The sisters, Mary and Martha, are two more women that we read about in Jesus’ life. John 11, tells about a time when their brother, Lazarus is very sick and eventually dies. Jesus is a two-day journey away and yet when He hears the news, He doesn’t just pick up and go. He waits.
The disciples may have thought that Jesus stayed where He was because the Jews in Judea were trying to stone Jesus (v. 8). But Jesus had a much bigger reason than that, something that would bring more glory to His Father. Jesus said, “This will help you believe…” (v. 15).
I don’t know about you, but I would be offended by Jesus’ delay. My good friend, Jesus, has the power to heal and He doesn’t come running to help when I call Him. It seems that the sisters felt a bit offended as well and may have had a few conversations about it because when they see Jesus, they say exactly the same thing to Him, “If you had been here my brother would not have died.” I’ve had a few conversations like that myself, “If only Jesus would ________!” Just fill in the blank.
But let’s get back to the sisters. First Martha (of course) comes out to meet Jesus while He’s still on the way. She still can’t wait. I love her. In the midst of her offense, she still believes He can do anything. It’s as if to say, “I know plan A didn’t happen, but You must have a plan B in mind, right?” Jesus assures Martha that Lazarus will rise again. But Martha wants specifics (you go girl!), and replies with her belief that her brother will be raised with everyone else “in the resurrection at the last day (v. 24).”
So what did Jesus’ offense reveal about Martha? I see a heart that longs to understand. Even in her confusion about what Jesus is doing, she comes to him, honestly confronts Him, and states her belief in who He is. Jesus reveals Himself to her in plain language, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying….Do you believe this, Martha?” Her reply is a proclamation and is just as profound as the one Peter makes in Luke 9:18-20. She says, “Yes, Lord, I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.”
And where is Mary? She is grieving. She must be told that Jesus is here. Her first impulse is to return to the place she loves, she falls at Jesus’ feet. She is desperate for Him, and yet the same words flow, “If only…” Even in her offense, Mary is steadfast. She holds to Jesus. Her heart is revealed by her actions.
Seeing His friends grieve, even with the knowledge that a miracle is just minutes away, Jesus takes time to feel. He joins in their weeping. He reveals His own heart.
Could it be that our hard lessons in faith are hard on the Savior as well?
You know the rest of the story. Martha is unsure about moving the stone – the stink will be awful. But Jesus is not deterred. The One who is Life brings life. Jesus’ way of handling this situation bestows salvation not only to a family but also to the community. His ways are always higher than our ways.
Some of my lingering questions:
- Since the stone was rolled away, could they see life return to a rotting body?
- Did the smell disappear when life came?
- What did Lazarus say?
Sometimes I wish there was a gospel written by one of the women. We love details and she wouldn’t have let us down! I guess I’ll wait to ask Jesus when I see Him face to face.
So what can I learn from Mary and Martha? There will be times in my life when I don’t understand the timing of Jesus. Will I run to Him and sit at His feet? Will I remind myself of who Jesus is and stand on what I know to be true? Will I wait for His solutions and get the greater blessing for it?
I hope so. That is my heart’s desire.