JOHN 11:3,21, 22, 40—“So the sisters sent to Him saying, Lord, he whom You love so well is sick.” “Martha then said to Jesus, Master, if You had been here my brother would not have died. And even now I know that whatever You ask from God He will grant to you.” “Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you and promise you that if you would believe and rely on Me, you should see the glory of God?’” (Amplified Bible)
There is so much to be extracted from these passages—so many side stories within the one main invent that I found it impossible to contain everything in one blog. So I am dividing this into two segments. Today we will concentrate on the part all three characters play in this scenario and next time we will look at lessons we can learn from the narrative.
I want us to consider several important concepts to be gleaned from these passages. And as you read keep in mind that these people were exactly like you and me. Sometimes we think people we read about in the Bible were super human or God imbued them with special qualities that enabled them to rise above normalcy. But dear readers knowing they had the same human tendencies, emotions, weaknesses, temptations, struggles, lived life, maneuvered around it, and reacted to it exactly the same way we do—knowing that expands the impact these characters can have on us today.
At the beginning of this scenario we gain an interesting insight into the humanness of these two ladies—Mary and Martha. When they sent word to Jesus they used the phrase, “he whom you love so well is sick.” I have always felt this was totally intentional. They could just as easily have said, “Lazarus is really ill” or “your friend is very sick.” I think they were trying to use a bit of psychology on Jesus and tug at His compassionate heart strings. Perhaps they were hoping to instill a huge dose of guilt by reminding Jesus how much He loved their brother. Or perhaps they wanted to be sure He knew they expected him to respond with a sense of urgency. I am thinking they may have been playing the “very close friendship” card—that since they were a part of Jesus’ inner circle they had a right to impose upon Him.
How very disappointed and hurt Mary and Martha must have been that Jesus did not come to heal Lazarus and they must have been so bewildered at His seeming heartlessness and indifference. Not at all the response they would have anticipated. Why would He not answer their request?
And then what about Lazarus? I cannot imagine his confusion as to why his dear friend would seemingly just ignore him and let him die when Jesus could have so easily healed him even from a distance. We certainly have examples of a precedent of long distance healing by Jesus—the Centurion’s servant recorded in Matthew; the Capernaum official’s son recorded in John. And note these were people with whom Jesus had never even had any interaction. So they certainly were not at the friendship status.
Another aspect I find interesting is how when push came to shove Martha is the one who is standing with Jesus at the graveside. She is the one confirming her faith in Jesus that even now He has the power to resolve this tragic situation. Mary, the one Jesus had applauded for sitting with Him and choosing the best use of her time while Martha sweated the small stuff, is no where to be found at first. It is not until later that she comes into the picture.
And speaking of Mary—where was she? Scripture tells us that Martha went out to meet Jesus when He arrived but “Mary stayed at home.”(John 11:20) This is purely conjecture on my part because John does not divulge this information. But perhaps she was having some trust issues just like all of us have sometimes experienced. After all her friend, her Lord whom she had so worshipfully adored had not come through as anticipated.
Next time we will look at how Jesus fulfilled His promise to Martha that she would “see the glory of God” as well as some life lessons we can take away from this story.