Mary, Martha, & the raising of Lazarus
Have you ever waited for God to fix a situation, wondering how and when God would finally show up? Most of us have been there. We prayed for God to come. We needed God right away. We waited, and waited, wondering if and when God would answer our prayer and resolve our circumstance. The timing was certainly not our choice. To be honest, we would have handled it differently. Yet, ultimately, we are left with a personal testimony of God’s grace and mercy. God fixed it! Now, we are the walking, talking, living witness of the wonder working power of God who is always on time! What a mighty God we serve! We understand this bible verse: “For your thoughts are not my thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55: 8-9).
No matter how forward thinking our intellect; no matter our advanced technologies; no matter the sophistication of our cultures; no matter the complexities of our world, humanity will never embrace, approach, or fathom the incomprehensible, holy, indiscernible, mysterious, indecipherable ways of the Lord. God is God all by God’s self – Ancient of Days, supreme, righteous, just, compassionate, loving, merciful, awesome, and infinite. In fact, God defies all of our feeble attempts to define and qualify God’s holy character.
This is why each time we attempt to place God in a box, the situation is futile because God will show up and show out; just to let us know He still reigns in the earth and the heavens, without any assistance from us.
So, in the text for our consideration, we find the two sisters, Mary & Martha, who did what we so often do ourselves: place God in a box of their own choosing. These sisters discover that their distorted religious traditions, and preconceived notions about Jesus were warped and wrong. Jesus teaches them, and the text teaches us, what has become a much repeated aphorism of the Church: “He may not come when you want Him to; but, He’s always on time!
Their situation, which seemed impossible, becomes a miracle, not only for the brother Lazarus; but for them, and also for the crowd gathered for a funeral. Instead of the expectation of grieving their brother, and bidding him the final farewell; Jesus comes to reverse the
understandings of all who have gathered for the solemn event. God is glorified and Jesus is the catalyst for the miracle which will forever change the lives of the two sisters who have followed Him; but did not quite understand WHO HE IS, until Jesus wins the victory over the grave of their beloved brother.
The miracle which Jesus provides for this family is unprecedented. While Mary and Martha, disciples of Jesus, have heard or witnessed the healings of Jesus for others, the raising of their brother Lazarus is life changing for them. Mary and Martha, who believed that they knew Jesus, go to a higher level of spiritual consciousness in the Lord, when they confront their own limited expectations of Jesus’ power and authority. The victory over their brother’s grave belongs to Jesus, Lazarus, and to the sisters, Mary & Martha. The miracle of the raising of Lazarus is as much theirs, as it is their brother’s. Lazarus becomes the Living Proof of Jesus’ divine power and authority, and the sisters become Living Witnesses of the same. Their assignment is to tell the story to others, so that all may believe God’s Son, who is Jesus, is The Christ.
Jesus teaches Mary and Martha, as well as us, that we must release our preconceived notions of what is impossible for Him, to embrace the miracle of His divine presence and power. When we are able to do this, we become victorious in Christ, and the living proof of Jesus’ resurrecting power for and in our lives.
And now THE WORD from Our Sponsor……………………………………………………………………..
John 11: 1-45
11 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
4 When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, 7 and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
8 “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”
9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. 10 It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”
11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”
12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
17On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed home..1 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.
32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
35 Jesus wept.
36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” Jesus once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said,
“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.
One of the most powerful methodologies of the gospel accounts is the location principle operative. Just as Jesus crafted his parables to invite his audience to identify themselves in his stories, most of the gospel narratives are written in this same way. The evangelists, Mark, Matthew, Luke, & John wrote most of their stories to engage their audiences in ways that would teach the lesson by way of the this principle. So, for instance, in the well known and loved story of The Prodigal Son, Jesus tells the story, and Luke records it, so that the audience will either identify with the wayward son, or the embittered older brother. Upon connecting one’s self to either one of the figures in the parable, the lesson is learned and embraced. This is the location principle of the gospel accounts.
