John 11:17-27 Jesus & Martha
Jesus arrives near Bethany today. He came to “wake” Lazarus and He has brought His disciples with Him. Somehow news has reached Martha, Lazarus’ sister, that Jesus is nearby. I don’t know if it was announced to the whole household or quietly communicated to the two sisters. I’m not certain if even Mary knows of His arrival, but Martha certainly does.
When Jesus heard about Lazarus’ illness He stayed where He was for two more days. After that He traveled for two days. When they reach Bethany, Lazarus has already been in the grave for four days. The math in this scenario tells me that even if Jesus had left immediately upon hearing of Lazarus’ illness that He would have arrived after Lazarus had died. Jesus had raised many people from the dead shortly after they had passed. So His delaying was setting the stage for another unheard of miracle; like the healing of the man born blind.
The “Jews” that had seen the miracle of the blind man were at Mary and Martha’s house. We are told they were offering the sisters their sympathy. I’m wondering if they also had other motives for being there. Were they waiting to see if Jesus would show up? Were they still looking to stone Him? When we originally met this group, I thought they were religious leaders, but now I’m not so sure. It could have been a mixture of lay people and leaders. We are never really told. We do know though that some of them are still open to what Jesus is saying.
At any rate, Martha hears that Jesus is coming and she goes out to meet Him. Because of the type of personality Martha had, it is easy to see her consoling herself with activities of service. I imagine her in the kitchen baking something when she hears the news. Mary is sitting in the other room with many people around her, offering their presence as support for her.
Martha can easily slip away and come to where Jesus is. The first thing Martha says to Jesus is that He could have prevented this tragedy if only He had come when called. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (verse 21). She is right, but she is not taking Jesus’ plans into consideration, only her pain and loss. So often we think we know how God should work in some situation.
Martha’s next words make me wonder what she had in mind. “But even now I know that whatever You ask from God, God will give you” (verse 22). Did she have something specific she wanted Him to ask God for? Was she thinking about peace for her sister and herself? I’m positive she wasn’t thinking about Lazarus coming back from the dead. So what did she want Jesus to ask the father for?
Is she taken back by what Jesus says to her? “Your brother will rise again” (verse 23). Well of course he will, in the resurrection of the last day. Everybody knows that. Was she still thinking about what she wanted Him to ask the Father for now? Did she simply dismiss his words as cliché? Did she think He was simply offering her sympathy?
Jesus didn’t stop there though. He shared with her a truth that she would see fulfilled right before her eyes. She didn’t grasp the meaning and depth of it yet. Jesus was speaking of the physical and spiritual life. Lazarus had physically died but his belief in Jesus would bring him life beyond death. Those who died before Jesus’ sacrifice “momentarily” tasted death as they waited for the promise. Those who believe in Him after His atoning work will never know spiritual death. Once their dead spirits are given life, though their bodies cease their spirit remains alive. But for Lazarus that day Jesus words meant so much more!
Jesus asked Martha if she believed what He had said. Martha didn’t throw up any pretense of understanding what He had just said. She also didn’t tell Him what it was that she was desiring Him to ask the Father for. Instead she simply stated her profound faith in Him. “Yes, Lord; I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world” (verse 27). This statement mirrors her first statement in conviction and completes it. “I know that You can ask the Father for anything because You ARE His Son.” No doubt from her on this, even in her grief.
Lord Jesus, did You reach out and dry the tears from Martha’s eyes? Was her grief at losing her brother momentarily forgotten when she saw You? Lazarus was present in her mind for certain, but was she willing to go on wherever You would lead anyway? Was she hurt that You didn’t come? What was it she wanted You to ask for?
You had something grander than she could ever imagine waiting for her. Something that would change her life forever. She needed to hold on a little longer.
SO many times I think I know how You should move in a given situation. I try to force things to come out my pre conceived way, only to find out that my plan looked nothing like Yours. I am so glad You don’t wash Your hands of me when I make a mess “waiting for You” to catch up to my plan. You never leave me in the middle of my mess or tell me to go ahead and figure it out for myself. “You got yourself into it, you can get yourself out of it.” Thank You that instead You reach down and help me back up again. You help me clean up the mess I’ve made. You show me Your plan and ask me to believe in it, just like You did for Martha that day. “Do you believe this?” Yes Lord! I believe. Help my unbelief.