Sunday, September 4, 2011

Mary and Martha

I needed to see it. I needed to read it even though I have it memorized. I needed to see it in print.

It is the shortest verse in the Bible. Verse 35 of the 11th chapter of the Book of John.

Jesus wept.

I wanted to see on paper that I serve an empathetic God.

That was all I was going to do, read that single verse, those two words. However, I went back to the start of the chapter and read. I opened my Bible because I wanted those two words, Jesus wept, to soothe my soul. And those words did but so much more in the 11th Chapter of John did as well.

The chapter begins with Jesus receiving word from Mary and Martha that their brother, Lazarus, is sick. In response to the letter, He tells his disciples that this sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it (verse 4). Jesus remains where he is for two more days before returning to Judea.

Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were friends of Jesus. They believed He was the Son of God. They believed He could heal. They sent word to Jesus to let Him know that their brother was sick because they believed He could and would heal their brother.

In the time that passed between Jesus receiving the letter and returning to Judea, Lazarus had died. Jesus informed his disciples of Lazarus' death. If Jesus is not Lord, then how could He possibly have known that Lazarus had already died? He did not need to tell his disciples this news but I believe He did to demonstrate Who He is.

I'm sure His disciples were scratching their heads at this. Were they not told, by Jesus himself, that Lazarus' illness would not result in death?

Before they ever passed through the gates of Judea, Jesus was informed that Lazarus was already in the tomb and had been there for four days. People believed in that time, that a person wasn't truly dead until three days after their actual death had occurred. They believed their soul stayed with the body for three days after death. I believe this to be another detail to simply demonstrate who Jesus is.

Martha heard that Jesus was coming and she met Him just outside of the city.

I imagine her running to Him. I also imagine both her and her sister with mismatched clothes, their hair pulled back in a sloppy manner with loose strands sticking out around their face. I know, it's such a pretty picture but they are grief stricken.

What Martha says to Him isn't, I'm so glad you're here! or Lazarus loved you so much! What she says to Him is Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died (verse 21).

When I read this I thought, wow! She has some nerve! She accused Jesus of her brothers death! After that thought got done traveling through my mind, my next thought was, but she did recognize that He had the power and the authority to heal her brother. 

What Martha said to Jesus really resonated with me. I couldn't judge Martha for accusing Jesus because I had too. There were so many times after Emmerson and Vivienne died that I cried out to the Lord accusing Him of their death. A few people told me that I needed to focus on the fact that Jesus Christ was sent to suffer and die on the cross for me and my sins.

I have to admit, it frustrated me and upset me. I couldn't focus on that fact. The only thing I could focus on was the fact that my daughters were no longer with me. It also made me feel awful because I thought, what kind of Christian am I? But you know what? I never turned my back on the Lord. I did cry out but I cried out to Him.

I kept reading and what Martha says to Jesus next is very powerful. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask (verse 22, emphasis mine). She not only acknowledges that His Father is one who heals but also one who performs miracles.

Martha gets Mary and informs her that Jesus is present. When she hears this she runs to Him. When she reaches Jesus she also says, Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died (verse 32).  She left it at that. She did not follow it with a statement like her sisters. But she did acknowledge who He is, even if it was just a small portion of who He is.

After seeing where Lazarus had been laid, Jesus weeps.

I have read some commentaries that approach His weeping in different lights. Some have said that He wept because He is an empathetic God, others have stated that the reason He wept was because of death itself, and others have said that it was because He was frustrated with their disbelief.

I personally don't think He wept because He was frustrated with their disbelief. If that was the case, wouldn't He have cried all the time? Everywhere He went, every time He turned around, He was faced with people who did not believe.

I believe He wept with them. He felt their pain and their sorrow. I believe that He has wept with me. It is comforting to know that I serve a King who cries with me as He wipes away my tears.

He knew that Lazarus had died before He ever returned to Judea so I think its safe to say that He knew Lazarus would, moments later, walk out of the tomb. But He still wept.

While Jesus wept, some spectators declared, see how he loved him! (verse 36) and others questioned, Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying? (verse 37).

Jesus commands for the stone covering the tomb to be removed (verse 38) and Martha finds it necessary to inform Jesus that there will be an odor if the stone is removed.

I smiled when I read this because I too, find it necessary to inform Jesus of every minor detail. It would deter me. If it was left up to us to perform miracles we would say, oh, you are right ! It will stink. Well, lets not remove the stone then.

The details in life can stop us, deter us. A teachers grade or comment, a doctors diagnoses, or a physical or mental disability are all too often road blocks or dead ends for us. They are reasons why we can't. We often take those limitations to God and ask Him to work around those (not through them) for our benefit. We so often limit God with our requests.

I LOVE His response! Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God? (verse 40).

He didn't inform them of what was about to happen. He didn't tell them that if they believed, they would always have their hearts desire fulfilled or that they would never have trouble. He simply told them that if they believed they would see the glory of God.

If we believe, we will also will see the glory of God. We don't know what form or fashion we will see it but we will.

Jesus commanded Lazarus to come out of the tomb (verse 43).

I  picture that some of the people have their noses pinched between their fingers. I assume that others rolled their eyes and still others may have yawned.

No matter what they were doing or thinking or believing, I'm sure every one of their jaws fell to ground when they saw Lazarus walk out of the tomb (verse 44).

Jesus would have been glorified if He would have healed Lazarus of his illness. He didn't choose for that to be the vehicle of His glory. Lazarus died. I'm sure in those four days of his death, Mary and Martha were not only questioning why Jesus had not healed their brother, but why He had not even come. They never imagined or dreamed that Lazarus would walk out of the tomb in the flesh.

He would have been glorified if He had healed Lazarus. He was glorified more and by more people, some of those unbelievers, when Lazarus was raised from the dead.

On June 23, 2011, I sent word to the Lord that my girls were sick. I asked Him to fix them. In the days that followed, I felt much like what I imagined Mary and Martha must have felt. I felt like I had been deserted, wondering if He was ever going to come.

I would have glorified Him if my requests had been met. And He knew that. He also knows the after that I am unable to see or comprehend. No matter what, I am called to praise Him and give all glory to Him.

I don't want to limit Him and I don't want to doubt His ways.

We have a purpose, a divine destiny. Our purpose is to glorify God through our lives. If God should choose you to bring glory to Him in this world through pain, do it well. Obey. Bear witness. Through your suffering, some may seek and find the Savior.
Joseph M. Stowell
The Upside of Down: Finding Hope When it Hurts


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