Friday, May 27, 2011


Mary, Martha and Lazarus were close friends of Jesus. Jesus was right, when he said he had no place to lay his head. God gave him the experience of a sense of “home” in their hearts as he stayed with them. They were just ordinary people, given extraordinary hearts by God the Father, in their care for Jesus.

They may have received some of their inspiration in practicing hospitality from the woman in ancient Israel, who, along with her husband, provided a special room for Elisha and his servant to stay. (2 Kings 4).

If that were the case, it does seem to me that they could have learned something from her attitude when the son God gave her, died, and God used the prophet to bring him back to life, proving that we are all spirits that happen to have bodies, and that is what matters in the end.

This experience wasn’t only for Jesus. God never wastes anything. His first object was to demonstrate His wonderful heart to his own Son, and then to Mary, Martha and Lazarus.

It should not surprise us that Mary, Martha and Lazarus, in addition to the Lord Jesus, (Hebrews 5:8), had personal needs that God was working on. The ministry of Jesus in their home would draw their hearts towards Him.

Mary wanted to learn how Jesus thought and felt, why he did the things he did, how He “ticked”. She wanted to hear his words and his teaching. So, Mary came across to others as being lazy as she sat there at Jesus feet.

Martha, however, seemed to want to gain personal credibility with their Guest, for her own diligence, so frantically did all she could. As she did, she complained about her sister, Mary, to Jesus, while she sat there at His feet. Definitely a diligent person, with everything organized, Martha tended to come across as very domineering.

Not much is said about Lazarus. We do get the sense that Jesus was especially drawn to him. Perhaps it was because Lazarus had a special need to understand his special calling to go through sickness and death, in order to demonstrate the resurrection experience, demonstrating both Jesus' love for him and the glory of God.

Did God also allow this pain to show Jesus his own Father’s love for what he was about to go through very soon? Jesus was God, but also perfectly human. He still had to suffer in order to understand the world he lived in, his co-workers and family. He had to learn obedience through the suffering he experienced. (Hebrews 5:8 as mentioned above)

Thus, God, knowing all of their needs, was intricately involved in all of their lives. In the midst of ministering to this family, His love would draw them all into comprehending the ultimate meaning of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Martha, however, doesn’t seem to make any connection between the loving support of Jesus for Mary’s time at His feet, and the sickness of her brother, Lazarus. She sends a message, “Tell Jesus, that the one he loves is sick.” (John 11:5)

We may see what is going on, but does Martha, or Mary? What if your friend sent a message to you about their sibling with a message like that? “Go tell my friend that the one he loves is sick!” Where is the “heart” in that? Is it really possible that she doesn’t really like her brother that much?

But Martha and Mary themselves may be shocked at this suggestion. Of course there is the human side! They may have been simply appealing to Jesus to acknowledge that Lazarus was also his friend. "Jesus, remember that he is your friend, too. Why didn't you come to heal him? In this way they may have been trying to persuade him to restore him to life on that basis, like the disciples said to Jesus during a storm, "Jesus, don't you care if we all die?"

Jesus did care - because our passage declares that he wept. But, my heart would not allow me to skip over a possible cynicism that may have been lurking here. The human heart is totally sinful without the saving work of Calvary. That was what God the Father was preparing them all for. Have we ever prayed the way Martha and Mary did? Have we prayed that way for a family member? Someone even in the church?

“Dear God, the one that 'you' love, really could use a little of your help today!”

Does that really acknowledge who God is in the plan of Salvation?

This whole experience can teach us something about prayer. I realize that Jesus was not yet glorified, and sitting at the right hand of God, so it is not a perfect example. However, to those who God has revealed Himself to, we can see that this was God the Father's plan, and the Son's objective.

Why did Martha say it that way? Did she really love her brother? Did she really see what was happening? Did she need all of this interest and forgiving love from Jesus so that she would learn love for her brother? Considering her announcement of Lazarus’ sickness to Jesus – was that really as nice as it could have been?

After what seemed to be a lengthy delay, Jesus arrived, and Martha didn’t waste any time telling him what she thought, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Jesus explains what is about to happen, but does she really get it? “Your brother will rise again!” “I know . . . at the last resurrection”, she replied.

Apparently she really had started thinking things through in her relationship with her siblings, because she goes to call Mary. That I find amazing, as she seems to put words in her sister’s mouth, “He is calling you.” She seems to be actually treating her sister differently than when Jesus had been in town before. Could this actually be the genesis of faith with her? Could this be her first real comprehension of God's nature demonstrated in Jesus?

When Jesus is around, and he demonstrates something bigger, everyone seems to get nervous. This was true in his earthly life, and his life through the Spirit. Why is that? Is it the power of the influence of the Heavenly Father, emanating through Jesus?

Oh, not in the ordinary sense of the word – but sort-of like the disciples were when Jesus had overheard their discussions on who would be the greatest in the coming kingdom. “What were you talking about by the way?”

Surely Martha’s family had heard Jesus preach as well – which means that it is quite possible they had heard his advice on more than one occasion, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

In other words, this family had been drawn to Jesus, and desired to be good to him. However, God the Father, working through Jesus the Son was doing much more for them than they ever dreamed. Would they understand? Would they change? It seems to me that they were already changing, perhaps more than they recognized.

