I love this story. I think I love it because I feel like it’s the one spot where the call of Jesus is to plop down in the living room and do nothing (one of my favorite things to do). The disciples are traveling around as they like to do, and a woman named Martha welcomes them in. Martha is doing what she is culturally supposed to be doing, which is being hospitable by preparing some food for her guests. So she is diligently working, trying to serve Jesus, and trying to serve him with her very best. Her heart is good and her intentions are good. But then there’s her sister Mary. Stinkin’ Mary. She too is supposed to be doing the hospitable thing, but there she is (as usual) not helping, hanging out with the boys and yucking it up with them when she should be helping Martha. So Martha goes and gets Jesus and says, “hey. what the heck. doesn’t it bother you that she’s leaving me with the work? Tell her to get her lazy bones in here and help me.” And Jesus says that Mary has chosen what’s better here.
What has Mary chosen? Mary has chosen first to break down a cultural norm. In this setting the women were not to be in the hanging with the boys, listening to Jesus. They’re supposed to be getting snacks ready. So maybe that’s one of the “better” things Mary has chosen. Mary has chosen to break down gender barriers an assert her worthiness to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn and be changed. And that’s the other thing Mary chosen: She’s chosen to be with Jesus, not just serve him. She’s chosen to rest with him, to be with him, to be simply still in his presence and not miss him by being busy serving him. And that, to me, is one of the key messages in this passage for us 21st Century American Christians. I wonder if we’ve often gotten too busy serving Jesus to ever just be with him. That is not to say that we should never serve, but there come times when we need to put the toolbox down, when we need to step away from the committees, when we need to turn off the computer, when we need to leave the work room to go to the sanctified room- that is, the sanctuary- and simply sit at Jesus’ feet. This is hard, really hard, for many Americans, but it is essential for our spiritual growth and discipleship.
When was the last time you simply sat at Jesus’ feet? It reminds me of one of my favorite worship songs, whose chorus sings, “I want to sit at your feet/ drink from the cup in your hand/ lay back against you breathe/ feel your heart beat”.* Is it possible that Jesus is saying to you today, “stop serving me and just come be with me”? So go plop down in the living room and go do nothing for Jesus.
*”The More I Seek You”, Zach Neese, © 1999 Gateway Create Publishing (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing (IMI))