloud the fact that it is Jesus who is serving us. He had more lasting food in His words than Martha would serve at the table. One thing we can learn from this Gospel reading is this: Do not become so distracted with serving others to the point of being personally starved of hearing, reading, learning and inwardly digestion the Word of God delivered to you in Christ Jesus and by His command.[7] With great kindness and generosity Jesus daily, weekly, comes to you with His word offing you Hospitality like no other.

After Martha losses it on Jesus complaining, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” Jesus answered her kindly and gently saying, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Martha however when you consider her whole story in Scripture, which you should, shouldn’t get a bad rap, remember what Jesus said to the Seventy Two “whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him.” Peace did come to Martha’s house and we know this because later, even in their distress at the death of their brother Lazarus, you can see the peace of Christ Jesus resting upon Martha.

In Jesus’ last visit to their house before the events of Holy Week and His Crucifixion, on the day when Jesus raised Mary and Martha’s brother Lazarus from the dead, this same Martha has a conversation with Jesus, and this time everything is reversed and it’s Mary who is anxious and troubled and in great distress refusing to leave the house[8] where on the other hand it’s Martha who trustingly says to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus then says to her, “Your brother will rise again.” To which Martha says to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on The Last Day.” Jesus replies, “I Am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”[9] And right there you can see how Martha, like Mary had before her, finally received the good portion; she believed as her sister had, this passage shows her listening to Jesus and taking to heart the one thing which is necessary: Martha along with her sister Mary are, by the end, both shown to have faith in Jesus and His Holy Word. She who was fussing over showing Jesus hospitality is finally shown as one who trusted in the kindness and mercy and hospitality of God delivered to her in Christ Jesus.

These pivotal visits to the house of Mary and Martha come after the event of the Transfiguration,[10] which is a turning point in the whole public ministry of Jesus as you read it in the Gospel of Saint Luke, from there on in Jesus was moving toward the cross, today’s reading is a brief resting point along the way and on that day Jesus knew that He was going to be going eventually to Jerusalem and His death. On that last visit to Mary and Martha’s house when Jesus says of Himself, “I Am the Resurrection and the Life,” before raising Lazarus from the dead He knew that His path to Jerusalem and His crucifixion was literally right around the corner and Jesus likewise knew that any hospitality previously extended to Him by the city of Jerusalem, and those who lived there, was about to dissolve and what would start out good with the Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday with the crowds calling out “Hosanna, Save us,” feeding Him with their Hosannas a fattened meal of golden roasted turtledove would fade away as the week progressed and by Friday Jesus would be eating the magpie of death at the cross. By the end of the week He would know just what the guests of the Passover Feast thought of Him and just what the hosts of the Passover Feast, the Chief Priests and Scribes and Elders of the people thought of Him.[11] Unlike Mary and Martha the leaders of the people in Jerusalem who were welcoming everyone in for the feast of Passover had not grasped hold of what was necessary, the one thing needful, they could not see that in Christ Jesus the Kingdome of God had come near to them[12] and that Jesus was feeding them with His teaching in the Temple and with His Word a lavish feast full of grace and truth. They instead complained that Jesus was ruining their party not realizing that Jesus, the very Son of God the very Son of Man, was in fact the true host of the party and not them.         

Because Jesus with all humility went to the cross to eat the magpie of death the golden turtledove of eternal life is now served to you. The hospitality God share to you in Christ Jesus is a perfect hospitality: He doesn’t turn you away when you come to Him for forgiveness, He doesn’t turn you away when you come to Him for forgiveness for all the times you’ve been unkind, for all the times you’ve failed to show generosity, and for all the times you’ve failed to love to your neighbour, for all the times you refused to open your house to the one who arrives on your doorstep with no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals. Jesus shows you mercy and forgiveness even when you have become distracted in the service of other and have failed to set your eyes on Him, and have failed to open your ears to hear His word.

