Mary, Martha…and Scripture?

I’ve been pondering this past Sunday’s sermon on Luke 10:38-42, Mary and Martha

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.

mary at Jesus feetWhile I have heard sermons on this passage dozens and dozens of times, I’ve not quite heard the inextricable link of sitting at Jesus’ feet and believing God’s word. I had typically heard the sermon on this passage in the context of prayer, worship, “being still,” etc vs. the busyness of doing. But in consideration of the redemptive narrative of Scripture, making Jesus the priority is more than the activities we engage in but the orientation of our hearts, which starts and ends on the surety of Scripture – what God has actually said. Considering that Scripture testifies to the incarnate Word, this connection made perfect sense to me.

The other day I came across a blog post with yet another progressively oriented Christian proudly patting herself on the back that she had moved away from the doctrine of inspiration. She was so pleased with herself having resolved the mystery of God’s breathed out word through human authors. They were, after all, merely human and probably got a lot of things wrong, she reasoned. It was ok to no longer wrangle over the unpleasant parts of Scripture because it’s too stressful to handle the tension of believing this is what God says and does when confronted with all the inconsistencies the mind cannot fathom. How many people claiming to sit at Jesus feet have said this?

But Mary shows us differently. Choosing Jesus means choosing his word. It means approaching Scripture with humility and a desire learn of Jesus on his terms. The Westminster Larger Catechism puts it this way;

Q 157: How is the word of God to be read

A 157: The holy scriptures are to be read with a high and reverent esteem of them; with a firm persuasion that they are the very word of God, and that he only can enable us to understand them; with desire to know, believe, and obey the will of God revealed in them; with diligence, and attention to the matter and scope of them; with meditation, application, self-denial and prayer.

The seven page commentary on each section is pretty rich, but a couple of snippets are worth noting regarding the application here

  1. Regarding the ‘high and reverent esteem,” the commentary indicates this is just the opposite of having a critical demeanor about Scripture.

We may never regard the Bible as a mixture of truth and error: we may never try to decide what teachings of the Bible are true. We are to accept all the teachings of the Bible as true, and to judge and measure the teachings of all other books, and the opinions and judgments of human reason, by the Scriptures. We may of course have doubts or difficulties in ascertaining what is the true meaning of a text or portion of Scripture: but we must always commit ourselves without reserve to the true meaning, whatever that may be. That is to say, our attitude toward the Bible must always be a wholly receptive attitude, never a hesitant or critical attitude.

Of course we read in light of Jesus’ fulfillment of the law and prophets and centrality of God’s redemptive plan. And sitting at his feet means absorbing every morsel to feed the soul.

2. Regarding self-denial, “We are to deny ourselves by surrendering our own reason as our supreme standard of truth, and becoming as little children, accepting God’s word on God’s authority.” That’s not to say that we always get it right. But it’s an attitude of submission, that is at least willing to wrestle with the unpleasant parts that give rise to that age old question – has God really said this?

The sermon resonated with me because sometimes I get lazy. Sometimes I question God’s love and faithfulness towards me. Sometimes I allow my own thoughts and opinions about the way things should be to overshadow the riches of God’s promises in Christ. And in that sense, become like Martha, going about living a Christian life without taking the time to sit at Jesus’ feet.

3 thoughts on “Mary, Martha…and Scripture?

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