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Jesus empowers children, the lost, social outcasts, and women.

Many of the Lords teachings and behaviors were radical in his culture. As Christians, we are so familiar with
them that we may not realize how outrageous they were in his day. is weeks scriptural sections demonstrate
Jesus making sweeping departures from the perceived norms regarding children, shepherds, forgiveness, Samar-
itans, neighbors, women, learning, service, and even ownership.
Not only did Jesus think “outside of the box,” his also taught with very innovative methods that pioneered a new
life for those who followed him. Interestingly, the teachings in the Book of Mormon seem less trapped by the
traditions that developed aer the Jewish Babylonian captivity (~597–538 BC), and more in keeping with Jesus
teachings (i.e. the worth and place of children in the kingdom of heaven, see Moroni 8:10–23).
Children’s Humility is Jesus’ Standard for Greatness
Matthew 18:1–34; Mark 9:33b–50; Luke 9:46–50)
Matthew 18:1, Mark 9:33; Luke 9:46 “Who is the greatest . . .? Jesus and the Twelve returned to Capernaum
and entered into “the house” (Mark 9:33). We are not told whose house this was, but possibly Simon Peter’s
mother-in-law’s home (Mark 1:30).1 e Gospels of Mark and Luke record that the Twelve were embarrassed to
tell Jesus that they had been debating who was the greatest among them. But he perceived their thoughts. ere
was an enormous gulf or disparity between the Lords thoughts and the disciples’ thoughts.
Mark 9:34 “If any man desire to be rst, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all” Jesus’ kingdom turned
the social ladder of hierarchy upside down; humble servants are to be the most honored, not the smartest or
richest or those the closest related to royalty. Jesus explained that in the Kingdom of Heaven, the highest ranking
goes to those who will serve the most. His consistent message honored the lowly humble servants—including
children and women—in various settings across each of the four Gospels.
Suer the Little Children to Come to Me by Juliaan De Vriendt. Image via Wikimedia Commons.
• “But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant” (Matthew 23:11)
• e Son of man came not to beministered unto, but tominister” (Mark 10:45)
• …but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.
(Luke 22:26)
• “If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve
me, him willmyFather honour” (John 12:26)
e fact that the early Christians recorded these sayings, and included them in the Gospels, shows that they also
wanted to emphasize and incorporate Jesus’ message of encouraging servitude.
In contrast to Jesus’ desire for all to love and serve, his ancient world had a hierarchy with the wealthy, educated,
and masters on top and an inferior class of servants and slaves on the bottom. In the rabbinic literature of the
day, women, children, and slaves are oen lumped together in this class of servants.
But Jesus attacked this mis-
conception by teaching the true value of a child.
Matthew 18:2; Mark 9:35; Luke 9:48 “Jesus called a little child . . .
Jesus made abrupt changes to how children
were treated. He acknowledged and welcomed them in public, encouraged them to come to him, and honored
them as the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. To appreciate what a drastic change this was in their society, it
helps to contrast Jesus’ liberation with the Judeo culture of the time.
Children in the Ancient Jewish Culture
Children were welcomed as a blessing from God, fullling the commandment, “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen
1:22). Half of the children born alive died by age ten. Juxtaposed with these two realities, children were seen as
a public nuisance, and thus, should be unseen and unheard.
Girls especially were kept indoors “for modesty
s a k e.”
Fathers dictated how their children were educated, where they went, what they ate, what they vowed, and col-
lected all payments they earned or found. Many were harshly disciplined: “Stripes and correction are at all times
wisdom . . . loving fathers . . . [do] not spare the rod,” and “break him in and beat him sound while his is still a
Guardians kept strict control through age twelve, but by age “thirteen and one day,they were considered
Children shared work with slaves (in fact, one of the Greek words for young child, paidon, can also mean servant
or slave). Both washed their father or masters face and feet, dressed and fed him, waited on him and took orders
from him.
Girls were not educated beyond learning domestic
skills at home, except for rare exceptions. By age ve
or six, Jewish boys could begin their formal educa-
tion. However, “90–95 percent of the population of
ancient Palestine would have been rural peasants,
hence, both boys and girls were oen needed to help
contribute on the family farms.
