Feeling Distracted this New Year?
From Hanukkah to Passover--it's not so long a period. In our timeline of Jesus' ministry, Mary and Martha will entertain Jesus and the disciples just after Hanukkah and again just before Passover. Let's join them...
Bethany is not far from Jerusalem (or from Bethlehem). Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus lived there, and were clearly friends of Jesus (as explained in John11:1-2). If Jesus spent his earliest years in Bethlehem, perhaps they were childhood friends. Or the family may have become friends when Jesus was baptized at the start of his ministry.
Now, toward the end of Jesus’ ministry, we find him (and possibly his disciples) staying at Martha and Mary’s house. Read Luke 10:38-42.
1. How do you picture the scene? Where is Jesus? Who is listening to him—family? neighbors? What might Jesus be talking about?
2. Where is Martha? Can she hear Jesus? Can she be heard?
3. Did you remember that Lazarus isn’t mentioned in this story? Where might he be?
4. What’s the difference between Martha’s distraction and Lazarus’ absence?
5. How do we tell the difference between being distracted and being busy?
6. What distracts us from listening to Jesus?
7. How do you picture the end of the story? Does Martha storm off, feeling even more rejected? Does Mary get up and carry some plates? Does everyone settle down to listen while they wait for the kettle to boil?
8. When you feel like a Mary, how do you want Martha’s complaint to be addressed? And when you feel like Martha?
9. How has God addressed your most recent complaints? Your most recent distractions? Your most recent busyness?
But Mary and Martha aren’t the only people inviting Jesus to dinner. Read Luke 11:37-38
1. Let’s try to imagine this scene too. It probably takes place while Jesus and the disciples are wandering around Jerusalem. Social dinners might be served in the central court of a large house, with open walls where outsiders can look in. Is Jesus given a formal invitation or does the host just say “Come on in and join us”? Does your answer explain why Jesus might not have washed his hands?
2. Read Luke 11:39-40 Maybe cleanliness isn’t next to godliness after all. But what has distracted Jesus’ host?
3. Jesus goes on to discuss other “distractions.” Read Luke 11:41-42. What’s the connection between justice, tithing and love?
4. How do we tell the difference between doing God’s will and being distracted by religious regulations?
5. Read Luke 11:43-44. What’s the connection between high position and unseen graves? (Remember, touching a grave would make your position rather... low.)
6. How do we strike a balance between upholding God’s law and being stumbling blocks to our neighbors?
7. Read Luke 11:45-46. Is Jesus trying to make them angry, or using humor to make them think?
8. Read Luke 11:47-48. Can you imagine the mood darkening? Is that Jesus’ fault, or could they still (in their culture) take his words as being kindly meant? How sensitive are we to the culture we find ourselves in?
9. Read Luke 11:49-51, 2 Chronicles 24:20-22 Why might Jesus have picked out Abel and Zechariah as examples at this time?
10. Read Luke 11:52 What is the key of knowledge? What keys were given to Peter and the disciples (Read Isaiah 22:22, Matthew 16:19)? How might we hold or use the key?
11. Read Luke 11:53-54 I’d imagine there follows a “lively” discussion. Do you think they’re still at the dining table? Is there anything wrong with lively discussions? Did you take part in any such discussions recently? (Or were you distracted?)