Part 1


    Lately every week seems to be a turbulent week for our nation. For me, it seems like living so close to the DC area has me even more aware then ever before of what often feels like the world-wind of politics and government. My Facebook timeline seems to be increasingly flooded with news posts about the latest political controversy. And after a while it can be so draining that I just want to unplug from social media and media in general and just invest more time in the relationships that mean the most to me. However sometimes life in general can get so overwhelming that you just want to retreat. You just want to find that safe place, that haven to get away from all the noise. It could be a place with smiling faces and warm hearts. Maybe its a place where people know you for who you really are. Where is that place where you feel the most at home? Where you feel safe and at rest? For some people this could be church, your home, a family or friends house, a vacation spot or a weekend retreat. For Jesus it was the quiet haven of a little town called Bethany.

    Bethany was out of sight, on the far right side of the Mount of Olives, just 2 miles away from the bustle of Jerusalem. Whenever Jesus came to Jerusalem and wanted to unplug from the political and religious world-wind of Jerusalem, He took the 45 minute walk over to the safe haven of Bethany. Even Jesus needed to unplug from all the noise sometimes. The paradox is that Jerusalem, which means “city of peace” was the furthest thing from peaceful during this time. It had been reduced to the center of political and religious controversy in the region of Judea. In stark contrast was the little town of Bethany, were Jesus found a peaceful setting, over looking the Judean desert, with fresh breezes coming from the Mediterranean Sea to cool the desert heat. 

     In this village was a family of siblings who soon not only became devoted followers of Jesus, but some of His closest friends. They are Lazarus, Martha and Mary. And one day, when Jesus stopped by with His disciples, they decided to host a potluck. And though this was Lazarus’s house, the Bible says, “Martha welcomed Him into her house.” This is Luke’s way of telling the reader that Martha’s the one really running the house. This implies that she has the kind of personality that likes to be in charge, in control, “wearing the pants.” As a matter of fact Lazarus doesn’t even get mentioned in this story, even though he is mentioned in much greater detail in relation to his two sisters later on. 

    Now to understand this family, you have to understand the times they were living in and the location they lived in. They lived in a time of great Messianic expectation. Which means they believed in the advent of the Christ. They were Jews and were therefore Sabbath keepers. Are we getting closer to your street? They lived just a stones throw from the religious center of there faith. They were good Seventh-day Adventist Christians. And based on Mary and Martha’s response to Jesus’ questions right before He raised Lazarus from the dead in John 11, they knew their bibles and could answer key doctrinal questions like the state of the dead, the resurrection, last day events and the advent of the Messiah. However, the two sisters Mary and Martha have two very different experiences that parallel the prodigal son and the older brother in Luke 15 (and the publican and the pharisee). They are both fond of Jesus. Martha, herself had welcomed Jesus into the house, like many of us have welcomed Him into our lives at some point in the past. However the stories of these two sisters will show us two totally different ways of relating to Jesus that will reveal what our greatest need is right now. So let's begin by taking a look at one of Lazarus’s sisters in verse 39…

And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word.”
— Luke 10:39 NKJV

    Preparations for the potluck were underway and Jesus decided to serve some spiritual food while they were waiting for the physical food. As the words of grace fell from Jesus’ lips, Mary took her place among the other disciples, at the feet of Jesus. Now just in case you missed it. In the Bible, to sit at the feet of a Rabbi, was to take the position of a disciple. In the first century, Rabbi’s only had male disciples. Jesus was doing something revolutionary! Being at the feet of Jesus was level ground. Jesus’ disciples were both men and women. As a matter of fact Luke 8 describes Mary as among some of the women that ministered to Jesus from their substance during His travels. But what’s also striking about this one sentence about Mary, was not just that she was a female disciple sitting at Jesus feet, but her back story adds to why it would have been shocking to others for Jesus to have her sitting at His feet. You see Mary had a past. She was the prodigal who had been raised in church. Luke 7 called her a sinful woman who had been forgiven by Jesus. Mark 16:9 says Jesus had cast 7 demons out of her. She had been made whole by Jesus and recognized her continual need of Him. This is why throughout the gospels you keep seeing her at Jesus’ feet, because…

