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Hosting Jesus(TTC Chapel_14-07-2010)

(2010-08-02 16:25:24)


分类: 阅读

Hosting Jesus

Luke 10.38-42


Martha was distracted by her many tasks, while Mary has chosen the better part of sitting at the feet of Jesus, so says the Gospel reading for today.


When this is taken at face value – without plumbing its depths – we can understand why this passage has been interpreted as establishing the priority of the contemplative life over the active one, through the many centuries of Church history.


However, this hallowed way of reading the passage sounds hollow in the light of human experience.



Prayer and meditation are great but someone has to cook!


Where would you contemplators be if we administrators and workers did not work very hard to make it possible for you to luxuriate in your contemplation?


Deacons weren’t put in place for nothing!


Indeed, if you were to take this interpretation to tired housewives today, you would find that they would all agree with you, and petition you to practise what you preach, and allow them to rest from doing chores.



After all, it is the inferior choice. Poor Martha! If she were taught this interpretation, she would have snorted, ‘If only I knew, I would have called for KFC home delivery. Or better, let Mary do the calling while I sit at Jesus’ feet.’ And yet, the passage insists that Martha did miss the important thing while Mary found it.



What, then, did Martha miss and what is the point of the Gospel story? The answer to this becomes transparent when we take into account the setting of the story.



An important datum is provided right at the beginning.


Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem to accomplish his messianic task.


Martha opens her home to Jesus, i.e. she welcomes him and hosts him.


This is significant because this divine traveller to Jerusalem has been rebuffed before (9.51-56).



For Martha to open her home to Jesus says a lot about her character.


Furthermore, hospitality is an important institution in an ancient society.



When we host someone, we should do our level best to make the traveller feel honoured and well taken care of.


This was precisely the intent of Martha, which is laudable.



This setting, then, serves as the Ariadne’s thread through the maze created by a long, hallowed way of reading the passage.


It informs us straightaway that the story concerns how Jesus is to be hosted or welcomed.



1. Hearing Jesus

1. 聆听耶稣

Martha knows she is hosting a very important guest and not any ordinary person.


The way Luke writes up this account indicates this too: the word kyrios appears three times in this short passage. Luke tells his readers, then, that Martha is hosting the Lord, and she knows it. How is Jesus the Lord to be hosted?

路加叙述的方式也显明这一点:“kyrios”这个词在短文中出现了三次。 路加告诉读者,马大接待的是主,她知道这点。问题是:要怎样接待耶稣这位主呢?


To be expected, Martha does her level best to provide hospitality: probably taking out her best and secret recipes, whipping up elaborate dishes, and making sure the place is ready for this august guest. 可想而知,马大会尽她所能提供最好的接待:可能拿出了她最好的绝活和私房菜,大摆宴席, 并力求为这位贵宾预备好地方。

You can imagine her busyness and stress, and not surprisingly, she complains to Jesus about Mary because she is listening to Jesus, and is thus absent from the kitchen.


Instead of supporting her, Jesus commends Mary. Why?


It is to be observed, first of all, that the activities connected with hospitality have become a distraction (v. 40).


Indeed, they have caused Martha worries (v. 41).


She was not just distracted, but anxiously so.


Sadly, a cultural norm which has been put in place to make life viable and enjoyable has become a burden.


Although Martha started off with the Lord’s needs in mind, she ended up being concerned about hers.


In this state of affairs, Martha failed to see the one important thing: to host Jesus is to listen to him. 在这些情况下,马大错失了一件重要的事:接待耶稣就是要聆听耶稣。

This is precisely why Mary was commended.这也正是为什么马利亚得到称赞的原因。

In v. 39, the main verb in the Greek syntax is ‘listen’, pointing out where the verse’s centre of gravity is.


Mary knew that to honour the Lord best was to listen to him attentively and obediently (v. 39).马利亚知道去尊敬主的最好方式是专心且顺服地来聆听(第39节)。

In other words, Jesus being the uniquely special guest that he is, is to be welcomed by our listening disposition. This is the sort of hospitality Jesus seeks. 换言之,我们是要用聆听的态度来接待这位独特的贵宾。这才是耶稣希望的待客之道。

What counts is whether we listen to him and not whether we put up the greatest show. 关键之处在于我们是否去聆听他,而不是我们大费周章地来接待他。

Don’t get me wrong. 不要误解我的意思。

Doing the best possible show for Jesus is commendable, but it must not distract us from the one thing: listening to Jesus.


