Do you feel that religion is absolutely necessary for you? Do you find that you need it at all times and in all things? Is it in your estimation of supreme importance?
In Luke’s gospel, Jesus told Martha: “you are worried and upset about many things. But only one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42).
The mere posture of sitting down and listening to the Saviour’s word was nothing in itself: it was that which it indicated. It indicated, in Mary’s case, a readiness to believe what the Saviour taught, to accept and to obey—nay to delight in, the precepts which fell from his lips. And this is the one thing needful—absolutely needful.
To sit at Jesus’ feet implies faith as well as submission. Mary believed in what Jesus said, and, therefore, sat there to be taught by him. It is absolutely necessary that we have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, in his power as God and man, in his death as being expiatory, in his crucifixion as being a sacrifice for our sins. We must trust him for time and eternity, in all his relationships as Prophet, Priest, and King. We must rely on him; he must be our hope, our salvation, our all in all. This one thing is absolutely necessary: without it we are undone.
But sitting at Jesus’ feet implies, also, that having submitted and believed, we now desire to be his disciples. Discipleship is too often forgotten; it is as needful as faith. We are to go into all the world and disciple all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and of the Holy Spirit. A man cannot be saved unless he has become a learner in the school of Christ, and a learner, too, in a practical sense, being willing to practice what he learns. Only he who does the Master’s will knows his doctrines. The believer’s position is that of a pupil, and the Lord Jesus is his teacher. Except we be converted and become as little children, we can in no wise enter the kingdom of heaven. Sitting at the feet of Jesus indicates the child-like spirit of true discipleship; and this is the one thing needful: there is no salvation apart from it.
It meant, also, service, for though Mary was not apparently engaged in waiting upon Christ as Martha was, yet she was, in very truth, ministering unto him in a deeper and truer sense. No one gives greater joy to a public speaker than an attentive listener; no one serves a teacher better than he who is an apt and attentive scholar. The first duty, indeed, of the student to the tutor is that he be cheerful in accepting, and diligent in retaining, what is taught: in this sense, Mary was really waiting upon Christ in one of his loftiest capacities, namely—that of a teacher and prophet in the midst of Israel.
Sitting at the feet of Jesus, also, signifies love. She would not have been sitting there at ease and happy in mind, if she had not loved him. There was a charm in the very tone of his words to her. She knew how he had loved her, and, therefore, each syllable was music to her soul. She looked up again and again, I doubt not, into that dear face, and often caught the meaning of the words more readily as she read his countenance, marked his eyes ofttimes suffused with tears, and ever bright with holy sympathy. Her love to his person made her a willing learner, and we must be the same. We must not learn of Christ like unwilling truant boys, who go to school and must needs have learning flogged into them; we must be eager to learn; we must open our mouth wide that he may fill it, like the thirsty earth when it needs the shower, our soul must break for the longing it hath towards his commandments at all times. We must rejoice in his statutes more than gold, yea, than much fine gold. When we are moved by this spirit, we have found the one thing needful.
Have we been very busy this week, and have been drifted from our moorings; have we not lived with our Lord in conscious fellowship; have we been full of care and empty of prayer; have we not committed our sorrows to our loving friend; have we blundered on in duty without asking his guidance or assistance, have we not maintained, in our Christian service, the communion of our spirit with the Well-Beloved, and, if such has been the case, let us pause and say to ourselves: “To me, as a worker, the one thing needful is to keep near my Lord, and I must not neglect my own heart and soul, lest I should have to say ‘woe is me, they made me keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard have I not kept.'” To the saints, as well as to others, the one thing needful is to sit at Jesus’ feet. We are to be always learners and lovers of Jesus. Departure from him, and independence of him, let them not once be named among us. It is weakness, sickness, sin, and sorrow for a believer to leave his Lord and become either his own leader or reliance. May God help us to benefit thereby.
All the efforts of grace are needed to preserve men from being ensnared with the deceitfulness of riches and the cares of this life. The ledger demands you, the day-book wants you, the shop requires you, the warehouse bell rings for you; the theatre invites, the ball-room calls: you must live, you say, and you must have a little enjoyment, and, consequently, you give your heart to the world. These things are very entangling; but we must be disentangled from them, for we cannot afford to lose our souls. In order to enter heaven, it is necessary that our nature should become like the nature of Christ. By sitting at His feet, and beholding Him, we become changed into the same image from glory to glory even as by the Spirit of the Lord. Some things in this world are necessary, after a measure, but this is necessary without measure; infinitely needful is it that you sit at Jesus’ feet, needful now, needful in life; needful in life for peace, in death for rest, and in eternity for bliss. This is needful always. Many things have their uses for youth, others come not into value till old age; but one thing, the one thing, is needful for childhood, and needful for palsied age; it is needful for the ruddy cheek, and the active limb, and needful upon the sick bed; needful in the world, and in the Church, needful everywhere, and always. In the highest and most emphatic sense, “one thing is needful.”
“One thing is needful.” I am glad it says “one thing,” because a division of ends and objects is always weakening. A man cannot follow two things well. Our life-blood suffices not to fill two streams or three; there is only enough water, as it were, in our life’s brooklet, to turn one wheel. It is a great pity when a man fritters away his energies by being “everything by turns, and nothing long”; trying all things, and mastering nothing. Oh, soul, it is well for thee that there is only one thing in this world that is absolutely necessary, give thy whole soul to that. If other things are necessary in a secondary place, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these shall be added unto you.” One thing is needful, and this is well arranged, for we cannot follow two things. If Christ be one of them, we cannot follow another. It is an unspeakable mercy that the one thing needful is a very simple one. Little child, you could not climb the mountain, but you can sit down at Jesus’ feet; you cannot understand hard doctrine, but you can love Him.
One thing is a necessity, a necessity not of the future only, but of today. It is not written, “it shall be needful, on certain coming days, to sit at Jesus feet; but it is so now. Christian, it is needful for you today to have communion with Christ; do not think of it as indispensable tomorrow or tonight at the communion table; it is needful now. There are dangers you cannot see, which can only be warded off by present and immediate fellowship with Christ. “One thing is needful.” It is not that it was needful in the past, indeed it was so; but it is needful now. It was needful for me in the days of my sinfulness to submit to Christ, it is equally needful for me now. However much we advance, O believer, we never advance beyond this; whatever our experience, or our formation, or our ripeness for glory, it is needful still to sit at Jesus’ feet. We shall never get into a higher class in the school of wisdom than is the class which Christ teaches; his is the infant class in the school, but it is the highest class also. It is always needful, every moment needful, that we sit at Jesus’ feet.
Let us tell the Lord how much we need Him with the song “I Need Thee Every Hour”: