What does Jesus see as necessary in life? Is it serving, being busy, a good life, works, good careers, lots of possessions, well behaved kids, dating or high grades.
It’s none of this! In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus rebukes Martha for being distracted with doing lots and missing what is necessary. And we all tend to be the same!
Jesus comes to Martha’s house and she is busy serving, getting ready for Jesus her guest. There is much to do and she is getting troubled by it.
Meanwhile Mary her sister is sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him. Martha sees this and tells Jesus to tell Mary to help her out. But Jesus responds and says “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about MANY things, but only ONE thing is necessary. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (NIV, 1984)
I feel for Martha. I see so much of me in her. I don’t know if I would have done any different to her. When we hear this story, we want to defend Martha. Maybe you are like me and think, “Jesus we can’t all be like Mary... things have to happen and be done.”
But Jesus wants to show that something is more necessary than serving or the endless to do lists of life. What is the one thing Jesus sees as necessary? It’s listening to Him! Not getting things done!
Do you believe this? Do you believe Jesus when He says Mary is doing what is necessary? Well to help you believe this, you need to understand what is going on in this story.
What is wrong with what Martha was doing?
1. She was distracted
It seems like she was trying to do something elaborate for Jesus but it wasn’t the right time and she missed what was important.
2. She was motivated by anxiety (and pride)
Love for Jesus wasn’t motivating her serving. Instead her anxiety was breading anger and bitterness. And at the core of this anxious busyness is often pride. We are often anxious to do much because we care about our reputation and looking good.
3. She fell into the trap of doing many things
We can fill our lives with "many things" as Martha did, but they aren’t even necessary or important. We fill our time with things that don't matter, and miss doing what truly matters!
What does it mean to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to him?
1. It is to learn from Jesus
Mary was sitting and listening to what Jesus said. She was listening to the Word of God through Jesus.
2. It is to be a disciple of Jesus
Back then, sitting a someone’s feet was what a disciple would do with their teacher. A disciple would followed their teacher around and seek to grow from them.
3. It is to worship Jesus
Mary is in awe of Jesus. The pressing chores and to do lists don’t captivate her. She has been captivated by Christ, and she can’t get enough. By doing this, she is worshipping him. Mary couldn’t be gripped by anything else, because she was gripped with Jesus. This highlighted the worth in Him and brought great worship to Him.
4. It is to be dependent on Jesus
Mary is listening to Jesus’ every word, because she trusted Him as the one who has words of life (John 6:68). Dependence and entrusting herself to His wisdom and rule is shown in Mary’s humble listening.
5. It is to be in relationship with Jesus
If we want to have a close relationship with someone, we sit with them and spend time near them. Mary desired close friendship with Jesus. To sit at His feet came from her desire to be in a spiritually intimate relationship with Him.
These 5 things show why it is necessary to be listeners at Jesus feet! It is because when we listen we can learn, we are his disciples, we worship Jesus, we show our trust in God and we enter into an intimate relationship with Him.
This is what happens as we listen and these things are essential for the Christian. So are you listening to his voice? John 10:27 says “My sheep listen to my voice, I know them and they follow me”. Be concerned if you aren’t listening to Christ. Be concerned if you aren't intimate with God in prayer. Be concerned if you aren't listening to God in His Word.
Beware of busyness
Busyness and doing lots isn’t what God seeks. He wants people who listen to Him and worship Him. Beware of the busyness and distractions that take you away from the necessary task of spending time with Jesus. May the Lord strip away the many unnecessary things you do and help you sit at His feet. Don’t do a lot for God and miss knowing God and being known by him, like those in Matthew 7 who Jesus says He never knew.
There is always something more to do. The to do list really is unending. It is a constant battle to spend time with God and not be gripped by many other things. But we need to be like Mary and in love with Jesus. We need to be captivated by Him, so that the many other things in life seeking our attention do not captivate us.
Also to guard against the dangers, of busyness, we need to trust Jesus and not our abilities. A trust in self tends to drive busyness. The feeling that you need to do lots is a failure to trust in God. Let go of your busy ways and your self-trust, and rely on God.
But you may be thinking we can’t just sit at Jesus feet?
When do we stop sitting, and do things?
This passage isn’t saying we are to have a life of just sitting and learning, rather than being active. No, our sitting at the feet of Jesus needs to be what empowers us to rise to our feet and serve him! We must hear God’s word and then act. Jesus says, “my mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practise” (Luke 8:21).
Martha’s problem was not her serving. Her problem was being distracted and anxious with many things, when it was time to sit at Jesus feet.
Yes, we need to do things, but don’t let your tendency to do take away from sitting at Jesus feet. Life is short and we must do what is necessary!
The feast at Jesus feet
I want to close with this picture. God has provided us with a spiritual feast in his Word and in His presence. Its an all you can eat banquet and He has invited us to come. It has all we need: strength, comfort, hope and salvation. This is what we can find in God’s Word and intimate communion with him.
Yet, we dash into this feast for a quick bite. Or we wait at the doors for leftovers from people who have gone in. Or we tell others about it and never go ourselves. So many Christians are happy to hear others speak about God’s Word, but they rarely go to the feast for themselves.
Do you only pick up the crumbs from this banquet. You need to stop being content with scraps and leftovers from God’s Word, and go to Jesus. Sit at His feet. Feed yourself on the bread of life. Fill yourself with the living water (John 6:35).
As the world tells you to be frantic and busy, remember the one thing that is necessary. Don’t neglect what Jesus says is necessary, whilst you still do the 100 other duties you have to each day. Take time to stop, and sit at Jesus' feet. Feed on Christ, for He has the words of eternal life and His words bring true joy!