Luke 10:39

ESV And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.
NIV She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said.
NASB And she had a sister called Mary, who was also seated at the Lord’s feet, and was listening to His word.
CSB She had a sister named Mary, who also sat at the Lord's feet and was listening to what he said.
NLT Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught.
KJV And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word.

What does Luke 10:39 mean?

Jesus is teaching at Martha's home (Luke 10:38). Martha is burdened by the honor of hosting Jesus and has busied herself with preparations. In that era, women were expected to serve, not learn, and hospitality was a crucial social obligation. Her sister, Mary, is more interested in what Jesus can give (Luke 10:40). As this passage will explain, Martha's mind is set on good things—but not the best things. She is distracted by customs and traditions, while Mary's focus is on what is most important.

"Mary" is Mary of Bethany. She is the sister of Martha and of Lazarus whom Jesus rose from the dead (John 11). She anointed Jesus with ointment in the Passion Week (John 12:1–8). She is neither Mary Magdalene (Mark 15:40, 47; 16:1) Mary the wife of Clopas and mother of James the younger (Mark 15:40, 47; 16:1; John 19:25), Mary the mother of John Mark (Acts 12:12), nor Mary of Rome (Romans 16:6). And, of course, she's not Jesus' mother.

Mary's actions are intentional. That she "sat" doesn't merely refer to her physical position, but to the choice to stay near Jesus and learn. It could also be part of an idiom—"sat at the feet of"—to denote rabbinical discipleship. Mary leaves her sister behind (Luke 10:40); it's not clear if she started to help Martha and left before they'd finished, or if she chose to stay with Jesus from the beginning. What is certain is that Mary chooses to sit and listen to Jesus despite other demands for her attention.

"At the Lord's feet" is the place of a disciple. The apostle Paul said he was "educated at the feet of Gamaliel" (Acts 22:3). That Mary of Bethany "sat at the feet of Jesus" implies a discipleship relationship. Unlike many rabbis, Jesus welcomes women. That includes those who serve and support Him (Luke 8:1–3), but also those who simply wish to listen and learn. In Jesus' era, women were not taught aspects of the Law unless they directly applied to them. Nor did they learn from men: their lessons were given by mothers, mothers-in-law, sisters, or older women. But Jesus is willing to teach all. Interestingly, particularly in the gospel of Luke, there are multiple male-female story pairings, including in Jesus' parables (i.e., Luke 1:46–55, 67–79; 2:22–38; 7:1–17, 36–50; 15:1–7, 8–10; 18:1–8, 9–14). Jesus did not simply allow women to listen in; He intentionally invited them in.

Jesus is referred to as "Lord" three times in five verses in this passage. He is clearly represented as the highest authority in the scene. This is why Martha appeals to Him to tell Mary to help her (Luke 10:40). Mary knows it is more respectful to learn about Him when He teaches than to provide service.
What is the Gospel?
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