Those Who Sense Their Need Remain at Jesus’ Feet

    I can be the worst patient. Growing up in South Florida, I rarely got sick. If I did, I’d take something for it or get one of my mom’s home remedies and it would be gone in three days. As a matter of fact, during the three days I’d try to go about my regular routine, because I had a mindset that if I acted well, I’d eventually get better. And usually I did. However when I moved to Georgia and now in Virginia, whenever Spring time comes around my allergies act up and I get sick with a lingering couch that at times has lasted months. My poor wife would remind me to take something for the cough, but I grew up with a mindset that I just don’t get sick like that. I just seem to go about things as if it’s just going to eventually go away. You see I sometimes don’t have a sense of my true condition. I’ve been coughing all week and then this sermon started to preach to me and I started to recognize my need to take my medication regularly. I’m in the office with Pastor Garry and Betsy coughing all over the place. But it wasn’t until I recognized my true condition that I started to listen to my wife and take my medication and other remedies. Mary was someone who knew her true condition! She sensed her need and chose to stay at the feet of the One who set her free!

    As you follow Mary’s story, she keeps ending up at the feet of Jesus. And three of these times Jesus comes to her defense. There are various thoughts on who the woman caught in the act of adultery was in John 8, but I believe it’s highly probable that it was Mary. The Pharisees thought by bringing her to Jesus’ feet she would get condemnation, but instead she got grace! I call it reverse evangelism. Jesus came to her defense and the Pharisees left in shame. Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” She experienced what Paul says in Romans 8:1...  

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus…”
— Romans 8:1 NKJV

It may have been sometime after this that Jesus cast out 7 demons out of Mary. He may have cast them out all at once or 7 consecutive times. Either way Mary was delivered, full of gratitude and now a fully devoted follower of Jesus. Therefore the next time we see her at His feet is at the potluck dinner with Martha, among the disciples, soaking up every word from Jesus. At this time Jesus comes to her defense with Martha, as we’ll soon see. Then when her brother Lazarus dies and Jesus returns to wake him, she falls down at His feet again. Then after Lazarus is raised to life and they have a feast in Jesus and Lazarus’s honor, Mary finds herself at Jesus' feet again wiping it with her tears, hair and costly perfume. Jesus comes to her defense again when some take issue with her costly worship. Oh, but the next time we see her near Jesus' feet is at the cross. Mary the other women and John were all near the foot of the cross as Jesus was dying for their sin. Then on resurrection Sunday when she saw the Lord, He said do not cling to Me for I have not yet ascended to My Father. In my preachers imagination, I see her rushing towards the Savior to fall down in holy awe, to cling to His feet, when He makes that statement. You see, Mary faithfully remained at Jesus’ feet throughout the Gospels, because she sensed her need of the Savior! 

    Peter had the same experience in Luke 5:8 when Jesus miraculously caused him to catch an abundance of fish. The Bible says, “When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” Peter sensed his need. He acknowledged his sinful condition. He didn’t try to explain his sin away or find some justification for it. He didn’t try to change his theology to make it fit his own desires, as some are trying to do today. He simply cast himself down at the feet of the Sin Barrier. It was there, like Mary, He found grace! Grace that is both pardon and power! This is why when many of Jesus followers left Him and He asked if the 12 were going to leave Him too, Peter turned around and said,“…Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” That’s why Mary is at this potluck sitting at the feet of Jesus. She was in the presence of the One who had the words of eternal life. And like the prodigal son, she had finally come home.

    You see, sitting at the feet of Jesus means you have a relationship with Him, the Person. Remember as a disciple, you were not just seeking to know the teachings of the Rabbi, but your main desire was to be with the Rabbi in order to become like the Rabbi Himself. The problem is that many of us are not experiencing the joy of this relationship, because we do not sense our need of Jesus. Maybe we’ve forgotten what life was like before we found Jesus. Or maybe you’ve been in the church all our life and have learned a lot about Him, but you don’t yet know Him. Adventism without Jesus is bankrupt! Dead! Oh, but when you truly encounter Jesus, it changes everything! When the Holy Spirit draws you to Jesus two things will happen. You will be convicted of your sinful condition. Don’t be discouraged! That’s a good thing, because then, in His presence, you are drawn to His love and grace. He frees you from your guilt and shame and gives you the gift of repentance. Then He causes you to grow in grace. It all comes out of the relationship! You don’t just come to Jesus once and then that's it. You come to Him every single day. Because you need Him! You got to be like Mary and remain at His feet.

    As Mary sat and listened to Jesus, the love of God was becoming clearer in her mind and heart, but not everyone was happy about that. The bible says in verse 40…


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