The writer of the third Gospel, St. Luke, was not one of Jesus’ twelve disciples. However, he was a very close friend of St. Paul and traveled with him on his missionary journeys. Luke had access to many written documents regarding Jesus’ ministry. He was a vital part of the early Church. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Luke used some of this written and oral tradition to assemble his Gospel.
It is interesting that, in his Gospel, Luke tells of Jesus’ visit to Mary and Martha’s home in Bethany. None of the other three Gospel writers tell this story. It must have left a deep impression on Luke. We can only assume Jesus told the disciples about His visit with the sisters, for they had gone on to Jerusalem. Telling His experience with Mary and Martha gave Jesus an opportunity to teach another basic lesson in being fishers of men. The lesson is this: In order to grow in your relationship with Jesus, you must sit at His feet and learn from him. Now Jesus teaches His followers (this includes us) about the importance of sitting at His feet and learning from him.
Martha was in the kitchen preparing a good meal for Jesus. It was her way of showing love for the Lord, who probably had not enjoyed a home-cooked meal for some time. Mary could not have cared less about eating. She wanted to hear what Jesus had to say. So she sat at his feet and was all ears. This irritated Martha, and finally she had an emotional outburst.
“Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Now let us assume Jesus asks the disciples what they learned from his visit with the sisters. One could have said both loved him but had different ways of showing it. Another might have replied that it shows no two disciples are alike. You have to allow for different personalities. A third one could have responded that sometimes we have a desire to make others behave like we do. Still another could have stated that Martha loved Jesus, but she did not have her priorities straight.
I imagine Peter would have come with the final word: Not to be critical, Lord, but I think you were a bit hard on Martha. She is a woman of action and wanted to show her love by feeding you. Isn’t that what Christianity is all about? It is deeds, not creeds, that matter. This is where our Lord speaks to all of us.
Many people wish they had a personal relationship with Christ. If this is a sincere wish, the Bible makes it clear that we can have that relationship. Jesus says, “He who comes to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). When we sit at Jesus’ feet, He teaches us some interesting facts about ourselves.
First, we are precious and important to God. We are the crowNng work of His creation.
Second, we are sinners. We were born with a sinful nature, and this throws us out of a relationship with God. However, God loves us so much that He sent His Son, the Lord Jesus, to suffer and die for our sins. Through this sacrifice, Jesus Christ has atoned for our sins. On the third day He was raised from the dead and won for us victory over sin, death, and the devil. If in faith we receive Him as our Savior and Lord, our sins will be forgiven, and we will be brought into a living, personal relationship with God.
However, from there we are to move on as God’s servants. Sitting at His feet, Jesus gives us a new burden. We are to reach out to those who do not know Him that they too might be saved. He will make us witnesses for Him. He will open our eyes to show us how we need to grow in our faith and be not only forgiven of our sins, but also empowered to overcome them. This includes the subtle sins of self-righteousness, jealousy, unkindness, and the list goes on. At His feet we continue to get better acquainted with ourselves. It may be discouraging, but through it we get a look at what we can become in Christ. That makes it encouraging.
The text tells us Mary sat at the Lord’s feet. This is understandable. Jesus was in the room, so Mary plopped down in front of Him. How do we sit at Jesus’ feet?
The most common answer to this question is well known. Open the Bible in the quietness of your own person. Read the Scriptures and hear God speak. Ask the Holy Spirit, who has inspired this Word, to make it known to you. He will answer your prayer, and you will have a clear understanding of God’s will concerning many problems that bother you. A faithful devotional life (sitting at Jesus’ feet) is essential for those who want to grow in their relationship with Him.
We also hear His voice in the worship service under strong preaching of God’s Word. The preacher does not have to be an orator. However, he or she must expound God’s Word clearly pointing out the Law, which convicts us of our sins, and the Gospel, which presents Christ who forgives our sins. There is no substitute for dynamic preaching and teaching of God’s Word. A church is strong or weak depending on its preaching and teaching.
D. G. Hart, a professor at Westminster Theological Seminary in California, has written, “Because the Bible is clear, anyone who can read its words should be able to understand its meaning, no matter what the reader’s education. The problem is that not everything in Scripture is easy to understand. That is why we need people specially trained to help us understand what the Word is saying.”
This is the danger of small group Bible studies where everyone’s insight carries equal weight. People look for the best surgeon when needing a tumor removed, the best lawyer when going to court, and even the superior ice cream when planning a dessert. Yet when it comes to the Bible, questions of expertise and proficiency are not essential. When someone suggested a lay person’s interpretation of the Bible was as good as a minister’s, John Calvin, Father of the Presbyterian Church, said, “God assigned to ministers of the Word the duty of dividing or cutting it into small pieces. The doctrine drawn from the Bible must be preached so that we will be informed.”
Calvin went on to explain the metaphor of dividing the Word of God. “Unskillful interpreters of the bread of life,” he suggested, “are like carvers who cut food. Some mutilate it, others tear it, others torture it, others break it in pieces.”
We do not suggest a minister has a closer relationship with God. Neither do we believe that he or she has an elevated position in God’s Kingdom.
It simply means that a minister, who is a part of the Christian Church, has received theological training, and therefore has been set apart by believers to be a teacher of the Word. It is the same as the schoolteacher who, after receiving proper training, is licensed to teach in our public schools.
I wonder sometimes if the average congregation expects strong preaching of the Word. It is the consistent preaching of the Word that fills the pews of our churches. Poorly prepared sermons will not satisfy the spiritual hunger of those at a worship service. Seminaries should be held accountable for the kind of preachers they send into the churches. Congregations should be held accountable to send some of their most gifted people to the seminaries for training. Only then will our churches be filled and the name of Christ be lifted up in its rightful way.
Just remember, as Jesus trained His disciples then, and as he trains us now to be fishers of men, He emphasizes a personal relationship with him. That comes by sitting at his feet. Amen.