Jesus loved Martha. With her sister Mary and her brother Lazarus, Martha held a special place in Jesus’ heart.
Were they childhood friends who grew up together? Or distant cousins? Or maybe their home was a place Jesus always felt welcome, a place of refuge where He knew He could kick back and relax, rest, laugh, and eat well.
Whatever the reason, the two sisters and their brother had a cherished friendship with Jesus.
Lazarus is the famous one; he came back from the dead. Mary is the one who knew how to worship, how to sit with the Lord in sweet communion. But Martha … well, somehow we always seem to focus on Martha’s shortcomings.
And I’m going to do that again today. Because, to be honest, Martha is the one most like us. I’ve never even thought of washing someone’s feet with perfume and wiping them dry with my hair, as Mary did. And I’ve never been buried and then come back from the dead. So Martha is the person I recognize, the one most like me.
The story is this:
Jesus is preaching somewhere out in the wilderness because it’s too dangerous for Him to stay in Jerusalem—He’s just escaped from a mob that attempted to kill Him. But while He’s out in the hills somewhere, He gets word that His dear friend Lazarus is critically ill. In a decision that must have seemed strange to His disciples, Jesus waits several days before going to His friends. By then, Lazarus is dead.
Word comes to the grieving sisters that Jesus is coming. Martha runs out to meet Him. I can see and hear her grief. “Lord, I wish you would have been here. You could have saved him.”
He tries to comfort her. “Lazarus will live again.”
“Oh, I know that. We will all rise at the resurrection.”
“But, Martha, I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. No one who believes in me will ever die. Do you believe me, Martha?”
“Lord, you know I do. I’ve believed from the very beginning that you are the Messiah, that God sent you. You know I believe.”
I can hear her emphasizing the words. She believed. Firmly. From the beginning.
Within the hour, they stand in front of the cave where Lazarus has been entombed. Jesus orders them to roll away the stone at the entrance but Martha objects.
“Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.”
We are such Marthas! We say we believe all the promises of God. We believe in His power. We believe He works for our good. We believe He watches over us and cares for us and protects us. We believe in His goodness and His love. We believe. Yes, we believe.
But when we’re faced with what we call “hard facts of life,” we talk and act as though the Lord of the universe just can’t handle the smelly stuff. Like Martha, who blurted out the truth of her unbelief, what we say both to ourselves and others shows our own lack of faith.
Or maybe Martha’s statement did not come from unbelief—maybe it came from not knowing. Maybe she just never imagined that such a thing could happen. She did not know it was possible. After all, she had probably never seen a dead man walk out of his grave.
Maybe it’s not that we don’t believe. Maybe it’s just that we need to get to know the Father better and catch a grander glimpse of His power that works in our lives—the same power that raised a dead man! That power, the Scriptures promise us, is beyond anything we can imagine.
Jesus loved Martha.
His response to her was, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?”
I don’t think Jesus was scolding Martha. I think He was reminding her, gently, “Martha, there is so much more … if you just believe in me.”
He loves us.
He watches us today and listens to those things we blurt out that show how weak our belief and how small our knowledge of Him. And still He loves us and reminds us, “If you believe, you will see God’s glory. Believe in me, trust me. I have things for you beyond your imagination, beyond anything you think is possible.”
Spirit, help our unbelief.
Scripture: from John 11