At first glance, this looks like a negative example — one that it is
even anti-hospitality or anti-food. But we know that Jesus was
definitely not anti-food. Jesus was known to dine with sinners, to feed
5,000 on a hillside, and his first miracle took place at a party,
turning water into wine so that the party was a success.
Food has always been an important part of worship, from bringing food
to the tabernacle as offerings and the priests sacrificing the animals
and knowing which part they were allowed to eat, to the Last Supper
where Jesus, as host, and the disciples gathered for one final meal
In Acts 2 one of the practices of the early Christians was to share
meals together. That practice continues today as we occasionally share
fellowship meals together. Some churches (i.e. the Brethren Churches)
still have a meal together as a part of their Communion. They eat bread
and gravy together in the sanctuary and then share the bread and wine.
Food is a part of hospitality.
Food and drink invites us to gather in conversation and to linger in
one another’s presence. It invites us to spend time together.
In this story, Martha is busily preparing food, and her sister, Mary is
sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to his teaching. This reminds
me of Randy and I when we have company. We plan ahead if the meal
is not quite ready or there are last minute preparations when the
guests come. I will finish with the preparations and he can
“entertain.” Take people’s coats; take them to the living room to be
seated; maybe find out what they would like to drink. But I am pulled.
I need to finish the meal, but I don’t want my guests ignored and alone.
Martha has chosen to prepare the food, but she is not so gracious with
Mary’s choice of listening with Jesus. Jesus response is one of
priorities. He does not condemn Martha’s choice, but commends Mary’s.
The guest comes first
Looking at hospitality, both are doing important things, but Mary
has chosen the most important. And this brings us to an important
lesson about hospitality. If you have been exposed to business
etiquette you may have come across the mantra: “The customer is always
right.” The customer is more important than anything. Make the customer
happy and they will be a customer for life.
In the case of hospitality, the guest is always comes first: their
comfort, their needs. “Hospitality occurs when we are not at home and
we ‘receive’ the gift of feeling at home.”
In church, how do we make someone feel at home?
In the research for my class, as I and my other classmates interviewed
pre-Christians, when asked what they expected or wished for in a
church, the number one response was for the church to be welcoming,
inviting, friendly, accepting. You may think you are those things, but
obviously that is not
the message the church is sending.
If our goal is making a guest feel welcome, then it is more important
that we greet them and get to them a little than it is if we get to
talk to and visit with our friends. We are make a stranger feel like a
The importance of listening.
I may be pushing the meaning of our scripture text, but notice that
Mary is listening to Jesus. It is important to listen to our guests.
Host and guest sometimes reverse roles
Jesus becomes the real host. And isn’t God always the perfect host. He knows our needs before we ask.
The source of hospitality is love and it is shown through sacrifice
Jesus reaches out in his grace and his love. He sacrifices himself for
us. Jesus chooses our life over his own; he gives his life for ours. We
were strangers, and he died for us, so that we could be his friends, so
that we could be a part of his family.
"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!" (1 John 3.1a)
"Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." (John 13.34)
Extend hospitality to all.
Women? Why would a teacher spend time teaching women.
The “food” that lasts.
Mary has chosen the “food” that will last. In our hospitality do we offer the “food” that will last?
"Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God."