He had sown enough love into their hearts, that they immediately turned to him when they got in trouble! They admitted that he was desperately needed!

But were they really convinced? Are we? We are really good at hiding, aren’t we, when we feel threatened.

Slothfulness, (the old word), or spiritual laziness, under God’s scrutinizing and discerning eye, cannot follow through with original plans in the presence of a deeply discerning Jesus. (Proverbs 12:27)

They had an opportunity right in front of them, to begin to reap a little of that which the Lord considers to be precious, the true “substance” of a diligent person. Would they accept the challenge? (Proverbs 12:27)

This “substance”, “bottom line”, “core” issue of life is pictured in Hebrews 11:1, where it speaks of the actions of faith. Our spirits, or lives, tend to have no spiritual substance when they are not related to God’s love demonstrated in the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Christian faith. We mistakenly regard things that typically separate us from God, as true “substance”, when it really is “iniquity”! (Psalms 66:18) "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:"

Have you ever expressed the reality of Jesus by imagining that he was sitting across from you, and talking to you? I learned to do this after the Holy Spirit had reminded me of a child-hood lie to my mother, when she was already gone. Someone had suggested that I sit down on my bed, and put a chair close by. There, in a prayerful atmosphere, I could invite Jesus to be present as I talked to my mother, baring my heart to her, and asking Jesus to make it all into a prayer, since ultimately sin is always against God in the end. (Psalm 51:4)

My heart is still stirred when I see how bored and distracted Martha seemed to be when she first sent this critical message to Jesus – that is, to Someone whom she knew had first hand knowledge of working with the Divine, and it was concerning her only brother!

Viewed this way it seems sort-of pathetic doesn’t it? Let us put it in a practical way, “Go tell the doctor that my brother, the one who he thinks is so special, is sick!” What is wrong with this picture?

We know that Jesus dearly loved the three of them. It seems to me, however, that Jesus answers Martha’s request in much the same way as she had originally conveyed the information of his sickness to him. Is this also a part of the reason why he stayed two more days in the place He was? Martha had to acknowledge who she was, in order to express her need.

When Martha met him, she said, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. Yet even now I know that whatever You ask from God, God will give You.” Jesus said, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha still didn’t get it, however, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

“This sickness will not end in death but is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

Unfortunately, prayer can be this way. But, it doesn’t need to be. If we are loved that much, why do we act like this?

But Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live. Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die—ever. Do you believe this?” “Yes, Lord,” she told Him, “I believe You are the Messiah, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”

Having said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.”

Why did she do that? Perhaps in the back of her mind she thought that her sister would know what was going on, while she didn’t. Or, was she just beginning to see for the first time what was actually happening, and wanted to hide?

When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw Him, she too fell at His feet and told Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died!” She had spent time at Jesus’ feet prior to this, but was also struggling in attempting to understand the dynamic of what was going on.

Jesus groaned at all this, upset at everyone's unbelief. Is it really possible that they still don’t get it? Unbelief pervaded the whole atmosphere. The Jews that were there, and even his own disciples there with him did not believe. He was upset, but without sin.

When Jesus heads towards the tomb, having asked where they laid him, Martha gives personality to the corpse in the tomb, “Lord, he already stinks. It’s been four days.” Perhaps something inside of Jesus says, “That’s not Lazarus, the spirit of life is gone!”

He weeps because he loved him – he had lost a friend; He weeps because he is upset that it has taken so long to convince people of the reality of the world of faith; He weeps because he has to bring Lazarus back into this world of pain! He weeps because he would never put someone else through that kind of pain, without the ultimate reason of showing the path of true life. Jesus cares when our heart is pained too deeply for mirth or song! (Psalm 116:15)

Jesus now takes up the original sentiment of the message he had originally received, giving the message back essentially as it had originally come to him, “Father, I thank You that You heard Me. I know that You always hear Me, but because of the crowd standing here I said this, so they may believe You sent Me.”

Even Jesus’ closest friends had not comprehended who He was!

After He said this, He shouted with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out bound hand and foot with linen strips and with his face wrapped in a cloth.

As a part of the training in matters of faith, Jesus leaves the obvious task of facing their prior unbelief to them, “Loose him and let him go.”

Somehow I think that they all needed to see the spirit of Lazarus as a gift that the living God had given specifically to them, not someone that only Jesus could love for their sakes!

By God honoring their faith in His love for Lazarus, they had no choice now but to obey him, as regards Lazarus, by the process of unwrapping his grave clothes both practically and spiritually.

Here Jesus demonstrates love from a totally different viewpoint. It is the love that Adam missed in his relationship with Eve. He took the forbidden fruit from her, that represented the lie of Satan, rather than share the love he had for his relationship with God, by sharing a deeper explanation of that experience. "Eve, God gave you to me, and wants to bless us more than we both dream possible. If he said we shouldn't touch the fruit, it means that there is something infinitely greater out there that we are not recognizing!"

Again, can we learn something about prayer here? The next time we are faced with an experience in life similar to this, could we pray, “Lord, you care about my brother, because you care about me, and those around me. Please heal my brother for your sake, those around me, and me!” (From John 11)

The apostle Paul goes even a step further - He ties all of this in to the future as well!

“We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:23-28)

“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (James 4:3)

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