Even very little ones
helped in vegetable gardens, gathering rewood, and
with chores.
Matthew 18:3–4 “. . . be converted and become as
little children Little ones seem to have an innate gi
to believe, which is at the root of conversion. When
Jesus asked his disciples to humble themselves like
children, he implied the need to become more trust-
ing, teachable, transparent, innocent, loving, for-
giving, not prejudiced, etc. ese positive traits are
childlike not childish.
Matthew18:5; Mark 9:37; Luke 9:48 “Whoever
receives one such child in my name receives me
(ESV) is is thought provoking—and it extends to
all who interact with children with love from babysit-
ters and teachers, to parents and grandparents.
God’s Care of Children
Matthew18:6; Mark 9:42 “. . . oend one of these little ones which believe on me Jesus vehemently denounced
anyone who hurt children. e word for “oend/stumble” in Greek is skandaloizo/scandalize and also means to
put a stumbling block or impediment in the way. In addition to hurting someone physically, the denition
includes, “entrap, i.e., trip up . . . entice to sin, apostasy.
In addition to abuse, Jesus also referred to those who
cause a child to lose their innate faith or to distrust God. In this context, being a parent or caregiver who works
with children is like being on a full-time mission with a golden contact. e Lord still asks that those who work
with children never discourage the faith of these young investigators. Intentionally teaching children falsehoods
and extinguishing their faith is a serious sin.
Suer the Children by Carl Heinrich Bloch. Image via
Wikimedia Commons.
Matthew 18:7–9; Mark 9:42–50; Luke 17:1–2 “Woe . . . cut it o Jesus felt so strongly about not abusing chil-
dren in any way that he used language that would have been extremely oensive to the Jews. Dismembering ones
body, or any form of harming the body, was very oensive to the Jews. Killing oneself was perhaps the worst
thing one could do. Jesus used these strong words as an alarm to let them know how serious it is to oend little
Matthew 18:10 “their angels . . . behold the face of my Father” Jesus explained that angels are given charge over
children. Jews believed that God gave “His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways” (Psalm 91:10;
also see Daniel 6:22). Although we do not know if God sends each infant to their second estate with angelic
protection, we do know that the light of Christ is given to all who are born on the earth (D&C 84:44–48; Moroni
7:12). Modern prophets have discussed the idea of guardian angels including,
• Heber J Grant: “[Children] the Lord loves you. His angels are always near to help you. Your guardian
angels stand by you to see that no harm shall touch you, no evil thought disturb you.
• Joseph Fielding Smith: “We have oen heard of guardian angels attending us and many patriarchs have
spoken of such protection. ere are times no doubt when some unseen power directs us and leads us
from harm. However, the true guardian angel given to every man who comes into the world is the Light
of Truth or Spirit of Christ.
• Pres. Harold B. Lee: “ose in the spirit world may be guardian angels to those in mortality. Who are
guardian angels? Well, it would appear that someone who is quickened by some inuence, not yet celes-
tialized, is permitted to come back as a messenger for the purpose of working with and trying to aid those
who are le behind. . . . It isn’t your [departed] father and mother who will be far away from you, children;
it will be you who keep them far away.
Parable of the Lost Sheep
Matthew 18:10–14; Luke 15:3–7
Matthew 18:11 “. . . cometh to save that which was lost” e JST adds a helpful transition between children
and lost sheep: “and to call sinners to repentance; but these little ones have no need of repentance, and I will save
Matthew 18:12; Luke 15:4 “a man has . . . sheep Jesus describeed this shepherd as a brave, mountain-climbing,
self-sacricing man. Yet in the Jewish world at the time, shepherds were considered socially unclean. ey were
not allowed to stand as legal witnessed in court. is tradition developed because some shepherds let their ocks
graze on others’ property. Jesus, however, used this pastoral imagery to describe himself because he was despised
by many. As the “good shepherd,” he knows his sheep by name (John 10:14). A thousand years earlier, King
David also described the Lord as an attentive shepherd: “e Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want (Psalm 23:1).
e Gospels include 37 verses about sheep (mostly in
John 10:2–27). John W. and Jeannie Welch describe
sheep as helpless. It is interesting to consider the par-
allels between fallen man and sheep:
Of all the animals in God’s kingdom, sheep rank
among the most vulnerable. ey are largely defense-
less, lacking claws or most other means of ward-
ing o an attack from predators. ey cannot even
run quickly for very long. And not only can a lamb
become lost, but because it lacks any homing instinct,
it is quite helpless in nding is way back to the ock
or the pasture. And once lost, it will frequently simply
sit down and wait, not even bleating in distress. e
best protection for sheep is to stay together in a group.
