Insert text here.
John 11:17-19, NIV17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother.
October 4, 2011By the time Jesus and his disciples arrived, Lazarus had been dead and buried for 4 days. Since Bethany was within easy walking from the big city of Jerusalem, many people came to mourn his passing.
Many people coming to mourn for him might suggest Lazarus was not an old man when he died. Or that he was a prominent person and well respected. Possibly his life's work involved helping others and they came to his funeral out of gratitude for all he did. Or maybe in this ancient culture, funerals were a forum for socializing. Families were large and localized. When someone died, you went to mourn their loss; when someone in your family died, they came to your home to mourn with you. Some of these people were hanging around for 4 days already. Neighbors would have been providing hospitality. Lots of neighbors for lots of mourners. The supportive circle surrounding Martha and Mary was a wide one. It's also possible that some people came, hoping to see Mary and Martha's good friend, Jesus.
John 11:20, NIV20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
I would have bet on Mary to be the one rushing out the door first to meet Jesus. Turns out, she's not as predictable as I thought. It's Martha who goes. Martha, the one who does what needs to be done, and what is expected of her, whether she feels like it or not.
They had been expecting Jesus for more than 4 days now, probably even a week. And he finally arrives. 6 days ago they would have been very happy to see him. Now when there's nothing much he can do, well . . . . Jesus had some explaining to do.
John 11:21-26, NIV21 "Lord," Martha said to Jesus, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask."
23 Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." 24 Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." 25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
Jesus, had you been here, my brother would not have died! I'm sorry we can't hear the inflections in her voice. Was she accusing Jesus of not fulfilling the bonds of their friendship? Of not really caring for Lazarus like he pretended to? Was she just plain annoyed with him. Why did he do this to her?
People knew of the friendship between her family and Jesus. Did she feel snubbed? A bit humiliated because he didn't see them as important enough to get here as soon as he could? Was Jesus taking their friendship for granted? Too much receiving and not enough giving on his part?
But coming face to face with Jesus, she softened her words. Maybe even now he could do something for her. Looking deeply into those eyes, she dared to envision him asking God for. . . . whatever he thought best. I can feel her heart start pumping at the thought. What miracle could he do, even now, after four days in the tomb!
Jesus brought her back by stating what she already believed. Lazarus will rise again. Of course. At the last day he will be resurrected. Then Jesus continued with the mysterious words, "I am the resurrection and the life." No one at this point knew what that meant. It had not happened yet as far as Martha knew. Yet Jesus asked her to believe his words. Any one who believes in him will live even though he dies; in fact anyone who lives and believes in Jesus will never really die!
Jesus seems to be hinting to Martha that Lazarus is not really dead. Is that how she interpreted his words? While alive, Lazarus had certainly lived and believed in Jesus.
John 11:27, NIV27 "Yes, Lord," she told him, "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world."
Martha affirmed what she believed about Jesus at this point in her life. He was the Christ, which is another word for the Messiah. She believed that somehow he was the Son of God, the one long-promised to come into the world to save Israel. Knowledge about Jesus being the resurrection was still new to her and she did not know yet how to put that into words.
John 11:28-32, NIV28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. "The Teacher is here," she said, "and is asking for you." 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him.
31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.
32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."
October 6, 2011
Still excited and not knowing what to expect, Martha went to get Mary. Calling her away from other mourners, she informed Mary that Jesus was asking for her. We don't know if she whispered any of the words she had just heard from Jesus. Mary left the house quickly to go to meet Jesus. Had she recognized any change in the face or manner of her sister that energized her to move quickly?
Crowds always go where the excitement is, so the mourners followed Mary, thinking she was going to the tomb to be close to her brother. To their surprise, Mary headed to the entrance of the village where Jesus was waiting for her.
Mary was crying and couldn't see the twinkle in the eyes of Jesus. She simply fell to the ground at his feet and whimpered the thought that had been hounding her for days. "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." Different sister; same words, same feelings, same disillusionment. Her body language said it all. She collapsed into a hopeless, defeated mass.
John 11:33-37, NIV33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 "Where have you laid him?" he asked. "Come and see, Lord," they replied.
35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, "See how he loved him!" 37 But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?"
October 10, 2011Jesus had come for a resurrection, yet here were all these people crying as though there were no hope. Again how different things look from God's perspective.
The wheels are turning now. There's too much weeping. Jesus has waited long enough. Now it's time to begin moving toward his most miraculous sign. One that will bring glory to God. An unforgettable visual in plain sight that will show off the power of God to conquer death. One that will give Jesus the opportunity to demonstrate the works of God in a clear and unmistakable deed. And settle the question of whether Jesus was sent by God to accomplish the works of God.
Show me where you have buried our dear friend. The conversation is now with the mourners in general, and no longer with the sisters. While walking the short distance, Jesus also wept. Is weeping like laughing--one starts and others join in? Why exactly was Jesus crying? And on whose behalf did the tears flow? Some of the people walking with Jesus interpreted the tears as proof that Jesus loved Lazarus very deeply. Others thought maybe he cried because he didn't arrive in time to prevent the death. Possibly he felt a degree of guilt for his negligence.
The gospel writer has set up the scene so the reader knows Jesus arrived at just the right time. Waiting until there could be no doubt Lazarus was physically dead. But as far as the crowd of mourners was concerned, it was four days too late. There was no possibility that Jesus could intervene. All anyone could do now was grieve his passing.