Evidently the house of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus in Bethany was a substantial one.
Dr. Luke tells us that Martha welcomed Jesus into her house. It seems the whole entourage of Jesus and His 12 disciples stayed there often. How blessed was this relationship!
Death pays a visit to Bethany.
Death plays no favorites. Even this family, so focused on ministering to Jesus in every way, tasted the pain and loss of an untimely death. Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus that His friend, Lazarus was seriously ill. The news of these events spread quickly but travel itself was slow.
When Jesus heard this, the immediate future was as clear to Him as the immediate past. He knew that Lazarus would die for the purposes of God—to demonstrate the Resurrection power of Jesus. To heal a sick body or mind was a wonderful thing—to raise a dead body to life again was even more wonderful. It was time to demonstrate this power.
Jesus and Death
He spoke often of death. He tried to prepare His followers that part of His mission was to die. These words seemed to fly by the minds of those who heard Him. Jesus knew the prophecies of Messiah.
- Yes, He would be a great leader, a rescuer of the nation from tyranny.
- Yes, He would be a teacher, revealing the details of a New Covenant with God. That New Covenant would be written in His blood.
- Yes, the glory of the Lord would be revealed and all mankind would see it. (Isaiah 40) Isaiah also predicted the death of the “suffering servant.” (Isaiah 53)
Both of these things would be true of Jesus.
It is interesting to consider how physical death might have weighed on the mind of One who had lived forever. When Jesus laid aside the characteristics of God to become a man, He appropriated a body destined to die. How did He read Isaiah? Perhaps we get a glimpse of the impact of the impending pain and death when we see Him at prayer in the Garden. That account is still to come.
“He stayed two more days…”
When Jesus received the news, He did not rush to His friends. He waited two days before starting for Bethany. When He told His men that it was time to go to Judea, they protested that it was too dangerous. They knew the elders were ready to stone Him. He explained that His mission demanded it and that nothing would happen out of God’s timing.
Jesus spoke to them in spiritual terms.
“Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.”
They didn’t get it. Perhaps some sleep would do the young man some good. He put it to them clearly.
“Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there,
that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.”
Thomas, the logical, practical one of the 12, voiced what most of them were thinking.
“Let us also go, that we may die with Him.”
The Purposes of God
The untimely death of Lazarus served a purpose, one unseen by the natural eye, but one more real than physical sight. Just so, our lives and our deaths as followers of Jesus are freighted with purpose, sometimes obvious and sometimes hidden until revealed in eternity. While the purposes of God may not always be visible, the promises by which we live are clearly set forth and unchanging.
Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are You going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” These things He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.” Then His disciples said, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.” However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.” Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.”
Luke 10:38-39 NKJV
Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word.
Lord Jesus, Your purposes in my life are sometimes clearly seen, spurring me on to each day’s obedience. At other times I cannot see what You are doing in me and in the lives of those around me. Holy Spirit, empower me to rise to each day’s challenges in either case. While circumstances sometimes puzzle me, there are always things of which I am sure: Your love, Your faithfulness, Your goodness, and Your amazing ability to make all things work together for my good. I will hold to You regardless of circumstances! Amen and amen.
I Know Whom I Have Believed
Words: D.W. Whittle; Music: James McGranahan
1. I know not why God’s wondrous grace To me He hath made known,
Nor why, unworthy, Christ in love Redeemed me for His own.
But “I know Whom I have believed,
And am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I’ve committed
Unto Him against that day.”
2. I know not how this saving faith To me He did impart,
Nor how believing in His Word Wrought peace within my heart.
3. I know not how the Spirit moves, Convincing men of sin,
Revealing Jesus through the Word, Creating faith in Him.
4. I know not what of good or ill May be reserved for me,
Of weary ways or golden days, Before His face I see.
5. I know not when my Lord may come, At night or noonday fair,
Nor if I walk the vale with Him, Or meet Him in the air.
© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved
TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.