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.
Jesus – Jesus performed many miracles in the Bible, but by far the most incredible was raising the dead. Although there are a few resurrections documented in the Bible, Lazarus’ resurrection (John 11) is most known. Jesus, being the incredible teacher He was, planned to give the disciples and all of Jerusalem a very plain message. I AM HE.
The Disciples – Such a band of misfits the disciples really were. Fishermen, tax collectors, and such. Sinners who sat within reach of the Savior, but never truly got the whole picture -at least not until the end. Were they in for a surprise!
Martha – Look back with me to Luke 10:38-42 (NIV). Now do you remember Martha? One of two sisters that hosted the Lord in their home. Martha was the serious one, the responsible one, the worker. Yet, she must have been hospitable as it is her home that was opened to Jesus. She was going above-board to be the best hostess, maybe a little overboard. Martha reminds me of myself when I first got married and started entertaining – she was detail oriented, “making all the preparations.” We will also see later – she is assertive, direct.
Mary – Sweet, gentle Mary. Can you see her sitting at the feet of the Lord? That’s where we first find her, as Martha comes in to complain to Jesus that her sister isn’t helping. Mary is tender and sensitive, because when Lazarus dies, we are told she is grief-stricken. And Mary, she had friends. After Lazarus is dead, we are told once that Jews have come to comfort them (meaning the sisters), but twice that they have come to comfort Mary – to the point that they follow her on her way to meet Jesus outside the town. Earlier, Martha is seen going alone – perhaps, by her own wishes.
And Lazarus, who is Lazarus? Good question! All we know about Lazarus is a few things: he is the brother of Martha and Mary, he is from Bethany, and he became very sick and died.
Note, there is one important detail shared in reference to all three siblings – Jesus loved them!
Just from reading their introductions in the Bible, these are the “messages” I see behind the three people Jesus is about to use:
1. Martha – Make sure you are not so busy that you miss the big picture!
2. Mary – God loves a pure heart!
3. Lazarus – You don’t have to be a ‘somebody’ to be used by God!
For now, think about the characters listed above, and what they bring to the story. Do you see yourself in any of them? Next week, we will look at the beginning of the story, and how Jesus sets the stage for Lazarus’ triumphant return.
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