Even then, the slightest noise can send them into a
panic or cause a whole herd to stampede, sometimes
to their death. e presence of their shepherd exerts
an immediate calming eect on the sheep.
Matthew 18:13–14; Luke 15:6–7 “likewise, joy shall
be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth Jesus
used the parable of “the lost sheep,” to describe the
importance of nding and leading sinners back to
God’s fold. God nds joy and celebrates with every
individual carefully brought back.
Reproving Another
Matthew 18:15–18; Luke 17:3
Matthew 18:15 “between thee and him alone Jesus
taught that the best way to approach a disagreement
is to privately discuss the oense (also see Matthew
5:25–26). Rabbis taught that even if full restoration
were made, you would not obtain forgiveness until
you ask for it from the person you have wronged. is
is consistent with Jesus’ teaching.
e Good Shepherd by James Tissot, 1899.
Matthew 18:16 “But if his will not hear thee . . . If the oender refuses reconciliation, the Mosaic law called for
two or three witnesses (Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15). Christians, too, are familiar with the Lord using two or three
witnesses to establish his truths (Matthew 18:16; John 8:17; 2 Corinthians 13:1; 1 Timothy 5:19).
Matthew 18:18 “bind on earth shall be bound in heaven is verse does not seem to belong. Right in the
middle of a discussion on forgiveness, we nd a word-for-word repeat of Matthew 16:19. Was it a mistake?
e Gospel of Matthew oen repeats phrases as dividing points or organizational markers in his Gospel. If it
were intentional, why do you think Matthew has it here again?
In Matthew’s context of Jesus speaking to the Twelve about their service, perhaps it has to do with the returning
sheep being sealed. Does this have anything to do with the keys that were given on the Mount of Transguration
in Matthew 17? Were the keys given to the other twelve apostles at this time? Were the twelve receiving instruc-
tions on sealing ordinances?
There Am I
Matthew 18:19–20
Matthew 18:19 “that they may not ask amiss (JST) Returning to the theme of two witnesses, the Lord prom-
ises the Twelve that if two of them ask for what is right (the stipulation added by the JST), the Lord will answer
them. Interestingly, in the restoration context of binding and loosing, sealings are done in the presence of two
Matthew 18:20 “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I” e Lord expanded his
direction from two or three of the Twelve to include all of his disciples who came to worship in his name. When
we gather in unity and truth, our Savior (or the gi of his Spirit) can be in our midst. I love this promise! Espe-
cially in light of the parable of the lost sheep and forgiveness. e two or three gathered seems to parallel with
the two or three witnesses needed for reconciliation. Even a few who act in harmony with God’s will are blessed
with his Spirit.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie saw this verse as referring to those who have the Gi of the Holy Ghost:
All of those who have made covenant in the waters of baptism to serve the Lord and who have, as a con-
sequence, been promised the guidance of the Holy Ghost. Such great blessings as are here promised are
not given automatically or promiscuously; they are reserved for those who through faith and obedience
are conforming their lives to the divine standard. . ..
Matthew 18:21–22
Matthew 18:21 “How o shall . . . I forgive? e Jewish rule said that someone only needed to oer uncon-
ditional forgiveness three times.
is came from a reading of Amos 1:3, “for three transgressions . . . and for
four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof.” In the D&C, as the Lord gave instructions to the Missouri
saints during their persecution, He encouraged them to turn the other cheek with forgiveness four times. ese
examples make Peter’s oer to forgive seven times a very generous one.
Matthew 18:22 “seventy times seven is number is both symbolic and real. It is a whole, complete, perfect
level of forgiveness. Literally, 70 x 7 = 490, which was a number familiar at the time as “ten jubilees (or seventy
weeks of years).
