Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching.40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Jesus became very close with Martha, Mary, and their brother Lazarus. This was the beginning of a profound relationship for all four of them. Martha heard the words of the Lord here and took them to heart. It is obvious from the other conversation with her recorded after her brother Lazarus had died and Martha’s faith in Jesus did not waver nor did her peace regardless of the circumstances (John 11). But she didn’t begin with that level of faith.
Mary and Martha each chose something different. We see the choice of recognizing that Jesus’ words were important and basking in the teaching or being distracted by circumstances and rather than hear the Lord, work and serve. Martha’s service looked like the right thing to do. The people in the house probably appreciated the food and drinks she brought them. Maybe they noticed her cleaning up after them or maybe they just soaked up the words of the Rabbi.
One thing is certain, Martha was working hard and she was bothered that her sister Mary who should have been helping was just sitting there with the guests. Moreover, she was sitting at Jesus’ feet which was a very intimate position. It was also not considered appropriate to teach women. Yet, Jesus had already done something controversial; He had accepted Martha’s invitation to her home. She was a woman. It doesn’t mention anywhere if any of the siblings were married. For some reason we assume they lived together and were single, but this is called Martha’s home. Had Lazarus lived there, it would have been his house. So, this home belonged to Martha and it was crazy that a man would accept her invitation and spend anytime with women. It was scandalous for Him to allow women to be His disciples, follow Him and learn from Him. We know He did because there were women who followed Him (Luke 8:1-3).
So, Martha was working hard and then she looked at her sister and she was not only not helping but she was with the men in the middle of them, in this honored place and familiarly sitting at the Master’s feet. So, she complained to Jesus. Certainly, this wise and good man would notice Mary was shirking her duties and tell her to get up and help, to do the right thing and serve all these people in her house. But that is not the answer she got. Jesus spoke to Martha in kindness but in truth. He said, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Jesus saw Martha’s anxiety and worries. He saw how hard she was working to try and meet everyone’s needs and relieve some of those troubles, but Mary who had the same responsibilities as her sister had chosen the better choice. Mary was not anxious or troubled, she was sitting with Jesus. She knew the dishes would be there later. She knew if someone needed some water or food they could get it. She knew she had to take advantage of Jesus’ being there with them and soak in everything He had to say. And Jesus said that her choice to be at peace and learn from Him would not be taken away.
Imagine the perspective from the position of sitting at Jesus’ feet of anyone’s feet. You are close to them, you can hear everything they say, even if they whisper. You are aware of their breathing, their every movement. No one and nothing else can distract you from your closeness because your relationship is expressed physically, emotionally, and psychologically by your proximity.
Sitting at Jesus’ feet means that you are choosing to enjoy being with Him, that you are getting to know who He is, and you are choosing Him as your priority. Do the dishes still need to get washed? Yes, but there is time for that later. What is more important? Jesus or Candy Crush Saga? Jesus or football? Jesus or looking like a good Christian?
Mary would have been judged as lazy and pretentious taking the position she did; but Jesus said she had chosen the good portion. She had chosen to be with Him and enjoy Him rather than fulfill the expectations of Martha and her guests.
Mary is not the only person to sit at Jesus’ feet. Luke 8:26-39 talks about the man healed from possession by the demons called Legion. Verse 35 reads,
Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid.
Clearly, this man was grateful, up to then he had been crazed, naked, and bound in chains. But now, he was free, he was clothed, and he was in his right mind. His choice was to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to the words of his Savior, Healer, and Liberator. This event spread news about Jesus to the entire region of Gerasenes. When it was time for Jesus to leave, the man begged Him to let him go with Him, but Jesus gave him a job. In verse 39 Jesus told him, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And the man did, He proclaimed throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.
What do you think Jesus was talking about to the man and His disciples when the people of Geraenes came upon them and found the man sitting at Jesus’ feet? It doesn’t say, but my guess is Jesus was teaching the man, preparing him for his commission to declare what God had done for him. Jesus was empowering this man to preach about the goodness and greatness of God, to tell all of his country that Jesus had healed him and set him free.
We cannot expect to go out and be used for God, to teach about Jesus, or use the gifts He gave us if we never spend time at His feet, learning from Him, getting to know Him, and enjoying Him.
Being at Jesus’ feet symbolizes your intention or your desire for Him to be your Redeemer and Bridegroom. When Ruth needed help for herself and Naomi, she turned to Boaz. Boaz helped the women in every way he could. He was a gentleman though and would not risk insulting or shaming Ruth or asking to become her husband if that was not something she wanted. She let him know that she wanted him to be her kinsman redeemer and marry her with the act of laying down at his feet. Ruth 3:1-13 tells us what happened.
Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not seek rest for you, that it may be well with you? 2 Is not Boaz our relative, with whose young women you were? See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. 3 Wash therefore and anoint yourself, and put on your cloak and go down to the threshing floor, but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. 4 But when he lies down, observe the place where he lies. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down, and he will tell you what to do.”5 And she replied, “All that you say I will do.”
6 So she went down to the threshing floor and did just as her mother-in-law had commanded her. 7 And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. Then she came softly and uncovered his feet and lay down. 8 At midnight the man was startled and turned over, and behold, a woman lay at his feet! 9 He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings[a] over your servant, for you are a redeemer.” 10 And he said, “May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter. You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich. 11 And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman. 12 And now it is true that I am a redeemer. Yet there is a redeemer nearer than I.13 Remain tonight, and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good; let him do it. But if he is not willing to redeem you, then, as the Lord lives, I will redeem you. Lie down until the morning.”
Like Boaz, Jesus will not assume you want Him to be redeem you. He waits for you to choose to rest at His feet.
Believer, you chose Jesus as your Redeemer, are you choosing now to make Him your priority, to learn form Him, get to know Him, and allow Him to prepare you for the great work He has for you? Sit at His feet. Sit at His feet when you gather with the Bride and learn from Him. Sit at His feet when it is just the two of you and get to know Him. Sit at His feet when there are just two or three of you together in His name and enjoy His presence (Matthew 18:20).