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“Now it came to pass, as they went, that He entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard His word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to Him, and said, Lord, dost Thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her”—Luke 10:38-42.
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The certain village into which Jesus entered was, as we know from other scriptures, Bethany, where Martha and Mary lived. Their house seems ever to have been open to the Lord. He had a peculiar love for these two devoted sisters and their brother Lazarus. How blessed is the home where Christ is always welcome, and where loving hearts delight to entertain so wondrous a Guest!
Martha was evidently the elder of the two sisters, for we read, “A certain woman named Martha received Him into her house.” She seems to have been recognized as the owner of the house. Attempts have been made to identify Mary, the younger sister, with Mary Magdalene, or with the otherwise unnamed woman of the Seventh of Luke, but there does not seem to be any valid reason for this. There is nothing to indicate that Mary had ever been an unchaste woman or one who had been demon-possessed. In the three definite instances where she appears in Scripture, that is, here and in John 11 and 12, we see her as a contemplative worshiper, to whose heart the blessed Lord was unspeakably precious. There is not the least intimation that she had ever been a woman of bad character, although like everyone else, she was a sinner who needed to be saved by grace divine. In verse 39 we read that, “She (Martha) had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard His word.” Mary delighted to take the seat of a learner. She revelled in the truth Christ came to reveal, and found her chief joy in sitting at His feet. To some she would seem to be dreamy and impractical, but Jesus appreciated her deep interest in His message and her love for Him. This is most precious. It may well speak to our hearts. Nothing is more important for the child of God than to spend time at the feet of Jesus, pondering over His Word. It is in this way that we grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ. So Mary becomes an example to us all. You may say that she should have been helping Martha with the dinner. Ah, but the Lord would rather have her sitting at His feet. You remember when He sat at Jacob’s well and the disciples had gone for food. Then there came the Samaritan woman to whom He ministered the Word, which became, in truth, the water of life to her thirsty soul. What joy it was to Him to minister to her deep need and to unfold the riches of God’s grace to her in such a way that she forgot her waterpot for love of Him and went back to the city to evangelize its men! When the disciples came back they expected to find Him so hungry that He would be ready at once to eat of the food they had brought, but He seemed utterly indifferent to it. They asked concerning Him, “Hath any man brought Him ought to eat? Jesus said unto them, “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work.” It was satisfying to Him to have met and saved a poor sinner. And it should be meat for us to sit at His feet and learn from Him. Then we can go forth and feed others. But Martha did not understand, and so she said to Him, “Lord, dost Thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me.” We are told Martha was “cumbered about much serving.” It is so easy to become burdened with our daily responsibilities and neglect to spend time at the feet of Jesus. “And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things.” I think there must have been real sympathy when He repeated her name and referred to her worry and anxiety that He should have a well-cooked and tasty meal. He did not blame her for serving, but that was a small thing compared to sitting at His feet. “Mary,” He declared, “hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” This was the one thing needful, or one thing whereof there is need. It was not personal salvation to which He referred, or which drew Mary to His feet. The one prime necessity is to be subject to Christ in all things. This was what characterized Mary, and this He would have her continue to enjoy. In other words, Mary delighted in communion with Him, and thus she was pleasing to His great loving heart. He longs for the fellowship of His people.
“Low at Thy feet, Lord Jesus;
This is the place for me;
There I have learned sweet lessons,
Truth that has set me free.
“Free from myself, Lord Jesus,
Free from the ways of men;
Chains of thought that once bound me
Never will bind again.
“None but Thyself, Lord Jesus,
Conquered this wayward will;
But for Thy grace, my Saviour,
I should be wayward still.”
I am ashamed to say that in a very busy life, I have not spent nearly as much time at His feet as I should, but every hour spent there has meant far more than time spent in any other way.
I remember hearing of a dear father who had lost his wife. She had left him one daughter, and he loved to have her with him; but being a busy man they could have only their evenings together. He would come home from work, and after dinner they would spend several hours together, and one or the other would read; then she would play and sing for him. He found his greatest solace in the company of his darling child. It was getting along towards the end of the year, and the daughter said to him one evening, “You will excuse me tonight, father; I have something I should do in my room.” The next night it was the same thing, and the next, and the next, much to his disappointment. But he had to get used to it, and he did not like to ask her what she was doing that she had to leave him alone. Finally it was Christmas morning, and she came into his room and called, “Merry Christmas, Dad!” She handed him a pair of crocheted slippers which she had made for him. He said after he had thanked her, “I would much rather have had you with me all those lonely evenings than to have these slippers, beautiful and comfortable as they are.” I think our Lord says that to us. We are trying to please Him by much serving, but I am afraid He will say to many of us, “You have spent so many hours in service when I would rather have had you at My feet. You were not there when I wanted to share many secrets with you.” May we learn more and more the blessedness of communion with Him!