Luke 10 tells the world an episode in the life of Mary, Martha, and Jesus. Mary had been so drawn to Jesus that Martha complained to Jesus about it. Jesus’, though, said that Mary had done well. Mary loved Jesus and Jesus loved Mary. Mary’s manner was open, humble and interested. Mary set aside basic expectations (household chores) for the great advantage of being with Christ. In Mark 8 we see a crowd like Mary.
1 In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him and said to them, 2 “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. 3 And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.” (Mark 8:1-3–ESV)
Why is this crowd like Mary?
The crowd came to Jesus in a desolate place (verse 4). Some had traveled a long distance (verse 3). The crowd stayed to the point that basic necessities were drying up (verse 2). The draw of Christ exceeded personal needs (verse 2).
The people of this group came to Jesus and stayed with him through three days. He was undoubtedly teaching and instructing them and they were soaking it up. They would stay until the sunset, sleep, rise the following day and listen to more. This happened at least twice and the text does not suggest that they were argumentative nor hoping for a miracle. They were just there learning; it could be said that they, like Mary, were “sitting at the feet of Jesus.”
What does Jesus do with those who are interested?
Jesus cares, teaches and provides; that is what he does. In most cases the Pharisees had responded to Jesus’ teaching with malignant intrigue. This crowd responded to his teaching with interest and so those spiritually hungry people were filled. 1 Jesus loved to teach and the group here loved to listen. Remember the parable where we are told that he who has will be given more? That is in play with this crowd. They had spiritual interest and were given more spiritual insight.
Their blessings would not stop there though. They focused first on spiritual things and the earthly things were thrown in. A great miracle they experienced upon the heals of great teaching. The passage does not suggest that they endured the teaching to experience the miracle. The heart was right and the blessings were great. Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you as well.
It is easy to focus on the contentious moments in the ministry of Christ, but in this passage we see the shepherd-sheep pattern. Jesus is not colliding with them. Jesus is feeding them, and they are wanting to be fed. This love and devotion on the part of the people is what would fire the jealousies of the Pharisees. It is also what fired the compassion of Christ.
Mary was not perfect
The theme of being “like Mary” must be appropriately interpreted. A student of the scripture sees Mary at the feet of Jesus hungry and learning. Since the little we know of Mary is painted with positive brush strokes we risk our imagination running to too much excellence. Excellence is one thing, but perfection is a trait of Jesus alone. We are to aim for that2, and through the impact of Jesus upon our lives we will develop some of that. Attainment of perfection happens for the Christian upon their death not before.
Our hearts and the intentions of Satan are both deceptive and harmful. It is possible to read that this crowd was “like Mary” and then to discard it as a thing unattainable. Our minds may say, “yes, but I am like Martha.” Those who say that run the risk of self-disqualification which is a great error. It is one thing to recognize tendencies toward a Martha-style, but another thing entirely to go decide that tendencies are permanent. A mind that believes, “that is just the way I am” is defeated already. Jesus beckoned Martha to see a different viewpoint.
We do not earn the right to sit at Jesus’ feet. We must merely come as we are doing well to choose the better thing and let Jesus do his best thing. To look at this crowd is not to look at something unattainable.
To truly be “like Mary” is to recognize our own needs and to see in Jesus their solution.
What about the disciples?
- Time comes to practice lessons taught
- Jesus knew what he was going to do and invited the disciples to participate.
- Disciples did not know the answer
- Many times we will face quandaries and can do no more than ask Jesus the most basic of questions
- It is better to ask basic questions, obvious questions, even doubting questions than to turn away to our own things