In the story of the raising of Lazarus, the same principle is engaged by John, the Evangelist. As the narrative opens, we find Jesus far away from the maddening crowd with His disciples. Jesus crosses the Jordan River and remains there because there are so many attempts on his life from a throng of enemies. So, in Chapter 11, of John’s gospel, Lazarus, beloved brother of Mary and Martha, and friend of Jesus, has suddenly taken ill. The illness is so serious that his distraught sisters send a message to Jesus to let him know: “Lord, the one whom you love is ill.” Jesus gets the message. This is what the text reports. Surprisingly, however; Jesus and his disciples stay across the Jordan river for two more days, even as Lazarus’ condition changes for the worst.
Remember, as a contemporary audience, we have the benefit of looking backwards in time, so Jesus’ behavior towards this family, whom He loved, does not seem strange or egregious to us. Yet, to Mary and Martha, who were living through the event, Jesus’ behavior towards their circumstance was wholly unacceptable to them. Mary and Martha, who were among Jesus’ most faithful friends and followers (and supporters of His ministry), knew all about the healings Jesus performed for strangers: Gentiles, Samaritans, and even Romans! These were people that Jesus did not know, nor to whom he had any personal relationship. So, when Jesus was informed of the serious nature of their brother’s illness; but, did not come, you can “feel” Mary and Martha’s indignation and disappointment in the narrative.
When Jesus finally arrives, not only does he have to deal with the apparent hurt and confused feelings of his friends, Mary and Martha; but, also the curious on-lookers, the professional mourners, and the cunning presence of His enemies (the Pharisees and Sadducees), whom have decided this was another chance to trap Jesus by his words and deeds.
Jesus stays away until the fourth day; however, for a specific purpose and reason. Most Jews believed that the spirit of a dead person’s body hovered over it for three days. The fourth day, in their belief system, was when the spirit and the body finally separated. Jesus does not come to Mary and Martha until the fourth day, when it would be a certainty (to the crowd) that the body and spirit disconnected. In other words, until Lazarus was “good and dead.” So, Jesus comes, first to glorify God, which we find upon reading this narrative.
The story also shows how much Jesus loved Mary, Martha, and brother Lazarus. The narrative shows the tender compassion of Jesus who weeps for his friends. Even the crowd remarks of how Jesus is moved at the grief and mourning of Mary and Martha. Most of all, the narrative reports how Jesus “checks” the limited expectations of His friends.
In private dialogue with Martha, Jesus provides an astonishing revelation which only she hears: “I AM THE RESURRECTION, AND THE LIFE! This proclamation is not revealed to Jesus’ disciples, instead, Martha is the first to receive and carry out this divine revelation. Martha learns from her friend Jesus that death is but a transition; it cannot break the bond between the believer and her Savior. Once again in the gospel accounts, we are witness to the power and providence of Jesus’ friendship with women. WHAT A FRIEND WE HAVE IN JESUS!
Finally, through their story, we understand we are to be the living witnesses of the miraculous, resurrecting power of Jesus. By telling our story to others, they will believe. Our name is VICTORY! We are the LIVING PROOF!
QUESTIONS FOR OUR CONSIDERATION
In this story, who are you? Are you Mary, Martha, Lazarus, the mourners, the on-lookers, or the doubters? Explain?
Why do you think Jesus tells the crowd to remove the stone and take off Lazarus’ grave clothes?
When Jesus weeps in front of the crowd, how does this make you feel? Does Jesus’ actions in this story challenge any preconceived notions you may have about Him?
What does this story teach us about managing our expectations and needs for our lives, as we wait on Jesus?
How are you prepared to share your testimony with others? How do you think Martha, Lazarus, and Mary shared theirs?
There are tombs which imprison us and deaden our spirits well before the grave. What tombs are keeping you (or persons you love) from the fullness of life in the present. How can we release ourselves from these tombs?
Final thought: Every woman has a story and every woman’s story matters to God. Be sure to share yours!
God of the empty tomb,
We long for the fullness of life in You.
You offer abundantly life on both sides of the tomb.
Summon us out of our grave clothes that deaden our souls, so we may
embrace the joys and possibilities of life which come from relationship
in You. AMEN!!!!
The enclosed materials are the property of Maxine (Angie) Garrett and Tabitha’s daughters. They may be used by you with our permission which my be revoked at any time. All copies of the material must include the following notice: “This material is Copyright , and is distributed with permission.”
written by Evangelist Maxine (Angie) Garrett