Week commencing 18th June  2017   With a PDF found here

Notes for next week’s sermon on Tell me the stories of Jesus – Luke 10:38-43 and Luke 23:32-42

This week we look at the wonderful account of Mary and Martha’s interaction with Jesus, and the moving an insightful story of the thief on the cross who threw himself on Jesus’ mercy.

DAY 1: Read Luke 10:38-43                                                                             

We only know from another reference, just where Mary and Martha lived. Luke himself is vague: he says Jesus and his disciples were on their way but doesn’t mention details, nor does he name the village. Bethany is just over 3km from Jerusalem. The house is said to be Martha’s and we get the impression that she was the elder of the sisters and the host.

Mary (the name is ‘Mariam’, the Greek form of the Hebrew ‘Miriam), sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. Culturally this is unusual (bordering on scandalous) as women typically did not engage so much with learning and education. Who did she think she was? Only a shameless woman would behave in such a way! She should return to the women’s quarters! But Mary was taking full advantage of the opportunity.

Martha on the other hand was distracted. Distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. And no doubt distracted by the fact that her sister is not behaving according to her role as a woman! She was behaving as if she were a man. To sit at the feet of a teacher was a decidedly male thing to do. To sit at someone’s feet was to be their student and to sit at the feet of a rabbi what was you did if you wanted to be a rabbi yourself. Mary has quietly taken her place as a student and possibly a would-be teacher of the kingdom of God. She is challenging the culture norms!

What do you make of this? I preached on this passage as a young minister in my first placement. In my sermon I was encouraging people to see that learning about the Lord Jesus ought to be a priority for us all. I well remember one of the older women serving morning tea that day, telling me in no uncertain terms “Well – someone has to do the dishes don’t they!” How do we balance these two priorities? Yes, someone does have to prepare dinner in the end and clean up afterwards, but we all need to as it were, sit at the feet of the master and continue learning from him! We’ll come back to this tomorrow!

DAY 2: Read Luke 10:38-43

Hard working Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. When she could stand it no longer, she asked Jesus to intervene. She even reproaches Jesus: Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Her solution: Tell her to help me.

Jesus affirms Mary’s right to be learning from him. This has little to do with women’s movements in the modern west. Rather, Jesus wants to bring light and love wherever there is dryness and a desire to learn. Mary stands for all people who when they hear Jesus’ teaching, long to ‘down tools’ and make learning more a priority. If Martha was distracted by all the preparations, Mary is distracted from all the preparations with an unquenchable thirst for more teaching!

Jesus’ reply is tender. He contrasts Martha’s being worried and upset about many things, with the one thing which is really needed. Jesus is saying that Martha is worried over too many things. Life has few real necessities and we can actually do without much on which we spend much of our time. The one thing is not defined, but it clearly has to do with Mary’s sitting at Jesus’ feet and learning from him. It is the attitude of dependence on Jesus that matters. We’re reminded of Jesus’ reply to the evil one in Matthew 4:4 (quoting Deuteronomy 8:3) Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.

Jesus shares with Martha, that Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her. Out of all things Martha could have been doing that day, she would have benefited more from sitting with her sister and soaking up all Jesus had to say. What about dinner you ask? Maybe a more simple meal which took less time to prepare would have sufficed? Perhaps it was a matter of prioritising. Martha could have sat together with Mary to listen and learn and then maybe together they could have prepared a meal?

I wonder what distracts you from (as it were) sitting at Jesus’ feet? What could you do which would free up time for more study of God’s word? How could you rearrange priorities so that you could join a small group? What would it take for you to free up time for (let’s say) our Bible Explained course? We need to reorder what we value to make time for what Jesus points out is actually needed. We have so many options today in terms of what can fill up our time, but only one thing is needed! And when we invest there, it will never be taken away from us!

DAY 3: Read Luke 23:26-38

It must have been an incredible scene. Jesus, weakened from the beating he had suffered, is too weak to carry his cross so someone in the crowd from out of town is made to carry it for him. There is a crowd following Jesus including women in great distress. Jesus speaks to them. He is thinking about others rather than himself. He is weeping for Jerusalem once more! He begs them to weep for their sin and not for him. As we saw last week, a terrible future awaits the city in AD70 and Jesus urges those following to come to their senses.

The account of the actual crucifixion is brief and to the point. All those who first read the gospel knew all about how crucifixion worked. They needed no more detail than we have here. Jesus’ declaration of forgiveness is moving, but then the cross is all about providing the means for the forgiveness of sin!

What is fascinating about Luke’s account is the story of the two thieves crucified with Jesus. One realised he was in the presence of greatness; one was completely oblivious to who Jesus is and continued ridiculing him. The irony of the ridicule from both the thief and the religious leaders when they propose that surely Jesus could save himself is that he could have indeed saved himself at any point in this tragic ordeal! Yet had he saved himself, he would not have saved them!

DAY 4: Read Luke 23:39-43

The account of the interchange between the two thieves and Jesus is unique to Luke’s gospel. We learn a lot here!! We see all that is needed for someone to come into relationship with Jesus.

First they need to recognise who Jesus is: Don’t you fear God he said to his mate on the other side of Jesus.

Second, they need to acknowledge their own failure and brokenness. We are justly punished, for we are getting what our deeds deserved.

Third there has to be an acknowledgment of Jesus’ innocence this man has done nothing wrong.

Finally, a throwing of yourself on the mercy of Jesus. Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.

Note that the thief was utterly underserving and that it was completely impossible for him to do anything about his situation or to make up for lost time. He could only turn to Jesus’ mercy to be saved. Christian, this is our story also. We were unable to help ourselves, but we came to see who Jesus is, to admit our sin and failure and to throw ourselves utterly on his mercy. And Jesus’ promise to the thief is the same for us upon our death, if we like the thief have acknowledged our sin, acknowledged who Jesus is and have thrown ourselves on his mercy: that day we will be with him in paradise! Praise be to God for Jesus’ sacrificial death.