Three weeks ago I wrote about Martha, the sister of Mary, in the link up Chasing History, and I promised the second part was coming. Only it didn’t, at least not until now.
Here’s the rest of Martha’s story, at least as I see it.
In John 11, we read that Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, is sick. The sisters send word to Jesus about Lazarus’ illness, expecting Him to do something about it. After all, they know He’s the son of God and they know of His miracles. Their sending word to Jesus is much like us praying – they’re telling Him of the problem and asking Him to do something about it, basically.
Then a most curious thing happens. Jesus decides to stay where he is for a couple more days. With the benefit of two thousand years to consider it, we can understand why He needed to wait. He could have gone straight to Bethany and healed Lazarus, but instead He waited, the better to display His power. But He’s both God and man, so I’m sure that He was hurting for His friends, knowing what they were going through and what was still to come.
In verses 12 and 13 we see that the disciples, despite their willingness to follow Christ, still don’t get it. Jesus tells them that Lazarus is sleeping and He’s going to wake him up, and they’re telling Him to let the poor guy sleep and when he wakes up he’ll feel better.
It takes a couple more days to get to Bethany so by the time Jesus gets there Lazarus has been dead for four days. Martha, hearing that Jesus is coming, runs out to meet Him. That’s not what I expected. I would have expected it to be Mary, based on what we’ve read of these sisters before. But then Martha speaks and yes, there’s the Martha we know.
“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
All we have to go on is the word as it is written. The subtle nuances of conversation and body language have been lost in translation, as it were, so we’re left to our own devices. I think Martha is telling Jesus that He blew it here. He could have prevented Lazarus’ death. But then she covers that by telling Him that she knows that God the Father will give Him whatever He asks. And it’s clear that what she wants is her brother back.
In the Biblical accounts of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, there is never a mention of a husband or a father, so it’s possible that these three were orphaned and have already had to mourn the loss of both parents. In addition, it’s believed that Lazarus was probably the youngest of the three, making his loss even more complicated by the fact that the sisters were his caretakers. I know how powerless I feel when my kids are sick and I can do very little to make them better, so maybe Martha and Mary were feeling some of that same helplessness over Lazarus’ death.
Jesus tells Martha that her brother will rise again, and Martha, the pragmatist, responds that she knows Lazarus will rise again in the resurrection at the last day. See? We just thought Martha was always in the kitchen. Obviously she took the time to sit with Jesus and learn too. I love this next exchange, when Martha tells Jesus she believes in Him:
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
After that confession, Martha went to get Mary, and Mary went to see Jesus, followed by all their friends who had gathered to mourn with them.
Jesus was so moved by their grief and their tears that He actually wept with them. The Messiah, who already knew he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, was moved to tears by the grief of His friends. That’s powerful to me.
And off they go to the tomb, where Jesus tells them to move the stone away. Martha, ever practical, states the obvious:
“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
Yes, she believes that Jesus is the Messiah, the promised One, and she believes that God will give Him whatever He asks. But. What about the smell?
Isn’t that just like us? It’s just like me. I know Jesus is the Christ, who died for my sin and rose from the dead. I know His blood saved me. But. I focus on the inconsequential, the unnecessary details. It’s like I have spiritual ADD.
Sometimes I can’t see the forest for the trees. I forget that if I’ll just get out of the way and let Him take control of my situation, the details will take care of themselves. And all too often I see problems as…well…problems, instead of chances for God to refine me and use me.
When I zero in on one little issue, I lose sight of the size of my God. He has answers to my prayers that are so much more vast than I can imagine. My tunnel-vision keeps me from seeing the big picture.
If Martha would just have the stone removed, Lazarus will be raised from the dead and there won’t be any more bad smell.
If I back away from my obstacle, maybe then I’ll be able to see it as an opportunity.
So, today I’m linking up with It Just Takes One at http://onegirl-itjusttakesone.blogspot.com/ for Chasing History, where we write about the women of the Bible. Check it out!