By: Jenni Walker
“Now it happened that as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word…” (Luke 10:38–39)
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In first century Judaism during the time of Jesus’ ministry, it was customary for rabbis to sit and discuss God’s word. Cadet Loren Wallace of Evangeline Booth College writes:
This way of spiritual formation in the first century employs what is called the rabbinical style of teaching. This teaching method used questions from the students to create discussion, [where] people got together and discussed how to interpret the Scriptures and how to live out the interpretation in their lives. The Jews of Jesus’ day championed the study of scripture so much that their most gifted teachers walked from town to town teaching the Scriptures. Customarily the teacher (rabbi) sat on low pillows or chairs while they taught. Their disciples (listeners or students) sat on the ground or on mats around them. The expression of this practice was “to sit at his feet.” This expression is used in Acts 22:3 when Paul describes himself as someone who had learned “at the feet of Gamaliel” (KJV).
There is a beautiful, biblical figure who is similarly described sitting “at Jesus’ feet” throughout the gospels. Her name was Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. While Mary is the main example we will focus on, it is important to note that all three of these siblings loved Jesus, followed Him, and experienced Him in some very distinct ways:
- Martha is well-known for being “distracted with serving.” You might hear someone chide another saying, “Don’t be a Martha.” And yet, we know that Martha also had a close relationship with Jesus. After Lazarus her brother had died, John 11:20 tells us of Martha, “as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, [she] went and met Him.” Upon seeing Him, she says to Jesus with profound faith amidst her grief, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give You.” (v. 22)
- Lazarus is known for being raised from the dead! People mourned over his death, and even Jesus wept. John 11:45-46 tells us that Lazarus’ supernatural resurrection led many to believe in Jesus. It was also the catalyst for the chief priests and Pharisees to gather a council in which, “from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death” (John 11:53).
- And then there is Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. The recurring theme found in descriptions of Mary’s interactions with Jesus is that she was at His feet. While her siblings also had close friendships with Jesus, her encounters with Him are striking: they are at the feet of her Lord.
In this series of posts, we will look closely at Mary’s example of sitting at the feet of Jesus. Let’s begin with the description found in Luke 10:38–39:
Now it happened that as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word…
Check Your Posture
This first description of Mary at the feet of Jesus demonstrates to us how critically important it is to be in God’s Word! This is what affects the posture of our hearts. Yet, we can so easily become distracted:
- How many of us “sit at the feet” of our phones?
- How many of us “sit at the feet” of Netflix?
- How many of us “sit at the feet” of busyness, running from thing to thing to thing and neglecting to just sit at Jesus’ feet through time in His presence?
- How many of us read a daily devotional just to “get something out of it,” but we don’t bask in the truth of His Word to know HIM?
This example of Mary hearing Jesus’ word demonstrates to us the posture of an actively surrendered heart. Are we being taught by Him? Is He Lord of every area of our lives? Are we seeking Him devotedly in times of quiet solitude? Are we communing with Him throughout the day even in times when we feel stretched or pulled, choosing to lift up the eyes of our heart to Him, and allowing the Holy Spirit to speak to us through His Word?
For the past six years, my husband and I have experienced a season of life that was not anticipated by either of us. In 2015, we began trying to grow our family and, while not the main focus of this article, I will tell you that we do not yet have any children. I have had a variety of tests and even outpatient surgeries over the last few years to determine the reasons, and I have been told my results, as well as those of my husband, are all what they should be. We should be pregnant. But we’re not. Needless to say, it has been a journey of the heart: of walking with the Jesus step-by-step, trusting Him, seeking Him, receiving from Him, and having lived intimately what it truly means to posture my heart just as Mary did when she chose to sit at His feet.
Apart from posturing my hurting heart before Him, I would easily be full of bitterness, resentment, despair, discouragement, even waywardness. But because I love my Lord, I sit at His feet, draw close to HIM, and hear His Word. And He always speaks and strengthens my heart as I choose to trust that He is bringing about His plans and purposes. (More of this story to come over the next few weeks!) How intimately I have encountered Him in some of the following ways!
- When I feel impatient, Psalm 39:7 anchors my heart: “And now, O Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in YOU.”
- When I have moments of wondering and uncertainty, Psalm 77:7-13 reminds me of who HE is and that He IS at work: “Will the Lord cast off forever? And will He be favorable no more? Has His mercy ceased forever? Has His promise failed…? Has God forgotten to be gracious?…And I said, ‘This is my anguish; but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.’ I will remember the works of the Lord; surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will also meditate on all Your work and talk of Your deeds. Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary; who is so great a God as our God?”
- And as I seek Him with a heart postured in surrender and love for my Savior, He gives me not contrived but true, real, unshakable joy! I can pray as in Luke 1:46-50, “My soul magnified [and declares the greatness] of the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior…For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name. And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation.”
In Luke 10:41–42, Jesus tells Martha, “You are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen the good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
What is this “one thing” Jesus speaks of? Psalm 27:4 gives us insight: “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty [and delightfulness] of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.” No matter your season of life, drawing close to and experiencing HIM (not just a desired life outcome!) is what we are to seek above all.
Ladies, what is the posture of your heart? Take a few minutes to personally reflect, or to discuss with someone you know, how you sit at Jesus’ feet to hear His word. What have you learned about delighting in Him through Scripture and keeping a heart postured in loving surrender to Him in all areas of life? Let’s be like Mary who not only welcomed Jesus into her home and busied herself serving Him and others but who chose a wholehearted posture of surrender as she “sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word…”
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