I have always been fascinated by the story in the Bible of Lazarus and how he died and then Jesus came and brought him back to life again. I always felt sorry for Lazarus because he had to die twice! I mean when I die I want to stay dead until Jesus comes and I raise up to meet Him in the sky. I don’t want to endure two physical deaths…they might be painful! Let’s look at this story about Lazarus and his two sisters Martha and Mary.
Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. And it was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. The sisters therefore sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” But when Jesus heard it, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. When therefore He heard that he was sick, He stayed then two days longer in the place where He was. Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” John 11:1-7, (New American Standard Bible or NASB 1977).
Jesus sure was taking His sweet time in going to see poor sick Lazarus. That seems strange considering how much He loved these three siblings don’t you think? I mean if a loved one of mine is dying I want to be there to say goodbye. And Jesus had the power to heal Lazarus from far away because He was God and had created everything, so why didn’t Jesus do that? I think sometimes there is a lesson in the waiting and Jesus was about to reveal just how powerful He really was but first Lazarus must die.
So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off; and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary, to console them concerning their brother. Martha therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went to meet Him; but Mary still sat in the house. Martha therefore said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. “Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother shall rise again.” Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.” And when she had said this, she went away, and called Mary her sister, saying secretly, “The Teacher is here, and is calling for you.” And when she heard it, she arose quickly, and was coming to Him. John 11:17-29, (NASB 1977).
Why am I not surprised that it was Martha who ran to meet Jesus to let Him know that He was too late to help heal her brother? I mean in my previous post I mentioned what I perceive Martha’s personality to be from reading about her in scripture. She is the doer, not the thinker like her sister Mary, so even in grief Mary must be moving and doing and not sitting still. She takes charge of the situation and runs to tell Jesus her brother is already dead. Mary, on the other hand, Mary, the thinker, the quiet one, chose to remain at home and grieve in her home with her friends around her. She let Martha take charge because she was too heart-broken to do so. Notice when Martha returned home and whispered to Mary that Jesus was calling her, Mary immediately sprang into action.
Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha met Him. The Jews then who were with her in the house, and consoling her, when they saw that Mary rose up quickly and went out, followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her, also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit, and was troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. And so the Jews were saying, “Behold how He loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not this man, who opened the eyes of him who was blind, have kept this man also from dying?”
Jesus therefore again being deeply moved within, came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, “Remove the stone.” Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you, if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” And so they removed the stone. And Jesus raised His eyes, and said, “Father, I thank Thee that Thou heardest Me. “And I knew that Thou hearest Me always; but because of the people standing around I said it, that they may believe that Thou didst send Me.” And when He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.” He who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings; and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” Many therefore of the Jews, who had come to Mary and beheld what He had done, believed in Him. But some of them went away to the Pharisees, and told them the things which Jesus had done. John 11:17-46, (NASB 1977).
Jesus was moved by the display of genuine grief that was displayed not only in Martha and then Mary but also within the Jewish friends of Lazarus. Notice that Jesus was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled. What an interesting phrase. It is times like this that I wish I knew the original language to better understand the passage. I notice in the King James Version of the Bible these words are a little different… he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, and in the Holman Christian Standard Bible says it like this… He was angry in His spirit and deeply moved. I believe that English sort of fails us here in describing the powerful emotions that Jesus was feeling. Jesus was obviously deeply moved by the tears and sorrow displayed all around Him and felt so troubled by this that He felt compelled to end the suffering. In other words his human-ness shined through as well as His God-ness. And so He wept.
One of the shortest verses in the Bible is in this passage, Jesus wept. It is nice to know that Jesus was so grieved by His good friend’s death that He wept. I often have wondered why? I mean Jesus already knew that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead so why did He weep? Perhaps it is because Jesus was so filled by all the emotions of loss and grief that were in the people who were there with Mary and Martha. Or maybe Jesus wept because He knew that Lazarus would have to die again. We don’t know, not really, but it is obvious that Jesus wept for His friend.
Jesus is led to where the tomb of His friend is located. There is a group of mourners, Jewish mourners, who have come to the tomb as well and Mary is there and so is Martha. Jesus asks for the stone that sealed the tomb to be rolled away. And Martha, dear take-charge even in grief Martha is the one who speaks. Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days. I love how the King James Version of the Bible states verse 39… Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days. He stinketh! Yes, I bet he did! Can you imagine the decomposing body, four days in the tomb, in the hot desert of the Middle East! Can you imagine the curiosity and shock of those who are at the tomb that Jesus would request such a thing as having the tomb opened? Oh my! Well you know the rest of the story. Jesus asks Lazarus to come out of the grave and Lazarus obeyed the command! Can you imagine the speechless Martha and Mary and how they must have rejoiced to have their brother, their benefactor, returned to them?
You know I wonder if you noticed in the beginning of this passage that Mary is the one who anointed Jesus with the expensive ointment when she took her hair and washed his feet at the last supper before He was crucified (Luke 7:38, John 12:3)? I wonder if the ointment she used was what she had purchased to use for her brother Lazarus but didn’t need it after Jesus raised her brother from the dead. Just a thought. I suppose some scholars will say that Mary sister of Lazarus was not the same Mary that wiped Jesus feet at the last supper. They may say that it was Mary Magdalene who had this honor. Honestly I don’t know for sure. But I suspect it is Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus that used the ointment on Jesus feet before the crucifixion. It would make sense as to why she stayed at home rather than going out to meet travelers like Martha did. She would have had a bad reputation as a loose-woman. Her family would want her home where they could keep an eye on her. Oh my, how the drama of the Bible keeps me on my toes. I can’t wait until Heaven to hear her story!