Read Mark 12:1-9
There are concepts which in their complexity can be difficult to understand. When we are younger, teachers take complicated concepts and break them down so we might understand the parts before understanding the whole. Teachers also learn that a student may need a concept explained in a different way in order to gain understanding. As a wonderful teacher, Jesus understood this. Jesus used parables, or storytelling, to communicate complicated messages in an understandable way.
A parable which Jesus told was about a vineyard owner and the tenants who worked his vineyard. The owner sent some servants and his son at harvest time to collect some of the harvest. As each one was sent, the tenants beat them, put them back with nothing, and even killed some of them including his son. The owner came himself, killed the tenants, and recruited new tenants.
This story was Jesus’s attempt to explain God’s viewpoint of how the Hebrew people have behaved and the coming response. All the prophets, angels and messengers had come to the people to give God’s message and bring the people back in relationship with God. The people rejected and even killed these servants of the Lord. Not wanting to give up on the people, God sends the Son. At some point, after endless rejection, God will let the people go to their own destruction and welcome in those who have chosen a relationship with the Lord.
The proverbial ball is always in our court. God will never reject any one of us. We will be sent messenger after messenger who invites us to share in the final harvest. Jesus came so even if we choose to reject God’s servants, we are given the ultimate way back to God. However, it remains our choice whether to accept or reject those who God has sent.
Read Matthew 7:13-14
Recently I took a long can trip across four states. There were times when I was driving on a narrow, two-lane road, and other times I was driving on an interstate highway with four lanes in each direction. I always preferred the wider road because I was able to maneuver through the traffic more easily. The narrow roads were difficult to navigate when encountering drivers who chose to go at a slower speed. Given a choice, I will always opt for the wider, multiple lane route.
Jesus speaks of narrow and wider paths in his teaching recorded in Matthew. The Lord says that we should always choose the narrow gate and road. This path may be more of a challenge to find and navigate but it will lead to life. The broader option, which more people end up taking, leads to destruction.
Unlike the choice which I make driving an automobile, in life we are told the ideal is the narrow. The narrow may lead to us having to slow down when we are attempting to race forward. We will need to be more alert for the edges and the hazards in our way. Yet our life will be enriched with greater views as we journey on the narrow path and through the narrow gates. Two-lane roads often provide scenic experiences and because we travel at a slower speed, we are able to see more of the details around us. The same can be said in regard to the road of life.
Which road will you choose?
13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.Matthew 7:13-14 (NIV)
Growing up, I remember my parents using maps to plan out trips to new destinations. They would spend time determining the best routes. Today, we no longer rely on paper maps and atlases but use GPS and the maps on our phones. If you use Google maps, it will give you a few alternative courses to choose from. The shortest or quickest route is the main one which Google recommends. Choosing the correct route can be important as we maneuver through our journeys.
The passage from Matthew is part of a series of teachings given by Jesus which has become known as the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talks to the people about making a right choice. Jesus tells the people to pick carefully which gate and path they choose. One choice will lead to destruction, the other to life.
In our lives we face choices in regards to a variety of aspects of life. Some of these choices are more difficult because they may require more from us. It is a great temptation to pick what appears to be easier and less demanding. Yet Jesus’s words should cause us to pause as we make choices. The wide gate and broad road is definitely the easiest route but the outcome will be less favorable.
38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”Luke 10:38-42 (NIV)
Hosting guests or family gatherings can be a stressful experience. As host, making sure all the details for making your guests comfortable and cared for can be overwhelming. Preparing as much in advance as possible helps to reduce your to-do list when your guests arrive. Even if you prepare though, once the guests do arrive, there is still plenty to be accomplished. A person can be so tied up in tasks and on edge with worry about something forgotten or checking on the needs of the guests that you get little or no time to spend with your guests.
As we read from Luke’s telling of the Gospel, we hear about Jesus, Martha, Mary and the close disciples. Jesus and the disciples are in the home of Mary and Martha. Mary sits at Jesus’s feet and listens to Jesus as he teaches. Martha is busy trying to be a good host by preparing food and other accommodations for the guests. Martha comes to Jesus frustrated because Mary is sitting instead of assisting her. She tries to get Jesus to instruct Mary to help her sister. Jesus responds that Marth is worried about too many details but Mary has chosen the only one which matters.
So often we are like Martha. If we had a guest of honor such as Jesus in our home, we would make every effort to be extremely accommodating. Instead of sitting so we could absorb all our guests have to offer, we would be wrapped up in detail so we could present a positive image. How many times do we let the opportunity to sit with the Lord pass us by because we are busy with life’s tasks? Jesus’s response to Martha reminds us to keep track of what is important. We must make time to be still with the Lord. We also must make time to be with the people in our lives. Those times are precious and will not always be available. Be wise like Mary.