Struggle Strategizer: Martha
*Read Part 1 to learn more about the resurrection of Lazarus, and Mary’s experience.
Martha was a busy body, and she liked to get things done. Mary and Martha were both hustlers, but they hustled in different ways (Luke 10:38-42). Martha did what she did best. She got up and hustled to the door (John 11:20).
I believe in that moment Martha recognized her hustle was not enough. No amount of hustle could resurrect her brother. If resurrection was going to happen God would need to do it (John 11:1-44).
What about the neighbors and community that showed up (John 11:19)? Did Martha embrace the community’s support and comfort, while Mary wanted to sit quietly on the couch? The neighbors comforted Mary and Martha, but they did not have the power to change the situation. Were they thinking Mary was grieving “realistically” and Martha was “overly hopeful”? To theoutsider Martha has this stringing hope jumping up and going out to meet Jesus. Martha may have seemed more spiritual, or positive when she greeted Jesus first, but was she covering up her fear? The neighbors may have seen Martha come to the door and thought she was more considerate than Mary, but why did Martha come to the door first? Did Martha come to the door out of anger, doubt, hope, or a combination of all these emotions?
Martha demonstrates that you can know who God is and still doubt what he can do.
At first, it seems that Martha is confident that Jesus will raise Lazarus. Although, she says, “But Lord, by now there is an odor… (John 11:39). We could assume that Martha didn’t whole heartedly believe that Jesus was going to resurrect Lazarus right then and there. She did say, “I believe he will rise again on the last day.” Although, when Jesus arrives she tells him “…I know that Even nowGod will give you whatever you ask (John 11:22).” How does Martha so quickly go from saying “even now” to saying “but Lord?”
Martha’s emotions shift so quickly because she’s grieving, not because she’s “less spiritual.” Martha’s carrying a string of emotions when Jesus knocks on the door. Martha wasn’t less spiritual than Mary, and Mary wasn’t “less spiritual” than Martha. Both sisters loved Jesus.
Martha’s Cycle of Doubt:
- Anger and Despair- Martha tells Jesus if you had been here this wouldn’t have happened (John 11:21).
- Hope- Martha tells Jesus that he is all-powerful, and capable of anything (John 11:22).
- Doubt- Martha realizes the reality of the situation, and her flesh reminds her how long Lazarus has been in the grave (John 11:39-40).
It’s our human tendency to doubt and grieve. These feelings take on a complex cycle of emotions. Your feelings may not follow this cycle, but they will ebb and flow. No one feels one way all the time. Give yourself grace in these moments because Jesus is gracious to you, and his mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23).
God’s Will Doesn’t Always Look “Good”, but He Works All Things for Our Good (Romans 8:28):
- Jesus specifically goes back to Jerusalem knowing that Lazarus is sick (John 11:6-7)
- Jesus arrives “late” by human standards (John 11:17).
- Jesus weeps (John 11:35).
- Jesus thanks God the father (John 11:41-42).
- Jesus raises Lazarus (John 11:43-44).
To the surrounding community, Mary, and Martha Jesus was not acting like “himself.” Even the neighbors ask what’s up with this guy? He could heal the blind man, but not Lazarus (John 11:37)? Often, we expect God to work in a certain way.
Often, we expect a limitless, all-powerful God to work in rote routine and repetition. All the events that other’s considered “off” Jesus carefully planned and orchestrated in order to execute his father’s will.
Jesus didn’t let Lazarus suffer for the heck of it. Jesus didn’t delay visiting Lazarus to confuse anyone. Jesus didn’t allow Mary and Martha to suffer because he wanted them to hurt. Jesus wasn’t worried about his reputation, but he wanted other’s to trust him. After Jesus said “Take off the grave clothes and let him go,” the religious leaders begin plotting to kill him (John 11:44, John 11:45-49).
Lazarus’ resurrection foreshadows Jesus’resurrection. Lazarus’ resurrection wasn’t just about Lazarus! Jesus wanted to demonstrate that his actions are more than a predictable process.
Jesus’ decisions leadingup to Lazarus’ resurrection weremade with many factors in mind.When man believed he failed, Jesusbelieved in the will and plan of God the father. Jesus never doubted that his father would not pull through. No, we don’t all experience physical resurrectioninthis life, but we can experience a spiritualresurrectionif we allow him to workin our lives. Remember this example the next time you fall into the same cycle of doubtand hopeas Martha. Remember that our pain is much bigger than our own sorrow.
Never Give Up,