Series 23


by Francis Dixon

(Scripture Portion: Luke 10:38-42; Commendation: Verse 42)

From this study we learn that one thing is absolutely necessary if we are to live a healthy, happy, useful Christian life. We are told about it in Luke 10:38-42, where we have the record of Mary and Martha entertaining the Lord Jesus in their home. Martha was an excellent hostess and was busy preparing a meal for Jesus and His disciples. Mary, on the other hand, sat at His feet and listened to all the wonderful things He had to say. Martha said to herself, “What a privilege to prepare a meal for Him!” and Mary said, “What a privilege to sit at His feet!” – and they were both right (verse 39). Martha, however, felt that Mary was unreasonable in leaving her to serve the meal, and even questioned the Lord for allowing her to sit at His feet while there was work to be done (verse 40). Jesus then spoke very tenderly to Martha. “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” (verses 41 and 42). Mary had chosen that “one thing!” In this commendation we see what is the number-one requirement for every Christian – not service, but sitting at the feet of the Lord Jesus (verse 39).

1. Think what this “one thing” implies: what it really means to sit at the feet of the Lord Jesus and hear His Word.

  1. It implies RECEPTION. In verse 38 we read that Martha received Jesus into her house, and Mary received Him also (verse 39). Before Mary could sit at the Saviour’s feet she must have welcomed Him into her presence. To sit at His feet and listen to His words implies that this reception had taken place. Have you received the Lord Jesus into your heart and life as definitely and as truly as Martha and Mary received Him into their home? – look up John 1:12, and compare Revelation 3:20.
  2. It implies DEVOTION. The fact that Mary was sitting at the Saviour’s feet indicates that she loved Him very much. She loved Him because He first loved her (1 John 4:19); she loved Him for His own sake, for His teaching, but above all for what He was going to do for her upon Calvary’s cross – Galatians 2:20; John 14:15. And in order that she might keep His words, she was listening to them and learning them.
  3. It implies SUBMISSION. Mary did not stand, she sat down at His feet, indicating that she was submissive to Him and recognised Him as her Lord and Sovereign. She subjected herself to His authority, truth and teaching. She sat in the place of humility, took His yoke upon her and learned of Him – look up Matthew 11:29. She placed herself utterly under His sway. Have you done that?

2. Why is this “one thing” so absolutely necessary?

  1. It is absolutely necessary if we are to experience a well-balanced Christian life. The two elements of a well-poised Christian life are sitting and serving – or, receiving and giving; but the first must always precede the second. Look up John 10:9, and notice – “in and out”; “in” first and then “out”; “in” for worship, “out” for witnessing; “in” to receive, “out” to serve. The Lord did not rebuke Martha for her active service; rather, He wanted to show her that sitting at His feet was necessary as the first requirement of successful service. How much time do we spend alone with Him, in comparison with the time we spend in His service?
  2. It is absolutely necessary for growth in grace. Many Christians remain in a state of protracted infancy, not because they have not received Him into the house or are not in love with Him, but because they neglect fellowship with Him through His Word. They do not learn of Him, and therefore they do not grow into spiritual maturity, for to sit at His feet and receive His Word will bring us to know the experience of 2 Peter 3:18 – look up 1 Peter 2:2, and compare Ephesians 4:13-15.
  3. It is absolutely necessary for clear guidance. The Lord longs to guide us in all the details of our daily lives, but we often fail to hear His gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:12) because we are not living in close enough touch with Him. It is sad when Christians repeatedly make wrong decisions – look up Proverbs 3:5-6; James 1:5. Surely it is only as we learn to spend time alone with Him that we shall get to know His will – look up Romans 12:2.
  4. It is absolutely necessary for overcoming self. Martha was irritated and distracted, and she complained – verse 40. Do you ever get irritated and distracted, and complain? Do you sometimes say rash, hurtful things? Why do we do these things? For the same reason that Martha failed? She allowed self to come on the throne, and this could have been prevented if she had known how to get low at the Saviour’s feet. Self is our greatest enemy; and one sure way of learning God’s method of overcoming the self-life is by regularly getting low at His feet – look up 1 Peter 3:4, and compare Matthew 11:29.
  5. It is absolutely necessary to gain His commendation. In verse 42 we are told of our Lord’s commendation to Mary. Nothing pleases Him more than when we go to His footstool and wait there in silent adoration and praise. He is pleased with our effort and our faithful service, but most of all He is pleased with our humble submission, when we sit and learn of Him and spend time alone with Him first for His own dear sake!

We shall only get this “one thing” by real determination and resolution. Notice that in verse 42 we are told that Mary chose to sit at Jesus’ feet. It was a matter of deliberate choice. How determined are you to please Him?