Remembering Jesus’ word, remember that this House, Mount Olive Lutheran Church, is God’s House here in this place and in this time, and here the word of God feeds all who enter in, and when they are prepared for the Supper then Jesus is here for them at the Communion rail not just in His mighty and powerful Word but in the Super too, He comes to you in the meal and gives to you, in His Supper, His very body and blood to eat and drink for the forgiveness of your sins unto life everlasting. It is the same body and blood that Martha welcomed into her home, the same Jesus at whose feet Martha’s sister Mary sat, the same body and blood that was beaten and bullied though the streets of Jerusalem and nailed to the cross of Good Friday, the same body and blood risen to life on that first Easter morning, the same Jesus ascended into heaven to sit at His Father’s right hand. Jesus is the one necessary thing for you: what does Saint Paul say “we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”[13] God the Father gives this His Son Jesus to you without reservation, He gives Jesus to you in the Word of God, He gives Jesus to you at the Cross of His crucifixion, He gives Jesus to you in the Holy Supper, the very Sacrament of the Altar.

And such is the hospitality and kindness and generosity of God, He is not partial to the poor and He does not defer to the great,[14] but in the righteousness of His Son Jesus He treats us all as His children regardless of our status or place in society, be it ever so high or ever so low. And because of Jesus, into whom you have been baptised, this is not the hospitality of a stranger. No, God’s hospitality is the hospitality of a perfect Father, the hospitality of a perfect Brother, faultless in every way. Better even than the hospitality of an earthly father or of an earthly brother or sister; God’s hospitality towards you serves you no magpie at the supper, Jesus’ hospitality is pure kindness and mercy. And now we are called in Christ to “love because He first loved us.”[15] And so in love we are called to show hospitality to others as He has shown it to us.[16] Amen.       

Let us pray: Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.

[1] St. Paul’s Corinth, Texts and Archaeology, Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, pg. 185.
[2] Luke 10:4-8
[3] Luke 10:30-32
[4] Matthew 20:26–28
[5] Luke 10:33-35
[6] Luke 10:27
[7] Remember the Third Commandment: You shall sanctify the holy day. [Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.] What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it. This reading from Luke 10 about the sisters Mary and Martha is tied up in keeping and breaking the Third Commandment. Luther’s Small Catechism, Concordia Publishing House 2017, pg 13.
[8] John 11:20
[9] John 11:21-27
[10] Luke 9:28-36
[11] Matthew 20:18; Matthew 21:15; Matthew 21:23; Matthew 26:59; Matthew 27:1; Matthew 27:20; Matthew 27:41-43; Mark 8:31; Mark 10:33; Mark 11:18; Mark 14:1; Mark 15:11; Mark 15:31; Luke 19:47; Luke 20:19; Luke 22:2; Luke 23:10-23; John 19:6-15; John 19:16-22
[12] Luke 10:9
[13] 1 Corinthians 1:23–24
[14] Leviticus 19:15
[15] 1 John 4:19
[16] Luke 10:36-37

Photo Credits: Main Photo detail of photo of "Marta och Maria" stained glass window by David Castor from Wikimedia Commons; The Well-stocked Kitchen by Joachim Beuckelaer from Wikimedia Commons; detail of Magpie in Flight from unsplash; detail of Jesus in the House of Mary and Martha by Erasmus Quellinus (II), Adriaen van Utrecht from Wikimedia Commons; detail of Roasted Poultry Dish from pexels; detail of the Good Samaritan by Luigi Sciallero 1854 from Wikimedia Commons; detail of stained glass window of Jesus with Mary, Martha and Lazarus from Wikimedia Commons; detail of Martha from a photo of "Marta och Maria" stained glass window by David Castor from Wikimedia Commons; detail of Mary from a photo of "Marta och Maria" stained glass window by David Castor from Wikimedia Commons; detail of Jesus at Lazarus' Tomb from pxhere; tinted detail of Christ Crucified between the Two Thieves- The Three Crosses by Rembrandt from Wikimedia Commons; Photos of the Sacrement of the Altar at Mount Olive Lutheran Church from schultzphotographic.