I think it is signicant that Jesus used this number as it is used in Daniel 9:2, in association
with the Messiahs arrival. Now that Christ is on the earth, he implemented the higher law of forgiveness that
his Atonement can oer. We are eternally indebted to our Redeemer and can certainly learn to be patient and
forgiving with others as we follow our Savior’s example to forgive. It is a very dierent principle here than Peter
understood: “forgiveness from Jesus is qualitative not quantitative.
Jesus illustrated this important lesson with
another story that Matthew alone recorded.
e Parable of the Unmerciful Servant by Jan Sanders van Hemessen, ca. 1556. Image via Wikimedia Commons.
Parable of The Unforgiving Servant
Matthew 18:23–35
Matthew 18:23–35 “a certain king . . . take[s] account of his servants” Jesus’ parable again seems to use exag-
gerated numbers, but they provide signicant meaning. e rst man owed the king ten thousand talents. at
is equivalent to billions and billions of dollars today—in a day where no one had that kind of money. at is
like saying one person was in debt for the gross net worth of all the companies of Silicon Valley combined (i.e.
Google, Apple, Facebook, etc.). e price does seem to be signicant as it relates to the Jewish nation. In the
historical setting of Herods Temple, Josephus recorded that the entire temple treasury was worth 10,000 talents.
Jesus contrasted that price—as large as one can imagine—in comparison to 100 pence, or 100 days labor at mini-
mum wage. A BYU Studies article suggested another view:
us, the unforgiving servant may in fact represent the king or the temple high priest into whose hands
God had entrusted the keeping of that huge amount of sacred wealth. No one else in Judea could con-
ceivably have held that kind of money. us, the political upshot of the parable may well be this: despite
the great debts and oenses of the rulers of the temple against God, they can be readily forgiven by God,
so long as they beg his forgiveness and worship him. When asked, however, to be generous to a com-
moner in need of a small amount, the rich rulers of the temple will be unmoved, and as a consequence,
they will be held personally accountable for the loss of the entire temple treasury.
Jesus used the temple as a reference to value, but the main message embeds the relationship between Gods for-
giveness and our need to forgive others. I like Elder Robert E. Wells interpretation about this parable.
Were oen critical of others but easy on ourselves. We oen see clearly the faults of others but nd it
dicult to see our own. We say were frank and honest when we speak critically of someone else, but feel
oended, claiming that they are unfair, not tolerant or understanding, when others do the same about
us. If we fail in anything, we produce half a dozen valid reasons why, which in others would be feeble
excuses. e important lesson we learn in the parable of the unforgiving servant is that unless and until
we have shown forgiveness to our fellowman, we cant receive forgiveness of God.
I presume that this parable would mean more to Peter soon, when he will desperately need the Savior’s for-
giveness. Jesus gave another parable that speaks to humanity’s need for a Savior and Redeemer. It outlines the
plan of salvation. It is found only in the Gospel of Luke
Luke 10:25–37
I have seen many old gothic cathedrals, which use stain glass windows to tell biblical stories. Some depict Old
Testament (OT) stories in conjunction with New Testament (NT) stories. Accounts from Jesus’ life oen parallel
or fulll OT stories. For example, Noahs ood is oen positioned next to Jesus’ baptism, or Moses’ manna with
Jesus feeding of the 5,000. In a few cathedrals, I have seen the parable of the good Samaritan paired with the
story of Adam and Eve. Aer researching this, John W. Welch found that many early Christian fathers and theo-
logians throughout the middle ages interpreted the parable of the Good Samaritan as an allegory symbolizing
Christ himself saving fallen humanity from their sins. ey saw it as a type and shadow of Christ’s redemption
of humanity from the fall.
In this parable, Jesus again used images that would have startled his listeners. Historically, inns were lthy and
unhealthy. Jews saw Samaritans as their enemy, unclean, evil, and selsh. At the time of the NT, the journey from
Jerusalem to Jericho was very dangerous. ere were limestone caves that pot-marked the hillside and robbers
lived there. No one with any sense would travel the road alone because of the robbers waiting to attack. Jericho
was a famous resort town—even Herod the Great built a palace there (and stayed there while dying). e high-
way between the “resort” town and the big city was well known.
