do you believe? Better still, in whom do you believe? Mary and Martha believed
in Jesus, but to what extent? As a family friend they were familiar with what
He was able to do in very special circumstances. Their brother Lazarus had
fallen ill and they needed Him to heal him. They knew He was not far from
Bethany where they lived, so they sent word to Him saying: “Lord the one you
love (Lazarus) is sick.”
As a friend, they expected that when the word reached Jesus, He would suspend whatever He was doing to come and attend to their brother in his ailing status and offer prompt assistance. That did not happen. Instead, Jesus told His disciples that Lazarus’ sickness “will not end in death.” On top of it all, Jesus seemingly did not give much heed to the message His family friends had sent as a matter of urgency. “Yet when He heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed where he was two more days.” (John 11:6)
This was certainly disturbing for Lazarus’ family that could have misinterpreted such unresponsiveness from their household friend otherwise. Worst still, Lazarus’ sickness worsened and he died and was buried. Imagine how devastated that family would have been to realise that Jesus received its appeal to come and take care of their emergency but did not consider it a priority. In fact, to His disciples He had revealed: “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep: but I am going to wake him up.” (verse 11) Here of course His disciples took what he said literally. “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” The commentary continues to clarify that Jesus had been speaking of Lazarus’ death, and not about his ‘natural sleep.’ He later had to confess that Lazarus was dead “... and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” (John 11:15)
Bethany was less than twelve miles away. By this time, Lazarus had died and had been in the tomb for four days. Many among their relatives and friends had come to sympathise with the family “... to comfort them in the loss of their brother.” When the sisters heard that Jesus was on His way to the house, Martha went out to meet Him. In utter desperation, she lamented the absence of the Master during Lazarus’ sickness that led to his demise. With a rather accusatory tone of voice she complained; “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” (John 11:21-22)
Was Martha speaking from the heart or were those words just to fill the void? Jesus responded: “Your brother will rise again.” Martha interjected; “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” (verse 24) Martha was indeed a good Bible scholar to have believed that all who believe in God will resurrect on the Day of Judgment, the last day. But Jesus added; “I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in Me will live even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26) Martha continued “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” (verse 27)
Christ is the Messiah, the Son of God, whom the prophet Isaiah prophesied would come into the world to relieve humankind of the burden of sin which is death. “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord had anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners ...” (Isaiah 61:1)
Martha rushed to the house to invite her sister Mary to the scene. “The Teacher is here and He is asking for you.” Mary found Jesus at the same spot where Martha had met Him. Here is what she did. “She fell at His feet and said, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’“ By falling at Jesus’ feet, Martha worshipped Jesus as LORD. In Scripture, all those who worshipped Jesus as God had their requests met. Blind Bartimaeus cried at the top of his voice “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:47) In another instant, “A man with leprosy came and knelt before Him and said, ‘Lord if you are willing, you will make me clean.” (Matthew 8:2) When we recognise Jesus’ deity, our appeals are granted and our needs met.
Jesus went ahead and raised Lazarus from the dead. People from the crowd had questioned, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” (verse 37) Even Martha hesitated when Jesus asked that the stone at the mouth of the grave be removed, when she remarked: “But Lord, by this time there is a bad odour for he has been there four days.” (verse 39)
To Martha’s reaction Jesus reminded her --- and is reminding us readers as well with regard to our several silent reactions ---- by saying; “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you will see the glory of God?” (verse 40)
Do you believe? That question is directed to you as well, today. Our belief is capital if Jesus is to impact our lives for good. Each of us has a step to take and a commitment to make for the power of Jesus’ resurrection to take root in and transform our very being.
Martha’s response to our Lord Jesus’ question was; “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” Make that equally your response.