On most Sundays, I publish the Sunday Lesson. They’re nothing more than observations or an idea or a study I’m working on that has useful applications. I feel deeply blessed and deeply responsible to write this. I schedule the posts to publish at 1:35. If you miss one, let me know and I will email it to you. You can also sign up for notifications and will get an email anytime I post something. I’m up for all comments and try to respond to them all. Be forewarned that I reserve Sundays for my family. It’s a work in progress, but a goal we’re all growing into. So, if I don’t respond, I’m probably playing chess with my daughter or watching lousy TV with my wife. On an outstanding day, I might catch a couple innings of Braves baseball. With my wife, of course. It’s Sunday.
In reading about Martha and Mary and Lazarus, I wondered about a question. But first, the setup:
I’m not a Greek scholar by any invention, but smart guys agree that the Greek verbiage used to portray the relationship between Jesus and this family is deeply loving and on par with Jesus’ relationship to James and Peter and John. He didn’t just know them – they weren’t mere acquaintances to grab another five bucks from – but He felt a kinship with them. This adds something to the story of the death of Lazarus. I can’t say how many times I’ve heard – or said – that “if G heals, then why doesn’t He wave His magic arm over the St. Jude Hospital and send all those bald kids home healthy?” That’s a part of this story, but it’s another question.
Here, we have Lazarus, laying ill, and his sisters – believing that Jesus is the Messiah – who send for the Healer. Remember, this isn’t like me calling Benny Hinn on the phone to wrangle a healing out of him. This is family. These are friends who Malinda called when I was in the hospital, knowing without a single doubt that they would do whatever she asked of them. But Jesus hangs out for a few days. “No worry,” He tells the disciples, waving them off. “Lazarus won’t die and it will all work for G’s glory!” After a couple days, Jesus decides to mosey on to see the women, but this time, the disciples balk. “You know they’re trying to kill you right? Isn’t it best to stay away?” Jesus spills the beans: “Lazarus has died.” Mark paints a generally hapless picture of the disciples in his gospel and does so here: “Heck. He’s dead? Why even go? Oh yeah. Let’s go die with him.”
Once they leave – it’s only a two-mile trip – Martha hears that Jesus is coming and runs to meet Him. When they meet she says, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died, but even now I know that God will grant whatever you ask of him.”
They talk and when they get near to the house, Martha goes inside to tell her sister that Jesus is outside and wants to see her. Mary runs to meet Jesus and says the exact same thing as her sister, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Let’s notice four things and ask a question:
1. The disciples didn’t have much interest in the story until they figure out Jesus might actually go. Now their heads are on the block, and they forget that the entire shebang was so that ‘the Son of God might be glorified.’ Message: If and when you hear from G, even the best people might step in your way, for good reasons. But they haven’t heard what you have.
2. It was John who said that if ‘everything Jesus said and did were recorded, then all the books in the world wouldn’t be able to hold them.’ I won’t put too much into this, but Jesus isn’t recorded as telling Martha to get her sister. Knowing Martha from other scriptures, I imagine her now, marching into the house after walking a mile with Jesus, thinking to herself, “DO I HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING? MARY!” I sense something of a victory in Martha’s mind. I ran out to see the Master. I came in to get Mary. I had a theological talk with Jesus. You are sitting here crying, and there’s not a SINGLE DINNER ROLL FOR ANYONE TO EAT!”
3. Martha appears here as Martha: in control, logical, and taking care of business. She says the same thing as her sister does to Jesus, but He responds differently and they engage in a theological discussion about dying, the resurrection, and the Messiah. There is little emotion and the thing rolls off your tongue like a college class.
4. Mary appears here as Mary. She sits in the house weeping, and runs to Jesus weeping, and, finally, they weep together. Her feelings stir His, and my Jerusalem Bible says Jesus was ‘greatly distressed.’ The Greek here is telling. His ‘greatly distressed’ is more like ‘He was so angry that He bellowed like a bull!’ Not at Mary or Martha or the disciples, but at death. At decay. At sin that leads to death. More than in almost any other passage we are confronted here by the bad news of sin and death and see a Saviour bring good news, that we can be delivered from our actions and rightful inheritance.
The question I wondered about, in light of these few verses, is if G responds to each of us in the same way we respond to him. We all know that ‘as you have judged others, so you will be judged,’ and think about it every time some sourpuss bangs the Bible on the podium. But what if Jesus meets you as you are? As who you are? What if Jesus meets you as a wise teacher, or a thorough doctor, or as someone who rubs the wounds of leprosy patients in India? If that were true, how would you want Jesus to meet you?
For me, if I had my druthers, I’d sit with Mary and cry.
By way of explanation, I label myself as an agnostic Christian. I attend a Southern Baptist church and am comfortable with Roman Catholic and Orthodox theology and all kinds of Protestant thought. For Bibles, I generally use the Jerusalem Bible, the English Standard Version, and the Amplified Bible. A favorite verse is Micah 6:8 where the prophet says:
G has already told you what is right and what to do: do what is right, love loyalty, and walk humbly with G.