When we consider these details and read the parable as instructions on being a good neighbor, it becomes the
source of much kindness, acts of service, and not judging. is is good, but if that is all we see, then we miss the
symbols of Gods plan of salvation that are tucked into its message. e prophet Joseph Smith taught how to nd
hidden meanings in parables or scriptures: “I have [a] key by which I understand the scripture. I inquire, what
was the question which drew out the answers?”
With this parable we oen only see the last question, “who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29), but this was asked
only to “justify” the lawyer. e question he asked rst is also answered in the parable, but it takes a deeper level
of understanding, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25). Answering this question ties back to the
allegory that the early church fathers saw with Adam and Eve.
Allegorical view of the Text
Luke 10:30 “A certain man, came down In the allegorical view, the “man” is either Adam from the garden of
Eden, or all humanity. e word “man” in Hebrew and Aramaic is “adam.” e emphasis is on “coming down
from the holy city “Jerusalem,” or heaven. Jerusalem is always “higher” spiritually than any place in the world
to a Jew, so it appropriately can represent the Holy City, heaven, or the residence of God. at person leaves the
presence of God with promises conferred from that holy setting. In the allegory the man goes from God’s city or
a premortal realm in heaven to life on earth. e man also comes voluntarily and alone.
“Jericho e city of Jericho along with Babylon, Egypt, and Sodom and Gomorrah are used symbolically for
worldliness. In opposition to the heavenly city, Jericho represents “the world.” It is the lowest city on the planet,
825 feet below sea level. In the allegorical view, it represents the fall, or coming to a fallen world for mortal life.
“Fell among thieves e man “fell/peripipto,” meaning, “to fall in with” or “to fall into misfortunes,” not “to fall
down/pipto.” e early Christians saw the thieves as “opposing forces or evil spirits of false teachers.
In the alle-
gory, the thieves are a deliberate pernicious group with a concerted intent, not random attackers, but devils with
a plan. Similarly, all mortals on earth are faced with the opposition, temptation and false teachings of the devil.
stripped him of his raiment” Early church fathers (including Origen, Chrysostom and Augustine), saw the
mans loss of his raiment as the loss of his “robe of immortality” or a “robe of obedience.” e thieves did not
rob him of any money, but of his garment. What state do humans have in heaven that they lose coming to earth?
When this raiment or robe is taken away, the man is wounded. Perhaps it is spiritual death and he is le without
his spiritual awareness or memory on earth.
“woundedhim . . . leavinghimhalf dead” e wounds can be wounds to the spirit of humanity, but they do not
kill him, he is only half dead. Something happened when leaving his heavenly home that hurt him so that on
earth, he is missing his spiritual knowledge and now must walk by faith. However, the thieves can torment him
only within certain bounds, not kill him (1 Corinthians 10:13). In the analogy of the plan of salvation, think of
our rst and second deaths (spiritual death and physical death) is this imagery of “half-dead” (Alma 12:31–32).
We are born into a fallen world. Furthermore, the sin that we engage with as fallen mortals does leave us “spiri-
tually dead.
Luke 10:31–32 “A certain priest . . . [and] Levite e early church fathers saw the priest as representative of
the Law of Moses, and the Levite, the other sacred Jewish text, “e Prophets.” (Levites were lower-class temple
workers—they helped as the butchers, janitors, policemen, and if they were lucky, musicians, at the temple.) In
the allegorical view, neither the Law of Moses nor their other scriptures had power to save. eir law and their
text were ultimately impotent.
passed by on the other side ey came closer to the wounded man, but both men kept their distance to retain
e Good Samaritan by James Tissot, 1899.
ritual purity in order to work in the temple. In the allegorical view, they don’t convert to the Gospel, but remain
on their Mosaic course, unable to heal or help with eternal salvation because they do not accept the higher law.
Luke 10:33 “a certain Samaritan . . . had compassion e Samaritan was seen by most of the early church
Fathers to represent Christ. In John 8:48, antagonistic Jews referred derogatorily to Jesus as a Samaritan. Even
though Isaiahs chapters on the “suering servant” describe the Lord as an outcast, the Jews were not expecting
their Messiah to share those traits (Isaiah 49, 52, 53).
In this parable, Jesus chose this image for himself, speak-
ing to how his colleagues thought of him. He equated himself with some of the Jews worst enemies for the past
thousand years. Yet this Samaritan (Jesus) has compassion.
