Sit At Jesus' Feet
Updated: Jan 5
Chan Gin Kai
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” (Luke 10:38-40)
Martha, Mary and their brother, Lazarus, were close friends of Jesus. He had raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-43). Mary later poured perfume on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair (John 12:1-10). She is not to be confused with the sinful woman who washed Jesus' feet with her tears (Luke 7:36-50), as they are different people.
Martha and Mary were both excited when Jesus came to the village, and welcomed him into their home. But they showed their excitement in very different ways.
Mary “sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he said.” This was the position that disciples used to take as they listened to their rabbis. It was a position that showed a willingness to learn and the readiness to obey whatever was taught. It reflected submission and humility. She showed her respect and love for Jesus by sitting close to Jesus.
Martha wanted everything to be perfect for Jesus and so she got herself very busy with “all the preparations.” Jesus had many disciples and there were many mouths to feed. Her hospitality reflected a serving heart that was ready to meet everyone’s needs. She showed her desire to honour Jesus by wanting to serve Jesus and his disciples.
Both of them were awesome. Their actions reflected hearts that really cared for Jesus and they’re examples for us to imitate.
Martha, however, questioned Jesus, “Lord don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?” She felt that Mary was lazy and neglecting her duties. She thought Mary was wrong and felt that Jesus allowed it. In her eyes, Jesus didn’t care that she was shouldering all the burdens alone; he might not even have noticed all that she was doing for him and his disciples.
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)
Despite Martha’s accusation, Jesus replied Martha with love. Jesus of course appreciated all that she did, but he gently highlighted to her where she had fallen short in. She had gotten worried and upset about relatively less important things and become “distracted” from what’s most important – being close to Jesus.
Of course hospitality and serving others are important; Jesus had taught it (Matthew 25:35-46) and so did Peter (1 Peter 4:8-9) and Paul (1 Timothy 5:10). Note that Jesus didn’t say that what Martha did was wrong. In fact, what Martha did was right and good, but “Mary has chosen what is better.”
As disciples of Christ, we’ve all been rightfully taught about the need to serve God and His people. I hope we can all grow in this area, glorifying God through sacrificial acts of service. But do we get distracted from what’s more important – drawing close to Jesus?
Like Martha, we may get so focused on the WHATs and HOWs of serving God that we forget about WHY we do so and WHO we are really serving. We may start putting confidence in our work, and even get self-righteous towards people who appear to be doing lesser. We may even end up accusing Jesus.
Let’s not stop serving God and His people. God appreciates the work that we do. But let’s never forget what’s more important - we need to draw close to Jesus and sit at his feet.
Chan Gin Kai
Gin Kai is a film producer who believes in the power of media to inspire positive changes. He has spearheaded disaster relief and capacity building projects in impoverished communities across Asia. In church, he serves as a mentor to young professionals in the EDGE Ministry. He describes himself as "just a sinner who wants to get right with God". Gin Kai joined the Central Christian Church in 1988.