So, we have been introduced to Lazarus of Bethany, and re-introduced to his sisters, Martha and Mary. In our lesson last week, we saw that Lazarus had gotten sick and that his sisters had sent this message to Jesus. Yet, we saw that Jesus delayed and told us that there was a divine purpose behind Lazarus’ sickness. Our lesson this week immediately picks up with what happens next. This week’s lesson is being taught from John 11:17-32.
Now, we saw in our lesson last week that Lazarus had died in between the time the messenger from the sisters arrived to Jesus and Jesus’ leaving of Bethabara (John 11:12-14). Our lesson opens by telling us that when Jesus had arrived at Bethany and Lazarus’s body had been laying in the tomb for four days (v.17). So, if we put all of that together, Lazarus may have died the day that the messenger left Bethany to go to Jesus. Lazarus, it seems, must’ve been buried the day he died as well. Day 1: the messenger goes to Jesus. Day 2 and 3: Jesus remained in Bethabara. Day 4: Jesus and the disciples go to and arrive at Bethany.
The next verse in our lesson tells us that Bethany to Jerusalem was fifteen furlongs (or two miles) (v.18). As I mentioned in last week’s lesson, the Jews could walk from Jerusalem to Bethany in little time to hear Jesus when He came to Bethany. We actually see that many of the Jews had come to see Martha and Mary after they had heard about the passing of Lazarus (v.19). If we remember what Jesus said in our lesson last week, Lazarus’ death was for a divine purpose. We see that there would be many people in Jerusalem to witness the raising of Lazarus from the dead.
Martha confronts Jesus
After Jesus had arrived, word of His arrival had reached Martha. I try to put myself in their shoes and imagine what the two sisters must have been feeling at that time. (I believe we will see that both sisters were grieving in their own way). Martha rushed to meet Jesus while Mary sat in the house (v.20). Word of Jesus’ arrival seems to only have been given to Martha and later scripture will make this clear.
I feel that Mary was in great grief over her brother’s death and wasn’t up and about like Martha who was probably trying to be a host to all the visitors they had. I imagine that Martha was trying to keep busy in her grief while Mary just wanted to mourn. I believe these are two human and emotional responses that many of us have when we grieve.
Martha, we always assume, appears to be somewhat frustrated but I will tell you that she is also at peace now that Jesus was there (vss.21-22). I should note that both women were women of great faith. Mary would sit at the feet of Jesus and learn, as I mentioned last week. Martha, I believe, also demonstrates having a great amount of faith. She says to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”
To some this may sound like she’s blaming Jesus for not getting to Bethany quicker than He did – maybe it is, but I don’t think so. The reason I say this is because I believe Lazarus died shortly after the messenger left to deliver word to Jesus. It also, in my opinion, shows that she had a great deal of faith in Christ because she knew had He been there, Lazarus certainly wouldn’t have ever died. Jesus said this would have indeed been the case to the disciples in our lesson last week (John 11:15).
Jesus’ comfort to Martha
I believe all believers should have this kind of faith in the Lord. We know that everything is going to be alright if we can just feel God’s presence with us. (He is always with us but sometimes we feel alone). When we pray our prayers of faith to the Lord, we know that everything is going to be alright. The best thing is knowing that when we need His comfort, that God is certainly going to comfort us and we see Jesus do just that for Martha.
Jesus says to Martha, “Your brother will rise again (v.23).” Again, let’s show you how well studied this woman was. She heard Jesus say this, and she says in her faith, “Of course I know he’s going to rise during the resurrection at the last day when all saints will rise.” Her and her sister had done had Jesus in their house teaching and preaching often, so the resurrection of the saints was something she had heard from Him personally. Not only that, but Martha believed in the resurrection of those that sleep in Christ!
Of the resurrection, Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever live and believe in me shall never die.” What is Jesus saying to Martha? He even asks her saying that, “do you believe this (vss.25-26)?”
I think it is interesting that Jesus uses the word ‘dead’ when He was speaking there in this instance. Mostly because, as we saw last week, the Lord views physical death as a sleep and death as the second death – spiritual death. Yet, here in this instance, I believe Jesus to have been speaking plainly about physical death and the resurrection. He says that He is the resurrection, meaning that all resurrection comes through Him.
Jesus begins to speak about what we call the Rapture – when all the dead in Christ will rise (1 Thess. 4:16-18). The scripture from 1 Thessalonians is typically a passage of scripture that we preachers will read at a funeral to bring comfort. Jesus speaks of the resurrection by saying that those who are dead (or asleep) in Christ (believed in Him) will rise (live). He also stated that those who happen to be living at the time and believe in Him, will never die. Paul wrote that the living would be transformed in the twinkle of an eye (1 Cor. 15:51-53).
We saw that Jesus had asked her whether she believed in the resurrection to which she replied that she did believe (v.27). She said, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” I believe this is a question that all have to answer and believe. The true and genuine believer cannot pick and choose the parts of Christ that they want to believe – we have to believe all of Him! Too often, it seems that many people try to pick and choose the parts of Christ that they want to believe but that is not true and genuine faith.
Mary rushes to Jesus
After speaking with Jesus, Martha goes to get Mary so that Mary could come see Jesus (v.28). I truly believe Martha was the older sister. I believe this because of how she seemed to carry herself with a great deal of responsibility and leadership. I mentioned last week about the time where she served as a host when Jesus had previously come to her home while her sister sat at the feet of Jesus. She got upset with Mary because Mary wasn’t helping her as she figured should’ve been what Mary was doing.
Here in our lesson this week, we see Martha being the first to go out and see Jesus. Part of me believes it was because Martha was the oldest between her and Mary – possibly the oldest of the three siblings. The other part of me believes that Martha was handling Lazarus’ passing a tad bit better than Mary. I don’t believe Mary was handling Lazarus’ death all that well.
When Martha tells Mary that Jesus had come, Mary quickly rushed out to him (v.29). Going back up to what I had said earlier, I don’t believe word of Jesus’ arrival had been given to Mary, it was given only to Martha. I believe Mary was hurting and that a crowd of comforters had surrounded her (v.31). That’s not to say that Martha was not hurting, but I believe Mary was the younger sister (possibly even the baby of the siblings) and needed some attention! So, Martha was taking on other responsibilities while letting Mary grieve.
Mary’s faith in the Lord
I think, in both Martha and Mary, we see how the Lord has different relationships with all of His children. Not all of us require the same sort of comfort and effort from the Lord. Some of us simply need to talk to the Lord and it does us a whole lot of good. Others may need to go and hug the Lord in order to be comforted. God is everything for all people I believe.
The Jews who were with Mary thought that she was going out to the grave of Lazarus to weep but she was going to see Jesus! Again, this was a woman who loved Jesus and also had great faith like her sister. Not to put the two’s faith into competition with each other, so I will say that they both had incredible faith. Both displayed their faith differently. Martha was more calm, collected, and assured. Mary was more excited and enthusiastic – again, to me, suggesting she was likely younger than Martha.
Though, let us note that Mary’s statement to Jesus is the same as Martha’s earlier statement. Mary says, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died (v.32).” This, again, could sound like a bit of frustration with Jesus, and I’ll say, maybe it is, but I also see great faith here. She’s saying in her heart that she knows what Jesus could do. I believe that both women loved Jesus and He loved them as well – the Lord loves all His children.
Our lesson stops right here this week, but we will see the raising of Lazarus from the grave in our lesson next week. If you want to read ahead, next week’s lesson is being taught from John 11:33-44. I certainly hope that you will return for next week’s lesson!