Women Jesus Commended
Mary and Martha at Lazarus’ Funeral John 11
When the Lord saw Mary’s broken heart, He responded by crying with her, empathizing deeply with her pain. Throughout the Bible God does this, He is outraged over the damage that sin, corruption, and death does to His people, and He feels deeply all the heartache you and I go through.
John noted that some of the mourners wondered out loud why Jesus hadn’t been there to keep Lazarus from dying, wondering at the extent of Jesus’ power. Maybe that’s why Mary and Martha had both said to Jesus, if only You had been here. The Lord Jesus does have the power to work miracles in your situation. But even more, He has the power to take you through it, and He goes through every circumstance together with you, empathizing with you.
When they got to the tomb, Jesus was once again deeply moved and ordered the stone to be rolled away. I think everyone must have been shocked. It had been four days. During that time the news had traveled that Lazarus had died, so Martha and Mary’s extended network of friends, and wealthy families from Jerusalem would all be able to be there.
And the Jewish belief at that time said that the spirit of a person would hover over their body for three days, but after that amount of time the body would become so disfigured the spirit would no longer recognize it, and would go away. Jesus had raised other people from the dead in the gospels, but they were newly dead. In a hot country, the decomposition would have begun right away.
People put spices put on the body chiefly to combat the bad odor of rot. If resurrection were ever thinkable at all, it would be totally unthinkable at this point. Martha told Jesus Lazarus’ body was just too far gone. He was absolutely, totally, dead. Completely dead. Lord, he stinketh.
Jesus reminded her of the message He had sent her days before, and reassured her that if she trusted Him He would show her God’s glory. That gave her the courage to do the hard thing.
Faith involves doing hard things. What hard thing is God asking you to do, or to say, or to be, as you trust Him?
This is a really simple, yet profound, truth: Obedience reflects belief.
If you really believe, you will obey. Martha had to put her belief on the line, in front of her sister, in front of all those religious dignitaries, in front of all their extended family, and people who had come down from Jerusalem. She had to open Lazarus' grave. God could have rolled away the stone Himself. But Martha had to respond to Jesus with more than just words. She had to show she believed Him.
Jesus prayed “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” Not a desperate prayer, there was no waving of hands or a big theatrical show. Instead, Jesus quietly called attention to the fact that He and the Father were one in purpose and power, then He called Lazarus by name, come out.
It's hard to even imagine the reaction to Lazarus coming out of the tomb, still wound up in his grave clothes. It had to have been an eerie, heart-stopping scene before everyone gathered their senses and realized Lazarus was really, literally, physically alive. Poor Lazarus was all wound up and nobody was helping him, so Jesus told everybody to go unwind him, set him free. I imagine Mary and Martha were the first to run to their brother.
What a beautiful picture of what God does in the life of every believer. It is God Who creates new life within you and me, He calls us by name and brings us out of death and into new life. But then He calls others to come help us unwind all that old life from ourselves, all the things that bound us to the death that used to confine us.
We do that for each other when we pray for each other, when we encourage each other, when we’re willing to share our lives with each other, and help carry each other’s burdens. When you and I speak the truth in love to each other, and faithfully stick with someone all the way through whatever it is they’re going through, we’re helping to unwind those grave clothes and set that person free.
You and I need that. We need to help, and we need to be helped. We need each other
What we can get out of this part of Mary and Martha’s story is that Nothing can stop Jesus from giving life to those who trust Him
This resurrection was the final validation of Who Jesus is, being God, truly having the authority to raise up life. He said He could do it, and now He proved it.
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.