James Smith, 1859
"Mary sat at Jesus' feet and heard His words" Luke 10:39
We have three views of Mary in the New Testament:
1. Mary working, washing the feet of Jesus, and anointing them with precious ointment.
2. Mary weeping at the sickness and death of her brother Lazarus, and
3. Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to his words.
The family was a peculiarly favored one, each member of it was a believer, an object of the Savior's love. God did not here take one of a family, as he sometimes does—but he took the whole.
Let us notice Mary's CHARACTER. She was a quiet contemplative Christian.
We differ very much in our natural dispositions and temperament. Some are lively—others dull. Some are full of talk—and some very reserved. We carry our natural peculiarities with us—into a state of grace. Grace refines, ennobles, and regulates our natural propensities—but does not essentially alter them. They are Christianized, sanctified, and consecrated to God—but remain the same.
Mary had faith in Jesus, she believed him to be the Messiah, and received him as sent of God. She loved Jesus, and therefore valued his company, and prized his word. She enjoyed the company of Jesus, and therefore sought him out, and continued with him. She expected to get good from Jesus, and therefore took and kept her seat at his feet. She quietly left her concerns with Jesus, therefore if Martha upbraids her, she allows Jesus to answer for her.
Here, beloved, is an example for us, we should believe in Jesus, as the Son of God; love Jesus, as the Savior of sinners; prize the company of Jesus, and therefore follow him; and cleave to him with full purpose of heart; quietly leave our concerns with Jesus, and so live without anxiety, foreboding or grief.
Let us look at Mary's PRIVILEGE. Jesus loved her, for if he had not—she never would have loved him. His love is always the cause of ours. We love him—because he first loved us. He made himself known to her, manifesting himself unto her—as he did not unto the world. He visited her, as the friend of the family, and the lover of her soul. He held fellowship and communion with her, treating her as a friend. He vindicated her, when Martha was angry with her.
Just so with every believer, for we all have the same great and precious privilege. Jesus loves us, and loves us with an everlasting love, therefore with loving-kindness he teaches us our need of him and draws us to him. He makes himself known to us by the gracious teaching of his Holy Spirit, as our Savior and unchangeable friend. He visits us in mercy, sometimes in the Sanctuary, sometimes at his table, sometimes in the prayer-closet, and sometimes in the solitary walk; and his visits are always precious. He enters into communion with us, drawing out our hearts to himself in prayer, praise, meditation and adoration; and he applies his truth to us, and sheds abroad his love within us. He also vindicates his people, not always just at the time they are reproached, slandered, or misrepresented; but eventually he brings forth their righteousness as the light, and their judgment as the noon-day. So we may always rejoice, that we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous One!
We will now glance at Mary's POSITION. She was sitting at the feet of Jesus. Most probably he was reclining on the couch, and she went and took her place behind him, where she could hear what he said, and occasionally get a glimpse of his face.
It is the posture of HUMILITY, she took the lowest place. She had no wish to be seen, nor did she regard her own ease—she was intent on getting good from Jesus.
It was the posture of ATTENTION, she wished to catch every word, and to understand all that the Lord was saying. If Jesus is teaching—then Mary will attend and listen.
It was the posture of a LEARNER, she was a disciple of Jesus, therefore she sat down at his feet, that she may receive of his words. He need not now say unto her, "Learn of me," for she was most anxious to do so.
It was the posture of SATISFACTION, if she could but be within the sound of his voice, within the sight of his eye—it was enough for Mary. Anywhere with Jesus!
It was also the posture of REPOSE, here at the feet of Jesus, she found rest unto her soul. Her desires were satisfied, her love was gratified, her hungry soul was fed. It was enough. The feet of Jesus was to her—a kind of earthly heaven.
Reader, how is it with you? Are you humble enough to take a seat at the feet of Jesus? Is it your delight to listen to his words? Are you like a little child desiring to learn of him, and be taught by him? Are you satisfied—if you can but get near to Jesus? Do you find sweet and refreshing repose in his presence? If so, happy are you!
Observe now Mary's EMPLOYMENT. She was hearing Jesus. We have not his discourse—but one could almost wish we had. But anything from Jesus would interest Mary. She was receiving his doctrine. It is one thing to hear—but quite another thing to receive. She saw the beauty, tasted the sweetness, and realized the value of the Savior's communications, therefore she drank them in as the dry ground the rain, or the thirsty ox the water.
She endeavored to retain what she heard. She took no notes—but she caught fast hold of the truth with her memory. She held it and would not let it go. Like David, she hid it in her heart. Like another Mary, she laid up those things in her heart. She felt interested in all he said, she was riveted to the spot she had chosen, she was pleased with his various communications, and was profited by all she heard. She seized the opportunity offered her, and thus displayed her ardor, teachableness and spirituality.
She sat at the feet of Jesus in the humble cottage—and she now sits by his side in the heavenly mansion!
Reader, how is it with you?
Do you hear Jesus, when he speaks by his servants, or in his word?
Do you receive and retain his truth?
Are you pleased with, and profited by, his teachings?
Have you Mary's wisdom, to seize opportunities to get good?
Are you teachable and spiritual as Mary was?
These are important questions, may the Lord apply them, and enable you to answer them.
Let us ever remember, that Jesus is present in his ordinances, and present whenever, and wherever his people meet. For he has said, "Wherever two or three meet together in my name, there am I." Yes, Jesus is as really present, though not as visibly, or sensibly present, as he was in the cottage of Bethany. We may therefore do as Mary did, we may sit down at his feet, listen and receive of his word.
But have we . . .
the open ear to listen;
the honest heart to receive;
the refined taste to enjoy;
the faithful mind to retain;
the humble spirit to embrace;
and the willing mind to take the lowest place—as Mary had?
Too many meet where Jesus is—but . . .
do not perceive him;
do not feel their need of him;
do not thirst for his grace;
do not long for the application of his word.
To them, religion is but a form. To them, the gospel is no more than the word of man. To them, alas! too often, it becomes the savor of death onto death!
My soul, I charge you to take your place, as Mary did—at the feet of Jesus. Let busy Martha be anxious and troubled about many things—only one thing is needful—see to it that you choose the good part which shall not be taken from you.
Go where Jesus goes.
Get near to Jesus if possible, even if you have to force your way through a crowd, as the poor woman in the gospel had.
Keep near to Jesus—let not company, business, or any angry relative draw or drive you away.
Sitting at the feet of Jesus—is the most blessed place under heaven!
Mary's privilege prepares for John's. Those who are willing to sit at the feet of Jesus, and esteem it a privilege to do so; will be raised to lean on Jesus' bosom, and sit by his side forever!
"He raises up the poor out of the dust, and lifts up the needy from the dunghill; to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory." Oh what a transition, from the dunghill, to inherit the throne of glory! What wonders love can do! How low grace can stoop! What privileges are conferred on worms!