Christ's compassion, Christ's Love, Grief

The Grief of Two Sisters and the Compassion of Jesus

The death of a loved one can be traumatic to say the least. Aside from the sadness, the hole left in our lives, or any number of emotions, grief can sneak up on us and strike when we least expect it. A movie, a casual comment, hearing a phrase the loved one used, or even a commercial can trigger tears or the wrenching of our hearts.

Today I want to take another peak at the lives of Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazurus. The three siblings were apparently very close to Jesus, and we have the opportunity to observe the sisters’ reactions and the reaction of our Lord to the loss of a loved one.

When we read about Martha and Mary a few months ago in Luke 10 we saw that Mary had the faith that Jesus most appreciated while Martha—well, he kind of fussed at her for not paying attention to what was important. Mary, who seemed so useless to Martha, was praised for listening and spending time with Jesus. I also believe Jesus’ rebuke of Martha was a gentle one, and He took the sting out of his criticism by addressing her by name. I also believe He was more disappointed with her attitude than anything else. Remember? She called him “Lord” then demanded He tell Mary to help her. In other words, Mary should be serving too, why don’t you see that and say something? (See my July 2015 blog.)

So let’s spend some more time with these two fascinating women and see how they interact with Jesus at a tragic juncture in their lives. It’s kind of a long chapter, but I encourage you to read John 11:1-43 for yourselves.

Just days before Lazurus dies, the sisters send Jesus a message telling Him that Lazarus is sick, referring to their brother as “the one you love.” Perhaps those words are meant to convey the urgency of the situation as well as an expectation that Jesus come immediately. But Jesus, in a seemingly callous manner, waits until after Lazurus dies to go to them. In verses 7-16 Jesus lets the disciples in on His plans. These verses deserve a closer look and we could most definitely delve into this passage and find some great treasures, but I mainly want to stick with Martha and Mary. (Again, I encourage you to read through these verses, and look at what the disciples say about His planned journey.)

In John 11:17, Jesus arrives when Lazurus has been in the tomb for four days. In verse 20 Martha hears He is coming and goes out to meet Him while Mary stays at home.

Wait. What? Is that right?

Yep. That’s Martha all right, heading down the road to meet with Jesus while Mary stays at home with the guests who had come from Jerusalem. Let that sink in for a minute. Martha who previously had been the one hurrying about, anxiously serving and taking care of preparations leaves a house full of mourners and heads out to meet Jesus with no desire that I can see, to serve Him. She simply wants to get to Him. Perhaps she is hoping to receive comfort. Or perhaps she wants to confront Him. All we know is that Martha wants to be with her Lord.

When she meets with Jesus, the first words out of her mouth according to Scripture are: “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Hmm. Sounds like confrontation wins out. Or does it? Perhaps Martha is just seeking honest answers. Jesus doesn’t interrupt her, but listens as she continues (I don’t know about you, but I think Jesus is a pretty good listener), and her next words reveal her heart. “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

Wow! Do you think she really believed that Jesus could raise her brother from the dead? (Hang on and we’ll gain more insight into her thinking.)

Jesus then tells Martha that her brother will rise again. She understands this—she knows he will rise at the last day. But Jesus has something more to share. “I am the resurrection and the life,” He tells her. “He who believes in me will live even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” I imagine Him stating these words gently with an extra dose of the love that He has for this woman.

Martha’s reply is apparently immediate. And look at what she says! (It really is a great answer. Okay, take a deep breath. Ready to see more of Martha’s heart?) “Yes, Lord. I believe you are the Christ, the Son of God who came into the world.”

Dude. The first time I read this I was so proud of Martha because, to be honest, I was a little worried about her harsh attitude toward Mary in the Luke 10 story. But now I see her standing before Jesus having this quiet conversation. And He gives her a chance to confess what she believes about Him. She knows her brother will be raised and live forever. Jesus just had to remind her of what she already believed. He changed her focus and got her to confess aloud what she believed. This must have been a comfort to her for “after she had said this, she went back.”

When she returns, who does she go to? The Bible says she pulls Mary aside and tells her sister that the master is asking for her. I’m so glad we get to see this side of Martha as she delivers the message that Jesus wishes her to come to Him. That is so awesome. Picture Martha’s kindness to Mary as she pulls her aside so they can speak in private. I love it. And Jesus requests her presence.  So now it is Mary’s turn to go to Jesus. And she leaves so quickly that those who had come to comfort notice and follow her.

jesus annointed with perfume

When Mary reaches Jesus, she falls at His feet. Much like her old self for this isn’t the first time she is at His feet. She once washed His feet with her tears, and dried them with her hair (Luke 7:37-38)

in a display of devotion. So now her emotions spill forth again in much the same way but this time with grief. And she says the same words as her sister. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” According to the Scripture, she doesn’t add Martha’s statement that God would do whatever He asked, yet Jesus understands her aching spirit. He is moved by her weeping and the weeping of those who had come with her. Maybe this is the reason “Jesus wept” for as soon as He asks where they have laid Lazurus and they tell Him “come and see,” He weeps. The ISV states that Jesus burst into tears. The Aramaic Bible in Plain English says “And the tears of Yeshua were coming.” I don’t know about you, but I want to weep when I read those words. Theologians have come up with a number of reasons for Jesus’ tears. All we really know is that Jesus is moved with compassion for Mary and for all the Jews who had come with her.

The people lead Him to the tomb and as Jesus tells them to remove the stone, Martha objects. “Lord, by this time there will be a stench.”  Keep in mind that we just heard Martha say that God would do whatever Jesus asks, but now her practical side has settled on her and she thinks about the smell. (Notice that once again she prefaces her objection with “Lord.”)

