Women Jesus Commended

Mary and Martha at Lazarus' Funeral John 11

The second story is found in John’s Gospel, at the end of chapter 10, where Jesus and His disciples had left Jerusalem and crossed the Jordan River, back to where Jesus had first begun His work, along with John the Baptist. It was about a day’s journey from Bethany, which was just two miles outside of Jerusalem. Now, in chapter 11, Lazarus lay dying, and his sisters sent Jesus an urgent message.

When John wrote this gospel, the story about Mary anointing Jesus’ head and feet had already become famous, circulating around. In fact, in every story Mary is somehow at Jesus’ feet, whereas Martha seems to have been the one making sure everybody was fed and had what they needed. By now, the Lord had eaten many meals at their house, and spent many nights there too. It seems as though Bethany was kind of a sanctuary for Jesus and His disciples.

The message the sisters sent did not ask Jesus to come, but certainly the request was implied, knowing that Jesus loved Lazarus. Yet, by the time Mary and Martha's servants had reached Jesus with the news of their brother's illness, Lazarus was probably already dead. 

Jesus immediately recognized this as an opportunity for God's glory, so He gave the messengers a reply to take back, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” It was the same thing Jesus had said about the man born blind in John chapter 9,\; this situation is an opportunity for God to be glorified.

It was a strange message for the sisters by the time they received it, because Lazarus had already been wrapped and put in the tomb, according to Jewish law. The Lord's words might have been hard to understand, "this illness won't end in death" since Lazarus actually was dead. Still, we can guess they thought Jesus must have been comforting them with the thought that Lazarus had been gathered to the bosom of Abraham, as the Jewish rabbis said, and would now be with God for all eternity.

John made a point of saying that Jesus loved Mary and Martha, and Lazarus. That’s the reason He stayed two more days. Doesn’t that seem a strange way to show love? After all, the disciples knew that all Jesus had to do was say the word, long distance, and Lazarus would have been healed. Jesus had already done this, back in John chapter 4. If nothing else, wouldn’t love have sent Jesus back immediately to comfort the grieving sisters, and help them through a hard time? But He didn’t. Because He loved them, He stayed away.

What do you expect God to do when you cry out to Him for help? Hard circumstances do not mean God doesn’t love you anymore, or that He’s through with you. There is no doubt the Lord loves you. We must interpret our circumstances through the knowledge that God loves us. 

The human desire would have been to rush in, ease their grief, keep them from going through all the preparations of the funeral, and raise Lazarus up. But from God’s perspective it was necessary for all these arrangements, including the heart-breaking grief, to continue, in order that every aspect of God’s purpose would move forward.

Jesus was on the Father’s time, not His own. He had God’s perspective, and because He was the resurrection and the life, this delay wasn’t hard-hearted, it was constructive

When the two days had gone by, Jesus told His disciples they were going back to Judea. It took them off guard. They were, with very good reason, worried about Jesus getting stoned to death, so Jesus answered them with a kind of proverb “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light.

In other words, when you are where you’re supposed to be, in the light of day, doing what the day holds for you, you’re not going to stumble. The light is God’s will, and it’s also your life, the time God has given you to do the good things He has in mind for you. Every situation you find yourself in is an opportunity to glorify God. Opportunities don’t wait around. When an opportunity comes, you know the saying, you must seize the day.

On the other hand, Jesus pointed out, “It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.” You are not going to be fine if you’re in the dark, outside of God’s will. You must wait until the darkness passes, and light has come, before you move forward.

The disciples must have still looked bewildered and concerned, so Jesus gave them the particulars: Lazarus was asleep and they were going to wake him up. Notice how they took Jesus’ ability to supernaturally know what was happening in Bethany in their stride. But they still argued with Him. Don’t be silly, they told Jesus. If he’s asleep that means he’s getting better. So Jesus spoke in plain Hebrew, “Guys, Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.

Jesus was training the disciples to think beyond the physical, the earthly, and to see the spiritual. He did it with the man born blind, seeing an opportunity for God’s glory, and He was doing it here. He was glad because what was going to happen was going to build their faith. By bringing His beloved friend back to life, the disciples would believe in the resurrection that was coming.

Here’s what I want you to get out of this: God’s delays are not always God’s denials; they may be windows to display His glory

How confident are you in God’s goodness, power, and love when He delays answering your prayers? For many Christians the hardest problem to handle in life is the fact that God does not always act the way we expect Him to. God disappoints. It feels like He waits too long, sometimes, or does too little. He lets bad things happen.

How do you respond to God’s delays? How long are you typically willing to wait for God to do something? Do you take matters into your own hands, or are you keeping yourself ready to see God’s cues for your involvement? There have been plenty of times when I thought a situation was so bad that it couldn’t get any worse. “God, please do something, don’t wait anymore!” It’s hard to keep believing when God still delays.

Yet, there are dimensions to our problems you and I can’t imagine, but which God sees clearly. When I pray, I can see God’s wisdom in a situation, His vision is much bigger than mine. Jesus can solve any problem, fix any mess, bring good out of any disaster; He is God. But, He will do it in a way that glorifies God and strengthens faith. God’s priority is always going to be to bring people to a saving faith, and to strengthen the faith of those who are saved.

All passages taken from the New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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