Luke 10:34 “bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine e Samaritan came up to the injured and bound
up his wounds. He represents a divinely compassionate God. Clement saw God’s healing skills as faith, hope,
and charity as the “ligatures . . . or salvation which cannot be undone.” John W. Welche pointed out, as Abraham
bound Isaac, our souls are bound to the Lord. We are bound to the Lord through covenants. e Lord begins
to replace the lost garments by rebuilding spiritual protection through wine and oil. ese represent the wine
of Jesus’ atoning blood spilt in Gethsemane and on the cross. e oil, is healing as the “Anointed one/Mes-
siah” administers it. e ordinances incorporating wine and oil become part of the healing process the Savior
employs. Another translation reads, the wine and oil “gush” into the wound to disinfect and cleanse it.
Set him on his own beast” Carrying the wounded on his own beast is the image of Jesus as our Redeemer car-
rying humanity on and in his body. From the pains that caused his bleeding from every pour, to the wounds in
his hands and sides, his body carried the debt of sin for each of us (Mosiah 3:7; D&C 19:18; 1 Peter 2:21–24).
“brought him to an inn e inn has long been interpreted as the church. Jesus carries us to salvation through
his ministers and missionaries who work at the inn/the church. e Samaritan takes care of the wounded victim
himself for the rst night and day.
Luke 10:35 “on the morrow, or aer Christs resurrection, He leaves the work of careful healing hands to His
established church. e innkeeper may represent church workers, apostles, and others assigned to minister in
the church.
“Two pence Several allegorical interpretations work here: e Father and Son, two instructions on charity,
two days wages, symbolizing adequate provisions, temple tax suggesting fullled ritual obligations, and even
aer the time established by the Lord when he will come—aer 2 more days Christ arose on the morning of the
“when I come again, I will repay thee e workers at the inn will be rewarded for their service to wounded
humanity. Jesus promises that whatever you spend, will be returned. ey will be amply reimbursed for their
sacrices for the church and fallen humanity at either the Second Coming or when they meet the Lord on the
judgement day.
Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan beautifully illustrates the plan of salvation. e early Christians’ allegorical
interpretation ts nicely with the restored understanding of Adam and Eves fall and journey on earth to return
to heaven. is interpretation answers the lawyer’s rst question, “what is needed to inherit eternal life,” by
showing the need to receive Jesus as our redeemer and exemplar in carrying out his work of healing and build-
ing the church.
Loving God: Martha and Mary
Luke 10:38–42
Luke placed these two stories next to each other as supportive theological messages (and without mentioning it,
both near Jerusalem). Kent Brown sees Luke using the preceding parable on the Good Samaritan to show how
to love ones neighbor and this story to show how to love God.
Luke also used both stories to break down other
societal norms. Jesus’ restoration found good in Samaritans and in educating women.
Luke 10:38 “Martha received him into her house Marthas name means, “mistress” (the feminine of “master”)
and she lived up to her title by welcoming the whole group traveling with Jesus to her home (the JST adds dis-
ciples too, “they entered”). Luke did not identify the village, but the Gospel of John records that Mary, Martha,
and Lazarus lived in Bethany, a village just 2.5 miles east of Jerusalem. By connecting this information, we nd
a hint in Luke that Jesus had traveled down to Judea to stay with his friends.
e JST also adds that it was Marthas home. is was an unusual situation at the time, as women usually did not
own property. It suggests that perhaps she is a widow and her husband le the house to her, or perhaps he was
Simon the Leper” (Matthew 26:6; Mark 14:3). Simon the Leper also had a home in Bethany where Jesus came
to eat. Perhaps it is the same home, but due to Simons illness, he is removed from the public (perhaps to a leper’s
colony) and Martha was le in charge of their home.
Luke 10:40 “Martha was cumbered about much serving” With the large group gathering for the dinner party
in Jesus’ honor, Martha was distraught. Luke portrayed Martha as an upright Jewess trying to prepare her home
and a meal for her many honored guests. Her workload led her to become frustrated with her sisters lack of
help. Even if she had servants or children to help (which she probably had even though it says, “serve alone
as the hostess, Marthas workload would have felt overwhelming. e Greek word for “cumbered” is “diverted
and means “kept distracted.”31 is detail brings the story into our lives, as we too experience stress that can
Jesus Rests at Bethany in the House of His Friends by William Hole, 1905.
alter our perspective.
my sister hath le me to serve alone It is as if Martha was saying: “Jesus dont you see how burdened I am?”