As you probably know, the stone is moved and Jesus calls Lazurus from the grave. Many come to believe in Him because of this miracle much to the chagrin of the Pharisees. It is interesting that the Bible says nothing about Martha and Mary’s reaction to having their brother back. And I wonder–do they dance with joy as they welcome him into their embrace? Do perhaps both of them fall at Jesus feet and cry tears of joy? As Jesus wept with them, does he now laugh with them? Or maybe they stand in stunned silence.

But God was glorified as Jesus said He would be (verse 4), and both sisters find comfort in Christ.

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Christ's Love

Messed Up by Sin, but the Good News is….

I have entitled my blog “Find His Love” for a very specific reason—my desire to help women better understand the tremendous love God has for them as individuals. (And as I have said before men, you are welcome to read along.) I know what it is like to doubt God’s love. I know what it is like to hear over and over that He is love, yet to feel unloved and ashamed before Him and the world. Even after I became a Christ-follower, I struggled with these feelings. And I am one of those who believe that feelings are important. God created emotions. He understands our emotions. Furthermore, God wants us to love Him with all our:

  • heart
  • soul
  • strength
  • mind

(Luke 10:27)

Seems like “emotions” or “feelings” are included in that list somewhere.

So I developed a mission to help followers understand and yes, feel(!) God’s love more deeply by studying the way Christ demonstrated that love. What a powerful force we would be for His kingdom if we could but begin to grasp the concepts of that magnificent love.

The Problem of Sin

And yet lately, I’ve been thinking more about the world in general, and of those who have no clue about who Jesus is or what He did. I have also been burdened by the horrors that seem to increase in our world every day. Atrocities haunt us when we turn on the news or get on the internet. Hatred. Starvation. Desperate refugees. Beheadings. Sex trafficking of women and children.

Here in the United States, we still see hunger, homelessness, a plague of adultery, and yes, human trafficking. Why do we see so much suffering and chaos in this world? Why do I suffer? Why are children hurt and scarred for life? Every problem—from the violence of ISIS to our educational woes to the aggravations at work and at home—can be summed up in one word: sin.

I know we don’t like that word. But sin is the problem—throughout the world as well as in our individual lives. When sin entered into the world, death also entered, along with sickness, the violence we see in nature; the whole world became skewed from God’s perfect plan.

And believe it or not—that is the good news. Because sin can be redeemed. Sin and the damage to our lives can be healed and even used by God.

Was Jesus really the Christ? 

Jesus, the Son of God came to redeem sinners as the Messiah. But perhaps you think He was just a man, a good man, a good teacher. You may believe Jesus never claimed to be the Son of God. But I promise, Jesus knew who He was, and I’d like you to see a few of the ways in which He proclaimed Himself:

Jesus called God His Father, and the Jewish leaders understood what He was saying.                      “So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him.  In his defense Jesus said to them, ‘My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.’ For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” John 5:16-18 (emphasis mine)

“I Am the Bread of Life”
“Jesus replied, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.'” John 6:35

Jesus Said He Could Forgive Sins
While healing He declared: “‘…that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—he then said to the paralytic—’Rise, pick up your bed and go home.’ And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God…” Matthew 9:8

“I am the Light of the world”
“‘…I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life…'”  John 8:12

I have come that they may have life, abundantly”
“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd….My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”  John 10:10, 27-2

I am with you always”
“‘…behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.'”   Matthew 28:20

“I am the way, the truth, the life”
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.'” John 14:6

If you believe the Bible has any historical value, you see that Jesus made some pretty amazing claims about Himself and His Father.

But How Could He Die for my Sin? He was a Human Being and He Sinned, Didn’t He? 

The direct answer is a simple “no”. Since Jesus made Himself equal with God, and God does not sin, He could not either. But other Scriptures support this concept as well. In Hebrews 4:15, the author states: For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. (NASB)

I’ve provided a link to one site listing the Scriptures that deal with His sinlessness. http://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Jesus-Christ,-Sinlessness

So How do I Respond?

Perhaps you think you have lived a good life, and have never done anything so bad that you need a Savior. “Surely I can make my own way in this life, and come out all right.” That seems reasonable. But take a look again at John 14:6 (above). Jesus claims He is the way. And according to Romans 3:23 we have all sinned. Yes, Jesus loves us and He forgives. But He only forgives when we become willing to turn from our wrongful deeds. While Jesus declares “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”, we must also realize that He died to save us from sin, not so that we keep on sinning. So believing He is the Son of God and that He died for us must be accompanied by a heartfelt repentance (turning from sin and to God).

Or you may be thinking you must get my life right first. Notice what Jesus says though, God wants to give us eternal life. And Romans 6:23 says that the gift of God is eternal life. A gift that is given out of love is not something we must earn. And it is only by believing that God can make us right with Him. Jesus is the One who makes your life right.

Perhaps you feel a certain emptiness in your soul. May I suggest that the filling you need is Jesus the Son of God? I know I felt that hole in my life for a long time. I needed to understand that I could never be good enough to gain God’s acceptance. His acceptance only came through a moment in time when I told Him I believed and agreed to live for Him. Praying a prayer is not necessarily what it takes as you may have been told. Believing and turning from our own ways invites Him to make our heart His home.

This video may be a little dated, but I hope you will enjoy it. It is entitled “The Hole Story”

References:

http://www.everystudent.com/wires/whodoyousay.htmlAccessed September 3, 2015

Parker, Troy. “The World’s Messed Up.” Worldview series Part 4. Sermon presented at Church at Red River. Shreveport, Louisiana, August 30, 2015  http://churchatredriver.com/media/worldview-2/

Scriptures are from the New International Version of the Bible unless otherwise indicated.

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