Exhortation for October 12:
In the section of Luke’s gospel that we are examining this morning, hospitality serves as a symbol for receiving Christ. To receive one of the messengers of Jesus is to receive Jesus and to receive Jesus is to receive the One who sent Jesus. Hospitality is a picture of conversion, of the proper response to the announcement that the kingdom of God has drawn near.
But of course, hospitality is not only a symbol of reception of the gospel and the gospel messengers. Nor is hospitality a temporary expedient during the life of Jesus. Hospitality is a continuing Christian obligation. One of the exhortations that concludes the epistle to the Hebrews is, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” And the duty of hospitality is not limited to strangers; Scripture always exhorts us to demonstrate our love especially to those who are of the household of faith. As we are getting started with a new congregation, we must be diligent in fulfilling this duty. Those of us who are older and have more established families must set the pattern of hospitality, but younger couples and new families should be developing habits of hospitality early in their family life.
Just having guests, is not enough. We must learn to show hospitality in the proper way. The final scene in our sermon text, the story of Mary and Martha, has a number of purposes within the context of Luke 10, as we’ll see later this morning. But in addition it gives us an insight into some problems and dangers of hospitality. I want to comment briefly on two of these.
The practical points of this story focus on the character of Martha. While Jesus is teaching and speaking to Mary in one part of the house, Martha is busy in the kitchen, and she is busy working herself, as Jesus puts it, into an “uproar.” She has welcomed a guest into her home, but instead of treating it as a joyous occasion, she is agitated by the amount of work, resentful that she does not get sufficient help, and focuses completely on her own difficulties. (Note as we read the passage how many times she uses the words “me” and “my.”) Hospitality that creates resentment and a frenzy of activity is not proper hospitality.
There’s a deeper reason why Martha’s hospitality is inappropriate: She is so busy with her work that she neglects the guest in her house. The purpose of showing hospitality to Jesus is to receive Him and His word; the purpose of showing hospitality to others is to deepen fellowship and communion with one another. Hospitality is not shown primarily in the flawless table setting, in the delicious and exotic foods, in the gracefulness of service. Hospitality is shown primarily in honoring the guest.
Practice hospitality. Receive one another as you would receive Jesus; but make sure that you receive one another in the same way you would receive Jesus. Receive one another as MARY received Jesus, with attentiveness to the guest.