You may recall that yesterday we read about Lazarus’ illness and how Jesus waited until He knew Lazarus was dead before He went to Bethany. Today the narrative picks up as Jesus neared Martha and Mary’s home. Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days by the time Jesus got there. Lazarus’ sisters Mary and Martha were both in mourning for their brother. But when Martha heard that Jesus was on His way she ran out to meet Him. Because of Bethany’s vicinity to Jerusalem, many Jews were at her home and she didn’t want Jesus to face any more danger than He already did. She also knew that Jesus could offer her comfort with the Word and Love of God. Martha and her family loved Jesus deeply. She knew He would need comfort as well. Verses 20-22 read,
“So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”
Martha offers up a lovely image of faith. Firstly, she tells Jesus had He been there Lazarus wouldn’t have died. She didn’t accuse Jesus of anything, she simply states that had Jesus been there, it would have been different, because the Father would grant Jesus whatever He asked. She understood that for some reason, Jesus had allowed Lazarus to die and she acceded to it. Her statement is profound. It reveals her acceptance of God’s sovereignty and Jesus unity with the Father. Verses 23-24 read,
“Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”
Even here, Martha’s faith is exhibited in her contentment with God’s will over her own. For four days people had been consoling her with words such as, “You will see your brother again in the resurrection” and “He is no longer suffering.” Martha knew Jesus didn’t offer empty consolation and yet His words must have sounded like the feeble attempts to solace her. She knew Jesus words were not empty. She comforted Jesus in acknowledging that yes, on the last day, Lazarus would rise again.
Verses 25-27 read,
“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
What a complex and intense teaching! And Jesus gave it to Martha. The beautiful thing is, Martha accepted it. She didn’t ask for clarification, she just accepted it by faith and proclaimed Jesus Christ. Her love for Jesus bore itself out in faith which allowed her to grasp Jesus’ sovereignty and His message. She received Jesus’ words, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”
Martha ran back to the house and told Mary that Jesus was there and waiting for her. So Mary went to meet Him. The many people gathered at the house for mourning followed her thinking she was going to her brother’s tomb. She ran to Jesus and fell at His feet crying and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (Verse 32). Jesus was moved by her weeping and the weeping of the many people who were with her. He asked where Lazarus had been laid and they led Him to the tomb.
Jesus was not cold. He was not stoic. He reached His friend’s tomb and He wept. While Jesus mourned the death of His friend, the crowd wondered why this supposedly great man who had healed a blind man didn’t heal Lazarus rather than let him die.
Verses 38-44 read,
“Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
This was truly the glory of God! Lazarus had been dead four days, decaying and Jesus brought Him back to life. He was careful to give God all the glory for the miracle. Mary and Martha’s belief was rewarded in a way that they never could have guessed. God’s purpose was revealed. Verse 45 reads,
“Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him,”
If Jesus had healed Lazarus and kept Him from dying, the people would have heard about it and said, “Oh how nice.” They had heard that Jesus had healed a blind man and that hadn’t been enough. Hearing about a friend being healed wouldn’t have done it. They had heard about Jesus but they needed to see Him. Because of the miracle of Lazarus, they saw Jesus and believed. I wonder who amongst those people were among the 120 gathered in the upper room on the day of Pentecost a year and half later. I wonder how many people those witnesses shared their encounter with and how many of those people believed.
Jesus didn’t want to let Lazarus die. He grieved the loss of the man deeply. Jesus obeyed the Father rather than do what He wanted and the impact was immense. Everyone knew that had Jesus been there, Lazarus wouldn’t have died. But if Lazarus hadn’t of died God wouldn’t have been glorified and all those who believed would have remained ignorant.
God is sovereign. It doesn’t always make sense in the moment to obey Him. But it always makes sense in His plan. Do you trust God? Do you truly and wholly? Do you obey your emotions and call that being led by the Spirit? Had Jesus obeyed His emotions, He would have healed Lazarus the moment He heard about His illness. Instead He obeyed His Father and though that meant facing pain, the outcome was well worth it.