So, Mary and Martha and Jesus. What a combo they are, right? Martha the busybody nag. Mary the airheaded fangirl. Jesus the oblivious guest.
This is the sermon given many variations, the one we hear preached the most often. It also completely misses the point of this passage. The problem arises when we look at it through western eyes. We ignore the Luke’s primary storytelling tool of turning everyone’s expectations upside down.
Martha does not speak as an annoying nag. Rather her voice speaks for everyone else in the house and everyone who originally heard this story. As the mistress of her own household, one which must include servants (cook, housekeeper, and the like), she can show Jesus no greater honor than to prepare and serve his meal by her own hand, even as her cook is no doubt preparing a meal for the rest of the entourage.
She humbles herself unnecessarily to show him great respect — exactly as he did in the foot washing story found in John’s Gospel. Of course she expects Mary to show Jesus the same respect and honor. And not only Martha, but everyone else in the house expects this, as did Luke’s intended audience.
This story is shocking to all who hear it! Mary has chosen the better way to honor Jesus?!? How can this be? Mary is simply sitting still and listening…
Oh. Well, that is sure a different spin on things.
And there you have it.