Based on: Luke 10:38-42
You know that I was recently a student at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. As a student I had the privilege of learning from some very gifted men. My classmates and I would marvel from time to time at the honor we had to sit at the feet of these men whom God blessed with experience as pastors and whom God blessed with insight into his Word. Consider, also, the privilege Mary had as she sat at the feet of Jesus. Imagine, sitting at those feet that would one day walk to Golgotha, sitting at those feet that would be pierced by a nail in order to save us. What a privilege that must have been.
Dear fellow children of God, you have this same privilege. You sit at Jesus’ feet every time you open his Word. Every family devotion or personal devotion, every time you come to church or Bible class or Sunday school, every time you sing a hymn, you sit at Jesus’ feet and you give attention to those precious words coming from his lips. Yes, we do sit at Jesus’ feet. It is all we need and it will not be taken away.
This story is familiar. Jesus and his disciples were traveling and came to the home of Mary and Martha. Martha invited them in and was working hard to prepare a meal, but Mary sat at Jesus’ feet to listen. Martha thought Mary should also help with supper and said so, but Jesus told her “only one thing is needed”. Of course Mary chose that one thing and it was not going to be taken from her.
We can certainly understand that listening to God’s Word is important. We need to hear the gospel over and over again so that our faith becomes stronger, but is that the only thing we need? What about all the other things that we do on a day-to-day basis in order to have food on the table and clothes to wear and a place to live? Aren’t those "needed"?
To help us get to the heart of the matter, let’s consider this hypothetical question, "If you were to die tonight and appear before God’s judgment throne and God asked you, ‘Why should I let you into my heaven?’" What would you answer? (Now the Bible doesn’t say that God will ask this question. In fact, God already knows those who are his, but this question helps us clarify in our own minds what is really important because eternal life is our goal). So, what will you tell God? Will you tell him about the boards and committees that you served on or how you volunteered for this or that? No, He will point out the many times you disobeyed him. Besides, without Christ, even the good things we do are like filthy rags, as Isaiah tells us. Or will you tell him about all the times you loved your neighbor and the good you did for others? Of course we talked about that last week with the Good Samaritan. Our love for our neighbor does not meet God’s standard. No, there really is only one thing to say, "God, your Son, Jesus, lived a perfect life for me and died on the cross for me, and now, because of Jesus I am holy and blameless in your sight. That is why you should let me into heaven."
As Christians, eternal life in heaven is our goal. We can only reach that goal through a faith that is created and strengthened through the Gospel message that Jesus is our Savior. We only hear that message by sitting at Jesus’ feet. Sitting at Jesus’ feet is all that we need, the only thing we need. What good does anything else in this world do for us – whether it is something we do, something we say, or something we have – if we don’t end up in heaven? If we suffer forever in hell, isn’t everything on this earth worthless?
Now, let’s talk a little about Martha and what she was doing. Martha certainly believed in Jesus as her Savior and loved him dearly. She wanted to show this love for him. We hear that "Martha opened her home to him" and we know she was busy preparing a meal for Jesus and his disciples. She wanted to serve her Savior. All of this is good and pleasing in God’s sight, but Jesus gently asks her to look at her priorities. Jesus said, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things." Jesus doesn’t condemn what Martha is doing. What Martha is doing is good, but Jesus says, "Mary has chosen what is better."
The work we do to serve our Savior at home and in the church is good and wonderful. We want to volunteer at church and we want to take care of our families at home, but let’s not forget what is better and what is truly needed. There is a danger if we regularly fail to sit at Jesus’ feet that we will not know how to serve him. Our service becomes what we want to do rather than what he wants us to do. It’s like a little boy who is methodically breaking his mother’s best china, one plate at a time. The mother frantically asks, “What are you doing?” The boy responds, "I love you so much mom that I wanted to show it by breaking these plates." That boy should have asked his mother for her ideas about showing love. If we are not sitting at Jesus’ feet we could find ourselves breaking God’s china. That is why we start every meeting with a devotion. That is why the synod in convention will study God’s Word every day they meet this week.
Right now as we hear about Mary and Martha, Jesus gives us a way to serve him. In fact it is the greatest way to serve him. It has been said that "the best service we can give Jesus is to let him serve us." That is why we come to church and read our Bibles at home. What does God gain by our worship and praise? God is still the almighty God if we don’t give him these things, but we are so much better off when God serves us by his Word. This is the most important part of the worship service – Jesus serves us! That’s what it means to sit at Jesus’ feet. It’s all we need.
As we sit at Jesus’ feet what will we see and hear? We will see those feet, worn and dusty, that traveled this earth as Jesus listened to his heavenly Father and obeyed him in everything. We will see the nail marks in his feet and in his hands, and the place where the thorns were pushed down on his head. We will know that those wounds were suffered for us. We will recognize in his words the same voice that called out, "It is finished" as Jesus paid for our sins. As we sit at Jesus’ feet we will hear that Jesus knows we sometimes try to serve him in our own way and he knows that we get caught up with the busyness of life and we don’t take time to sit at his feet as often as we could. We will also hear that Jesus forgives us, that he lived a perfect life in our place. All the broken china is swept away.
We know this one thing is all we need and Jesus promises he will not take it away. We can come and sit at his feet as often as we like.
We can be sure that the one who made that tremendous sacrifice to save us will not then withdraw that very thing through which he gives us the benefits of his sacrifice. Our God is not a cruel God but loving God. We can be certain that God’s Word will be there in good times and in bad. We will always have that opportunity to sit at Jesus’ feet.
However, there are many examples throughout history of times when people no longer valued God’s Word. As they came to sit at Jesus’ feet less and less, the opportunities to sit at Jesus’ feet became fewer and fewer. Martin Luther describes God’s Word as a gentle rain shower; it stays in one place for a time and then eventually moves on as it finds other people who value the gospel.
We show God how much we value the gospel by coming to church and Bible class. We place a value on sitting at Jesus’ feet when we read God’s Word and we have personal and family devotions. When we look for opportunities to hear God’s Word then God blesses us by continually and abundantly feeding us with his Word. He provides faithful pastors and teachers. On the other hand if we neglect Gospel, we simply get what we’re asking for. Eventually we are in danger of losing the Gospel.
So we continue to sit at Jesus’ feet. We sit at Jesus’ feet because that is the one thing we really need. What a comfort it is to know that God will not take this precious message away from us.