The Character of Worship

Some thoughts on Mary of Bethany

Jesus loved to stay in the home of Mary and Martha. The sisters lived with Lazarus their brother in Bethany, a village over the Mount of Olives on the road to Jericho. It was about two miles from Jerusalem, just a pleasant walk. The last week before the crucifixion our Lord stayed there at night and walked into Jerusalem every morning to do His teaching.

On an early visit there Luke records that Mary ‘sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore, tell her to help me’, Luke 10. 39- 40. Martha was a good housekeeper and was probably busy making the meal. It irritated her that Mary was oblivious to all the practical work that needed to be done. How could she be so very thoughtless? The Lord’s response is interesting. Instead of condemning Mary He commends her for her choice, ‘But one thing is needed and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her’, Luke 10. 42.

Life is full of choices and one needs to have one’s priorities right. Mary had chosen to sit at His feet rather than to be busy serving Him. Jesus said that this was a good choice. What can we learn from this story? Jesus said that worship must have priority over service. Worship will deepen the love of the disciple for his Lord. And without love for the Lord all service can become burdensome and tedious. Unless we love the Lord and do our service for Him we will become critical of others who, we feel are not doing enough. Work for the Lord should never eclipse worship.

What about the character of worship? Mary would teach us that it must be marked by humility. She sat at His feet, the low place. By so doing she also acknowledged that Jesus was her Lord, her Authority. Without repentance and humility one cannot truly worship. By her low place Mary also affirmed her loyalty and obedience to Him. Worship should always be a time of renewing our allegiance and submission to the one who is King of kings and Lord of lords. Mary had pushed out of her thinking all the concerns and cares of life and was focused on her Lord. Her eyes were on Him with rapt adoration as she heard His voice. She was intensely occupied with the Lord. It was a scene of deep quietness. Her heart was overflowing with love and adoration.

You may worship privately in your own home. This requires time, quiet, and a concentration of thought. It is stimulated by hearing His word as Mary did. And what about corporate worship as an assembly? Many feel that worship is entertainment and noise. A worship team is upfront with a band, the focus of attention by all. The music is often dominating and very loud. Our collective gathering to remember the Lord at the Lord’s Supper or Breaking of Bread should be a time of intense worship. It requires believers to switch off from the world and to forget the cares of the week. It is a time of quiet reflection and humility, a time of hearing His word. There is total occupation with the Lord and His great work on the cross for sinners. There is no one person up front holding the attention. It is a time when hearts are melted by His intense love for us and there is a surge of answering love in our own hearts. It is a time of renewing our affection for Him and of our devotion to Him. Christians should leave such a time with renewed commitment and holiness. Then they will be ready to serve the Lord. It is thus that we may learn from Mary some of the lessons of worship.


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