1. A Family That Knew Jesus Well
(My wife will be taking a week off from these devotional pages. I pray I can share some thoughts from God's Word as she does so faithfully every day.)
As modern Christians we have the blessing of the Holy Spirit dwelling inside us. Prior to the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came and went, as seen clearly in the life of Samson. His words are full of truth when he states that if the Holy Spirit is not on him he would be "like any other man." But imagine how wonderful if would have been if we could have spent time around Jesus Christ, God Incarnate in the body of a man. Wouldn't it have been wonderful to spend time listening to Jesus and fellowshipping with Him? At one time there were thousands who followed Him. He had seventy followers who went out two by two spreading the Gospel. His closest friends were his chosen twelve disciples with whom he spent three and a half years traveling from place to place. But this week I want us to look at a family of three-- a brother and his two sisters-- who were very close to Jesus.
Philippians 3:10 says "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death..." This verse is a picture of that family from Bethany: "That I may know Him..." (Mary) "...and the power of His resurrection..." (Lazarus) "...and the fellowship of His sufferings...." (Martha) Let's get to know this family that got to know Jesus very well.
"38 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word.
40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:38)
We are told that it was Martha's house. It seems clear that her brother and sister lived with her there, but it would have been her responsibility to serve a meal to her guests--Jesus and His disciples. Imagine having twelve people come for a visit to your house, and you have the obligation to feed them. No wonder Martha was "cumbered about much serving." I personally believe that Martha is right in the center of God's will working there in her kitchen. Jesus never criticized what Martha was doing. Martha's mistake was in criticizing her sister Mary. Like Martha, we have many things we "must needs" do. There are always meals to prepare and dishes to wash. Most of us have to go to work, or go to school. But even with these "important" things to do, we must not forget what is "imperative": sitting at the feet of Jesus. God's Word must be an important part of our everyday life.
3. Martha Continued
Below we see the other two incidents where Martha is mentioned in the Bible:
John 12:2 There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him.
John 11:20 Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house.
21 Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
22 But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.
23 Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again.
24 Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.
25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?
27 She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.
In the first reference we again see Martha's heart of a servant. What a blessing to know people who will work and do whatever is needed for the cause of Christ.
In the second reference, Lazarus has died and Jesus was not there in time to heal him. But Jesus had a better plan and would raise Lazarus from the dead, one of the most public miracles He ever did. Notice Martha's statements of faith: she knows Jesus can raise her brother and she believes in the resurrection of the last day. She knows that Jesus is the Son of God. But Martha walks away after verse 27. Then comes the real test of faith:
38 Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it.
39 Jesus 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.
40 Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?
Many of us have strong faith and solid doctrine. But when it comes to living our faith in our daily life, we falter. Martha's grasp of the reality of death and the stinking corpse of her brother was too strong for her faith to overcome. God help us to walk by faith, and not by sight or by our common sense.
4. Lazarus: "The Power of His Resurrection"
Philippians 3:10 says "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death..." This verse is a picture of that family from Bethany: "That I may know Him..." (Mary) "...and the power of His resurrection..." (Lazarus) "...and the fellowship of His sufferings...." (Martha)
We have seen that Martha, like Jesus, had a servant's heart. In her brother Lazarus we see "the power of his resurrection."
John 11:41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.
42 And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.
43 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.
44 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.
Since the fall of Adam, all of us are born sinners. Spiritually, we are completely and totally dead. Romans 5:12 says "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:" Romans 6:23 says "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Only through the blood of Jesus Christ that was shed on Calvary can we become spiritually alive. Lost sinners need a spiritual "resurrection". Lazarus is a picture of what happens to us through salvation. The result of that salvation is a life of freedom, when we, like Lazarus, are loosed from the bindings of sin and let go free. It is a great understatement to say that Jesus Christ made a difference in the life of Lazarus, since Christ actually gave him new life. Has Jesus made a great difference in your life?
5. Lazarus: His Life After His Resurrection
John 12:2 "There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him." John 12: 9-11 "Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead.
But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus."
The raising of Lazarus was one of the most public miracles of Jesus. It is after that miracle that plans are put in place to kill Jesus. But notice that there is also a plot to kill Lazarus. Why? What had he done? He was guilty of only one thing--Jesus had performed a miracle in his life. Notice that people came not just to see Jesus, but also to see Lazarus. What a testimony he had! People probably pointed and said, "Look! There he is! He is the one that Jesus raised from the dead!" And people actually believed on Jesus because of what had happened to Lazarus. Are our lives such a testimony? Do people see such a change in us that they come to hear about Jesus? Do people believe on Jesus because of what has happened to us? Oh, that our lives would have such a testimony. But notice also that the ones who hated Jesus and wanted Him killed also hated Lazarus and wanted him killed. If we truly take a stand for the Lord with not just our words, but also our lives, others will be influenced. Some may come to believe on Jesus because of our lives. But you can also expect those who hate the Saviour to hate you. John said in I John 4:3 "And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world." That spirit of antichrist is growing stronger in this world. If you follow Christ, you can expect that some will hate you the same way that they hate Jesus.
6. Mary of Bethany: At the Feet of Jesus--Listening to the Word
Mary is my favorite of these three family members, because she is a beautiful picture of worship. There are only three incidents recorded about her, although one incident is recorded more than once. But the wonderful thing is that Mary is always found at the feet of Jesus.
Luke 10:38-39 "Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word."
What a lesson for all of us to learn--no matter what the chores and tasks we face every day, we must find the time to learn from the words of Jesus. Every church service should involve this part of worship. but we must also find time in our individual lives to fellowship and learn from the Lord's Word. A Charles Wesley hymn put it this way:
"Faithful to my Lord's commands / I still would choose the better part; Serve with careful Martha's hands / And loving Mary's heart."
As Warren Wiersbe says, "The most important part of the Christian life is the part that only God sees."
7. Mary of Bethany: At the Feet of Jesus--Pouring Out Her Heart
John 11:32-35 "Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. Jesus wept."
For a second time we find Mary of Bethany at the feet of Jesus. Whereas the first incident found her listening to the words of Jesus, here Mary is taking the important things on her heart to the Lord. Just as listening to God's Word is a major part of worship, so is taking our requests to the Lord in prayer. As the songwriter said, "What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer." Notice that Mary is not just saying words; she is weeping as she tells the Lord what is on her heart. It is wonderful to note in verses 33-34 that Jesus is so moved by Mary's tears and the tears of others there that He also begins to weep. Even the shortest verse in the Bible teaches us a great lesson: when we are hurting and we take our problems to the Lord, the Lord's heart is moved and He has compassion for what is hurting us. This, again, is a part of our worship of the Lord.
8. Mary of Bethany: At the Feet of Jesus--Giving Her All to the Lord
Mark 14:3-9 "And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head. And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her. And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me.For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always.She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her."
John 11:2 makes it clear that this woman is Mary of Bethany: "(It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.)" So here we see Mary at the feet of Jesus a third time. She has worshipped by listening to the Word, then by telling Jesus the needs of her heart, and here she worships by giving. As far as I know, those are the three elements of worship. We can give of our money, our talents, and our praise. Like Mary of Bethany, people may judge us wrongly since they do not know our hearts and our motives. People may accuse you of doing things "to be seen", and may not think your praise or your ministry is sincere. Try to ignore criticism, and be like Mary of Bethany. Jesus gives her high words of praise: "She hath done what she could." Do what you can for the Lord, and you will be rewarded. I have read that on the tombstone of the great songwriter Fanny Crosby are those same words spoken by Jesus: "She hath done what she could."