For the text of Luke 10, click here.
This chapter opens with Jesus “sending out the seventy-two”. It states “the Lord” sent them, but then has Jesus talking to them before they leave, so it was a touch confusing that way. But also, He gives them roughly the same speech as He had given the apostles when they were sent out. It consists of staying in the same place the whole time in a town, dusting off the feet if they don’t receive them, healing everyone, eating whatever is put in front of them, and that “the harvest is plenty but the laborers are few”. These seventy-two other people who are sent out before Jesus are only mentioned in this gospel so far.
This is immediately followed by a “woe” to some cities that didn’t receive them but it doesn’t specific if this is some time later or cities they already know are problematic this way. It makes more sense for them to have tried to get through to the cities and fail then to assume they can’t have a change of heart but it’s just strange to have this here with no context at all. Fortunately, we have the Matthew 11 account to give a little context. In that gospel, this woe comes after finding out that the places He had already visited didn’t repent.
Then the seventy-two do come back with news of their travels. They’re excited about the things they could do but Jesus reminds them not to be, to be excited that their “names are written in heaven” which is a pretty amazing sentiment.
Next is Jesus thanking God for hiding knowledge from the wise and giving it to children. Luke separates this prayer from the woes to the cities they had visited, but Matthew keeps these two passages together. The difference in presentation can give a little different interpretation too. Following the successful return of the seventy-two, it seems like He is celebrating that they got through to the innocent while the people who thought so highly of themselves are still in denial about what’s going on. There’s a part of me that wonders how much sarcasm there is when He says “wise” right there. The people who challenge Him all over the place clearly consider themselves wise and it’s not as if we haven’t seen Jesus just sass some folks.
In contrast, Matthew has this prayer follow the “woe to the cities” which may leave room for a similar sentiment, but comes off like He’s just frustrated with the cities and a little tired of no one really understanding what He is there to do. This Luke passage doesn’t include Jesus taking on their yoke at the end, either, which is a part of what changes the mood in Matthew. Luke ends with a feeling that annoyance that the answer is right in front of these people and they don’t get it.
The popular story of the good samaritan first shows up in this chapter of Luke. A man gets into trouble and his own people don’t help, a priest nor a Levite who are supposed to be the most righteous among them. Instead a stranger from the next country does. Not just any country either, Samaria. If you recall, Samaria had once been a part of Israel but split off. The overall point is that everyone is our neighbor and we should treat everyone the way we want to be treated.
The last story is another popular one, especially in feminist circles. We meet Martha and Mary, the infamous sisters who have been the source of the work argument among women. Is there a “woman’s place” in Christianity? Jesus didn’t seem to think so when Martha came out to chastise Mary for not helping her serve when she was listening to Jesus.
The argument often goes to the question of whether Martha’s work was important at all or as important as Mary’s receiving the Word from Jesus. What is the right answer and was Martha justified in her frustration toward her sister? What ever would happen to the world if all the women decided to be like Mary and listen to the teachings of Christ rather than serve the men? How did this get interpreted through all those years before feminists revolted with it? It may have been overshadowed by Paul’s idea of what a woman’s place is but we’ll come to that later.
As far as Jesus is concerned, listening to Him is a fine place for a woman or at least this woman. That’s the other part of the ongoing argument that goes all the way back to the judgement of Eve. Is it for all women for all time or is that answer for this woman alone? It seems to me that women can be disciples and we also learned in chapter 8 that they can be benefactors and traveling with them. Personally, I feel like these together negate any argument about women teachers in Christianity itself. No one else’s word should be held up higher than that of Jesus on any idea in a religion based on HIS teachings.
Some may say I’m reading too far into this but the two passages together make a pretty strong argument in my mind. The other side of this, of course, is the necessity of the work that Martha does. Many of us have a tendency to look back at Martha doing traditional women’s work and feel defensive. Isn’t that work important? Why is that not the “good portion”?
What do you think?