By Dustin Ellington

I’d like to share the story of a conversation I once had sitting around a table in Zambia with students from numerous Southern African countries. (Before my recent appointment to the core faculty of ABTS, I was a lecturer in New Testament at Justo Mwale University in Zambia for twelve years.) We were discussing the story of Jesus visiting the home of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42). The passage tends to provoke conversation about the kind of life Jesus calls us to: one of contemplation, sitting at Jesus’ feet like Mary; or a life of ministry and action, even as Martha served Jesus, and as other stories in the wider literary context of Luke 10 exemplify.

The students and I noticed Mary sitting at the feet of the Lord, listening to his words, and that Martha asks Jesus to correct her sister so Mary will help her serve. But Jesus surprises Martha by not following the suggestion. He explains that Mary has chosen “the good portion” (10:42).

From the beginning of our conversation, a student named Makukula was concerned about the way Jesus responds to Martha. “Martha was doing the normal, expected thing.” She only wanted her sister to do the same.

Another student, Mafunga, agreed. He thought of Jesus having been traveling and added, “In my country, Mozambique, you never know if it’s been days since a traveler has eaten. You have to feed him first. Then you let the visitor talk.”