“…Martha welcomed Jesus into her home. And she had a sister called Mary, who moreover was listening to the Lord’s word, seated at His feet.”
Mary of Bethany is one of the most unique characters found in all of scripture. She is mentioned in all four of the Gospels. Every mention of her name finds her location the same…at the feet of Jesus. She listened at His feet, she wept at His feet, and she anointed His feet. Her physical location discloses for us the spiritual location of her heart, a place of humility and passionate desire.
Why would Mary continually position herself at the feet of the Lord? Had He forgiven her of some terrible sin or equally grievous transgression? Perhaps…but just maybe the secret of her desire lay in the root meaning of her name. “Mary” was a common name in N.T. times and was a Greek derivative of the Hebrew name “Miriam,” who was the sister of Moses and Aaron. The root meaning is “bitterness.” Perhaps Mary’s nature was captured in the descriptive meaning her name.
Bitterness is often the result of a grievous injustice, a deep wound, or a terrible trauma. It is unrequited anger turned inward, instead of at the source of the wrong. Left to its own, bitterness claims and controls the thoughts of the head and ultimately poisons the desire and the longings of the heart. Bitterness painfully destroys an individual from the inside out like an insidious cancer that spreads from organ to organ. Bitterness left untended always results in emotional wreckage and spiritual famine.
But why sit at the feet of Jesus? Why not look eyeball to eyeball and argue your case to the very One who is the source of justice? The reason is that bitterness is never dealt with through justice. Bitterness must be dealt with through humility and forgiveness. Where better to learn humility than at the feet of humility personified. Where better to learn forgiveness than at the feet of the very One God the Father sent to bring forgiveness to a condemned and dying humanity.
Perhaps Mary sat at Jesus’ feet to hear instead of to be heard. In hearing His words she found the answer to her need for justice, her longing for acceptance, or her desire for unconditional love. In those moments, as the soothing sound of His voice and the power of His words flowed, the bitterness she had experienced over a lifetime simply melted away as heaven’s grace flowed into her pain and emptiness like a rain shower on parched dry ground.
Perhaps Mary sat at Jesus’ feet to be held instead of to hold. As He gently touched her face or stroked her long dark hair, the disappointment and rejection of a lifetime evaporated from the intense heat of a heart filled with unconditional love. No longer rejected but now accepted, Mary blossomed and began to produce the fruit of humility as the Light of heaven shone brightly into her now accessible and fertile heart.
Perhaps your longing is the same as Mary’s, to be accepted and in that acceptance changed from bitter to humble. Perhaps you really desire to hear more than to be heard or held more than to hold. Today, if this is the need of your soul, kneel at the feet of the One who desires with all His heart to hold you and whisper His words of comfort not just into your ears but into you heart as well. Mary’s posture positioned her for a marvelous posterity of which Jesus pointed to when He said, “Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done shall also be spoken of in memory of her” (Matt. 26:13). Is the present posture of your heart positioning you for marvelous posterity or just more problems?