The Holy Bible is full of awesome episodes of human lives. This story is one of the most spectacular of all. The main story unfolded in a small town called, “The Town of Mary,” or “Bethany.” Bethany means “to go” or “to send.” The town appeared to be a kind of headquarters for Jesus when He was in the vicinity of Jerusalem. Mary, her sister, Martha, and their brother, Lazarus, had become like family to the Lord. The Son of God allowed Himself to become very close to selected persons, and this was seen in His relationship with this family.
Lazarus died suddenly while the Lord and His disciples were a considerable distance away. The sisters were comfortable sending Christ a report of Lazarus’ sickness and they apparently expected Him to hurry back to Bethany to heal Lazarus. Jesus tarried at His location to minister and to perform an even greater miracle than healing a sick body. There were no surprises in Christ’s life. Every expression or event was foreordained in the perfect pattern of a Divine visitation. The same is true in the life of every saint of God if we are led by the Spirit. Tough places are just as important as smooth days.
When Jesus decided it was time to go to Bethany, He told His disciples, “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep”(John 11:11b). Christ’s disciples did not understand, so He said, “Lazarus is dead” (John 11:14b). The Lord knew that this was an opportunity and a plan of the Father to reveal His Messiahship. He then stated, “And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him” (John 11:15). Thomas adds a tender response to the Lord’s words, “Let us also go, that we may die with him”(John 11:16b). They all loved this family.
When Jesus arrived four days after the burial, Mary was disappointed and a bit miffed at the Lord. Martha, the steadier of the two sisters, ran to meet Jesus before He even reached their home, but Mary stayed home to pout. The Lord tenderly sent Martha for Mary. Martha secretly told Mary that the Lord was calling for her. Her words were a great expression of the Lord’s mercy, “The Master is come, and calleth for thee” (John 11:18b).
This is where the story turned supernatural. Mary hurried out of her home to go where Jesus was waiting. The Divine plan was that this company of Jews – no doubt very important leaders from Jerusalem – would see the miracle that had been planned by the Father. “The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out, followed her, saying, She goeth unto the grave to weep there” (John 11:31). When Mary was before the Lord, she immediately “fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died” (John 11:32b).
The Lord’s great love and capacity for compassion lives in this awesome event. The Bible says, “He groaned in the spirit, and was troubled” (John 11:33b). Then, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). This was the one single time in the Holy Bible when tears were seen in Jesus’ eyes. It was actually more than tears; He wept or sobbed before the company of Lazarus’ family and Jewish friends. What a picture this paints of God in the very confines of human flesh! In the same story we have our Savior and Lord weeping in human compassion and then acting in supernatural glory.
He never chided Mary for human weakness but simply asked where they had laid or buried him. As these unbelieving Jews saw the incredible love and tenderness of Jesus Christ, they wondered why He had not prevented this death of Lazarus. Some said, “Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died”(John 11:37)
When the Son of God reached the tomb, He said, “Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days” (John 11:39). Notice that it was Martha, not Mary, that expressed this doubt. Apparently, Mary was now as strong in her faith as she had been in her grief. The Lord was very careful to guide both the sisters toward the “Miracle in the Making.” He lifted His head up to His Father and prayed a simple but extremely humble prayer.
After His submission to His Father, He called the dead back to life. Earlier He had said to Martha, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this” (John 11:25-26). Jesus was careful to call the name of Lazarus as He cried out into a tomb full of many dead persons. Every word spoken by the Son of God commanded immediate action. If He had not specifically named Lazarus, the entire graveyard would have been emptied.
“And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go. Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him” (John 11:44-45).
The picture ended with “Two Sisters and One Resurrected Brother.” It sure would be grand to follow this great miracle and see how life unfolded in “The Town of Mary.” No doubt great crowds came to see the living testimony of this special family. They came to hear the proof of the priceless visit of “God in the flesh” to an ordinary household just like mine and yours.
Joseph R. Chambers