From the perspective of most Jews of the day, Mary—not Martha—was out of line. She sat at Jesus’ feet to learn
from him which broke two laws: Women were not to speak to men and they were not to learn the Law. Some
rabbis believed that a woman speaking to a man was so egregious that it was sucient cause for a divorce.
it was obvious that Mary neglected her domestic responsibilities before the dinner. Yet Jesus did not agree. is
became a perfect setting for Jesus to knock down another false cultural practice.
Luke 10:41 “. . . thou art careful and troubled about many things” Jesus noticed that Martha was frustrated
and even “anxious” about her sisters lack of help (ESV). His response to Martha sounds like a reminder of pri-
orities to the modern reader, but to that ancient society, his response would have been completely shocking. In
Greek it communicates that she is anxious and distracted of mind. e problem was not serving, but the timing
and divided priorities.
Luke 10:42 “But one thing is needful” When we look at life from an eternal perspective, the mortal u falls
away and we are le with the need to “come unto Christ and be perfected in Him” (Moroni 10:32). Even daily
bread and a shelter is superuous compared to our relationship with our Heavenly Parents and the Savior. 33 In
this way Jesus emancipates those burdened by cares of the world, to seek for the better and best.
Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her” Jesus’ last remark is especially
touching in the context of the era. Jewish women owned nothing—everything they owned belonged to their
fathers or guardians before marriage, and husbands aer. at included their clothing, food, and children. Even
their lives could be sold into slavery if their father or husband thought it necessary. Jesus’ statement shows that
women can own what they learn. Mary’s experience will develop more faith and knowledge and gave Mary (and
by association, Martha) a richer life, for she will own her knowledge beyond this life: “Whatever principle of
intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection” (D&C 130:18). What Mary (and
each of us) learned and experienced will be hers (ours) for an eternity.
Jesus’ revolutionary endorsement of interacting with women, and encouraging their learning was radically inno-
vative. Jesus was not speaking against the need for service nor to avoid household duties. Rather, his message was
that learning of Him should be our priority. He also demonstrated that women may join in the world of the spirit
and mind. Luke also wanted to share this message with the early church, and added it to his Gospel.
1. Capernaum, a city of 1,000 or less at the time, became Jesus’ home base aer his was rejected in Nazareth (Matthew
4:13). Perhaps his moved there to be away from Herod Antipas who imprisoned and later murdered John the Baptist
in his frontier fortress, Machaerus (on the Jordan side of the Sea of Galilee). Mark 1:30 includes that Peters mother
in law had a home in Capernaum. Luke 8:3 says that many female disciples assisted Jesus’ ministry monetarily and
working alongside the apostles. ree are mentioned by name across the Gospels—Mary Magdala, Jonna and Susanna.
Perhaps Susanna, hosted “the home” for Jesus in Capernaum, as I do not think the others held a permanent address in
Capernaum. I assume Joanna lived near Herod Antipas’ palace as her husband, Chuza, was Herod’s steward; and Mary
Magdalene was from Magdala (but she may have moved to Capernaum when Jesus did). e scriptures do not tell us
where in Capernaum, or to whom “the home” belonged.
2. Josephus, Against Apion. 2.25. Jacob Neusner, e Economics of the Mishnah (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press,
1990), 27. “One should train for the job all those who are employed on the estate, whether slaves or children or women.
David Sedley, Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, XXV (Oxford, England: Oxford University,winter 2003), 213. Philo,
A Volume of Questions and Solutions to Questions which arise in Genesis, I.29.
3. According to tradition, the little child called to Jesus was 3-year-old St. Ignatius (Catholics claim his followed Peter as
Bishop of Antioch until his martyrdom in Rome under Trajan
4. Ben Sira, Ecclesiasticus, 23:7–15; 42:10–11.
5. Philo of Alexandria, Pieter Willem van der Horst, trans., Philos Flaccus: e First Pogrom (Boston, MA: Brill, 2003),
70. e quote includes: “[Women] were always kept in seclusion and did not even appear at the house-door, and their
unmarried daughters, who were conned to the womens quarter, women who for modestys sake shunned the eyes of men,
even their closest relatives.