Of course, we shouldn’t think that listening to him is an excuse for laziness because you will certainly hear the words, ‘Go and serve!’ Indeed, in Luke’s Gospel, listening usually means being a disciple (6.47; 8.11; 11.28).


If Martha were given a chance to re-enact this, what she should do was to provide the right and comfortable setting for people to listen to Jesus. Indeed, she should herself join in to listen. 如果给马大一个重新来过的机会,她将会怎样做?是忙着为人们提供舒适的环境,以便让人去聆听耶稣?事实上,她本身也应该加入聆听的队伍。

A simple meal with attentive listening is far better than an elaborate meal where no one listens. And the Gospel of Luke is full of such examples.



2. Clearing Hindrances


The story ends with a pronouncement, which indicates to the audience its major theme. It is that Mary has chosen the better part and this choice has been given a permanent endorsement (v. 42).


What really is the point here and how does it dovetail with the setting of the scene, which speaks about hosting Jesus?



Some background information is needed. Mary is described as sitting at the feet of Jesus. This is not just a posture of attentive submission. It is also the posture of a learner, a disciple (cf. Acts 22.3).

我们需一些背景资料。经文形容马利亚是坐在耶稣脚前。这不仅是一个专注的聆听者的姿势。这也是一个学生,一个门徒的姿势(参考 使徒行传22:3)。

Jewish texts speak of people learning at the feet of rabbis (m.‘Abot 1.4).

犹太文献讲到人们是在拉比脚前受教(m.‘Abot 1.4).

Now, according to the 1st century Palestinian setting the kitchen is the place of the women.


The place of learning is for the men.


In this respect, when a rabbi comes a calling, men will sit at his feet to listen to him discoursing, while the women will busy themselves preparing food or refreshments. That would be the feminine contribution to the betterment of society.



What Mary did, then, was counter-cultural.


She did not keep to the place society assigned her.


She sat at Jesus’ feet, i.e. she joined the other men to hear Jesus, with a view to being his disciple.


This explains why Martha was upset with her. Not only was Mary not helping out in the kitchen, she was joining the men, arrogating to herself the right to be a disciple, and doing something socially out of place.



In the light of the passage’s emphasis on hearing, Jesus’ defence of Mary’s counter-cultural action must mean that boundaries erected by society should be discarded if they prevent people from hearing him.


In other words, if Martha were to be a good host to her divine guest, she should remember that whatever hospitable action she performed must encourage people to listen to him.

换言之,如果马大是接待耶稣的好东道主,她要记住任何好客的行动都要鼓励人去聆听耶稣 。

Hearing Jesus is primary and urgent. And all are invited to hear him.


If this is the case, impediments must be cleared, including hoary traditions or time-honoured demarcations that structure society.


But do note: this is performed not because Jesus would like his disciples to be anti-establishment or culture-haters, as if our task is to go on a tradition-hunt, to ferret it out in order to kill it.



No. The point is rather that hearing Jesus is primary and all barriers that bar people from hearing him must be dismantled, even if it means earning the ire of society.



3. Conclusion



How are we to host our Lord and Saviour?


When he comes a calling, what is the one thing we are to remember? Hear him, and remove all barriers that bar people from hearing him.


For a theological college like ours, it does not take much mental effort to understand how this passage is relevant.


Many good things are put in place for our spiritual growth and vocational equipping. 人们为着我们的灵性成长和职场训练安排了很多好东西。

It is so easy to let these good things become an end in themselves, i.e. to distract us from the one thing Mary perceived so well so long ago.


But we must learn to choose the better thing, and by the grace of God, may we do so and may it not be taken away from us. Amen. 但是,我们必须学会选择那上好的福分,靠着上帝的恩典,不要让那些真正好的东西与我们失之交臂。阿们。



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