“Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.” John 11:5-6
A first reading of this verse forces us to ask the question: If Jesus loved them, why would He have waited two days before He went to them? By the time He arrived, Lazarus had been dead four days. He had suffered the pain and agony of dying. His sisters had cared for him during his illness, and then grieved his death with sorrow and weeping. In the meantime, Jesus had been performing miracle after miracle elsewhere, as signs that He was the Son of God. If He really loved his friends, shouldn’t He have run to heal Lazarus? Shouldn’t He have spared them of this suffering and grief?
I have reflected on the sister, Martha. How did Jesus demonstrate His love for Martha by waiting?
When Jesus finally arrived to Bethany, Martha met him. She pleaded with him, “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus then revealed His identity to her as the Son of God: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this.” Martha proclaimed, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world” (John 11:17-27) The order of events is important to see. Martha’s declaration of belief was made before Jesus performed the miracle—before her prayer was answered. By waiting to come, Jesus gave Martha the gift of being able to believe in Him regardless of the outcome. Her faith was deepened because Jesus had waited.
The example of Martha has always served to remind me that Jesus’ love does not always take the form I want. And yet, His love promises something far greater than even the relief from temporal pain and suffering. Belief in Jesus requires giving up our own expectations of what this life should look like. That is what it means to make Him Lord. But in return, His love promises a rich relationship with Him, and life—eternal life.
Last night I presented a teaching exploring how Jesus demonstrated His love to not only Martha, but Mary, Lazarus and the disciples—by waiting to go to Bethany.
To hear more of this teaching on John as well as others, go to the MBC Women's Ministry Facebook page, like it, and you will have access!