6. Ben Sira, Ecclesiasticus, 22:6; 30:1, 2, 12; “He who disciplines his son will nd prot in him.
7. Avraham Steinberg, ed., Encyclopedia of Jewish Medical Ethics (Jerusalem, Israel: Feldheim, 2003), 682.
8. Reta H. Finger, Of Widows and Meals: Communal Meals in the Book of Acts (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007), 100.
Also see, Daniel Sperber, Roman Palestine 200–400, the Land: Crisis and Change in Agrarian Society as Reected in Rab-
binic Sources (Tel Aviv, Israel: Bar-Ilan University, 1978).
9. Richard N, Holzapfel, Eric D. Huntsman, omas A. Wayment, Jesus Christ and the World of the New Testament (SLC,
UT: Deseret Book, 2006), 117.
10. Strong, Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, 81; Greek dictionary for “oend/skandalizo.”
11. Heber J. Grant wrote an ocial rst presidency statement to children included
12. Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:54.
13. Harold B. Lee,e Teachings of Harold B. Lee, edited by Clyde J. Williams (Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcra, 1996), 58-59.
14. Hite, New Testament with JST, 102.
15. John W. and Jeannie S. Welch, e Parables of Jesus: revealing the Plan of Salvation (American Fork: UT, Covenant Com-
munications, 2019), 97.
16. W.F. Albright and C. S. Mann, Anchor Bible: Matthew (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1971), 223. is is quoting a later
work, the Babylonian Talmud, compiled aer the time of Jesus, but claiming ideas from the Second Temple.
17. Welch, Parables, 114.
18. Alfred Edersheim, e Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, 3rd ed. (Mclean,VA: MacDonald, nd. Reprint of 1838),125.
19. “Herodian Times and Historical Backgrounds,BYU Studies, vol. 36 (1996-97), Number 3.
20. Robert E. Wells, e Mount and the Master, 165.
21. John W. Welch, “e Good Samaritan,BYU Studies, vol 38; number 2 (Provo, UT: 1999),50–106. Some of the early
church fathers include: Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Chrysostom, Ambrose, Augustine, Isidore, and
22. Joseph Smith, History of e Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City, UT: reprint, 1964), 5.261. is
statement is from Joseph Smith ’s Journal, kept by Willard Richards, Jan. 29, 1843.
23. Welch, “e Good Samaritan,” 76.
24. Dating from the rst and/or second centuries BC,the eighteen Psalms of Solomon, collect several ideas pointing toward
the hope of their promised Messiah. No references to Isaiahs suering servant passages or any other sign of a messiah
who will be rejected are found. It was not an image that the Jews were expecting.
25. Welch, “e Good Samaritan,” 82.
26. Ibid., 86. See Table 1 on
27. Kent Brown, BYU New Testament Commentary: Luke (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2014), 544.
28. Another overlapping evidence that Simon the Leper was part of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus’ family or home connections
is based on the fact that at the supper in Bethany recorded in Matthew 26:6; Mark 14:3, a woman anoints Jesus’ head
with pure nard, while John 12:3 speaks of a dinner at Bethany with Martha, Mary, and Lazarus when Mary uses pure
nard to anoint Jesus.
29. Wilson, Emancipation, chapter 8. e average middle-class household in the Greco-Roman at the time had 8 servants or
slaves. e Jewish world probably had less.
30. Brown, Luke, 542.
31. Mishnah, Ketuboth 1:8.
32. Jesus’ example honors women in their education and respects them as equal partners. e same view is seen by modern
apostles like, Elder Richard G. Scott: “In some cultures, tradition places a man in a role to dominate, control, and regu-
late all family aairs. at is not the way of the Lord. In some places the wife is almost owned by her husband, as if she
were another of his personal possessions. at is a cruel, mistaken vision of marriage encouraged by Lucifer that every
priesthood holder must reject. It is founded on the false premise that a man is somehow superior to a woman. Nothing
could e farther from the truth” (Ensign, Nov 2008; “Honor the Priesthood and use it well,” 46).