The Well-stocked Kitchen

by Emily Hynes

Over December and some of January, my husband and I were privileged enough to travel to some of Europe’s most interesting and beautiful cities. If you’ve ever done the ‘Euro trip’, you’ve probably seen enough Renaissance art to last you a lifetime.  Out of the hundreds of beautiful works we observed, one piece struck me instantly and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. It’s titled ‘The Well-stocked Kitchen’, by Joachim Beuckalear (1566). The oil painting is a depiction of Jesus’ visit to Mary and Martha, based on Luke’s Gospel. Take a look for yourself and see what you notice.

  ‘The Well-stocked Kitchen’, by Joachim Beuckalear (1566)

‘The Well-stocked Kitchen’, by Joachim Beuckalear (1566)

Many will know this famous account of Jesus visiting the house of Martha; who is frustrated that her sister Mary does not help with preparations, but instead sits at the feet of Jesus. She even complains to Jesus, who does not hesitate to tell her that Mary has made the better choice. What really strikes me about “The Well-stocked kitchen” is its clever way of illustrating how the small (and necessary!) preoccupations can overshadow the chance we have to sit with Jesus. You really have to look closely, past the clutter and colour to see the still and simple scene in the background.

I do not think that Jesus, nor this artist, would suggest we just forget about the legitimate and necessary tasks of life – such as preparing food. In fact, we couldn’t be sustained without these. However, in that moment in Martha’s house, Jesus was WITH her. She missed an opportunity for an encounter that would sustain her more than the food she was preparing or any satisfaction that came with ‘keeping busy’. 

God is the ultimate sustenance for our souls. He does not scream at us or whine that we aren’t ‘spending enough time together’. In my life, at least, every other thing can appear louder and more demanding than Him. And in my life, restful time gleaning from God and His word has often suffered for it.

Maybe that’s why this painting resonated so strongly with me. Sitting with Jesus, replenishing my soul never seems the most urgent. But He knows, as even He did with Martha, that it is often the better choice. 

Resting and replenishing with God does not mean abandoning the necessary tasks of life – it actually gives them more purpose. Martha’s experience toiling over food preparations for Jesus could have taken on a whole new life had she chosen as Mary had first. 

Questions to ask:
Does my time spent with God suffer because of distractions from everyday life? How can I plan to prioritise time spent with God to replenish?

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