Can I be honest with you for a minute? When I first read of Jesus’ visit to the home of Martha and Mary, I agreed with Martha. I identify with her! After all, what more important guests could you have in your home than Jesus and His disciples. Breakout the fine china and linens; there are guests to impress!
But wait, to agree with Martha means I must disagree with Jesus! Well, I’m not going there, so, let’s dig deeper into Mary’s story. Perhaps she will teach you and me something about being a Mary in a Martha world.
In Luke 10:38-42, Mary of Bethany enters the story:
As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”
But the Lord said to her. “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” NLT
In John 11, though a message sent to Jesus by Martha and Mary, we learn that Lazarus, a dear friend of Jesus and brother to the sisters, is sick and dying. This gives us the knowledge that Jesus had an ongoing relationship with Martha and Mary. They were also His dear friends. They knew Him, not just of Him, but directly knew Him!
However, Jesus doesn’t arrive in Bethany until after His friend’s death. As He neared the town, Martha rushed out to meet Him, but Mary stayed home. Why did she stay home? Wouldn’t the proper thing be to meet Him just as Martha had done? Isn’t that what everyone would expect? Mary does go to meet Jesus, but only after she’s told that Jesus wants to see her.
This is part 3 of a 3-part series. Consider reading John 11:17-44 prior to reading this post.
So as we move on with our story – Jesus has arrived in Bethany, not far from Jerusalem. It has been 4 days since Lazarus’ death. Take note of the number of days. 4 days leaves nothing to chance, 4 days means finality, 4 days means only He could be the Messiah, because only the Messiah could cause death to retreat in its tracks.
As Jesus nears the city, word gets back to Martha He is coming. Being the assertive sister, she goes to meet Jesus just outside the city.
When Martha got word that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him. But Mary stayed in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.” John 11:20-22*
Martha has faith, but has limited the options it can produce. Even after Jesus tells her Lazarus will live again, she continues to misunderstand the gravity of Jesus’ remarks.
This is part 2 of a 3-part series. Today, consider reading John 11:1-16 prior to reading this post.
As chapter 11 begins, we see that Lazarus is sick and his sisters, Martha and Mary, have sent word to Jesus (verse 3). Surely, their friend, but more importantly their Messiah, would come quickly. However, instead of leaving immediately, Jesus stays where He is, not just for the moment, but for two whole days. His only remark:
But when Jesus heard about it he said, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.” John 11:4*
Imagine the disciples listening to Jesus calmly state Lazarus’ illness would not end in death. Several things could have been assumed:
1. Jesus did not feel compelled to leave the city He was in due to bigger, more pressing priorities. Sure, Jesus loved Lazarus, but did Lazarus’ family really expect Jesus to just drop everything and come to them? Thousands of people wanted the Messiah’s attention. How could Jesus show such favoritism to one when He was needed by so many?
I remember as a little girl in Sunday School some really terrific Bible stories. I had some great teachers who knew how to make Bible stories just jump off the page. One of the stories told over and over was the raising of Lazarus from the dead. As a kid, it was the coolest magic trick Jesus did. Now that I am older and wiser, I know the story of Lazarus coming back to life was much more than a trick, it was proof of the power of Jesus.
But, who the heck is Lazarus anyway? And doesn’t the names Martha and Mary sound familiar?
Before we get to the ‘good’ part of the story, let’s step back a little and gain some perspective on the characters in this story: Jesus, the disciples, Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. Most especially, we need to understand the relationship between Jesus and Martha, Mary, and Lazarus.