About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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Jesus Comforts The Sisters (ch. 11:17-37)


Verse 17 in the NIV almost reads as if Jesus had not known that Lazarus had been dead for 4 days, but we know better than that.  I'm sure Jesus knew that Lazarus had already died.  As we saw in the last section, I believe that Jesus did not come to heal Lazarus as soon as He knew that Lazarus was sick.  Lazarus' death was no surprise to Jesus, neither is the death of anyone you or I know.


We see in verse 18 that Bethany is about 2 miles from Jerusalem . 


Verse 19 states that many Jewish people had come to comfort Mary and Martha in their time of sorrow.  I should point out a Jewish custom here.  Hired men and woman were hired as professional mourners.  These mourners would be hired for a few days to mourn the death of a person.  We should also know that Israelis in and around Jerusalem buried their dead the same day the person had died.  Those farther away from Jerusalem buried their dead within 24 hours.     


In verse 20 we see that Jesus arrives on the scene.  When Martha heard of His arrival, she ran out immediately to see Jesus.  Mary stayed inside.  It's quite possible that Mary was discouraged, maybe even upset that Jesus had not come earlier.  It might also be possible that Mary did not know that Jesus was on His way to see her and Martha.


Remember that on another occasion (Luke 10) that Mary washed Jesus feet and used some very expensive perfume in the process.  Martha was quite upset because Mary was not helping her in preparing food and other such things for the day.   It appears to some Bible teachers that Mary had more heart felt emotion for Jesus than Martha.  If that is true, that would suggest that Mary might well have been more upset with Jesus because of His slow arrival than Martha was.  That might account for her not running out to meet Jesus as Martha did, and again, that assumes that Mary knew of Jesus' arrival.     


In verse 21 we see Martha’s faith.  She told Jesus that if He had of been there earlier Lazarus would not have died in the first place.  This implies that Jesus would have healed him of whatever sickness that caused his death.  It also implies that Martha had no clue that Jesus could raise her dead brother.  That being said, verse 22 might suggest that Martha believed that if Jesus would ask God, His Father, He could raise Lazarus from the dead.  At this point, it might well be possible that Martha trusted Jesus more than Mary.   


In verse 23 Jesus tells Martha that her brother will rise again.  In verse 24 Martha said that she understood that he would indeed rise on the last day.  This is known as the resurrection of the dead in theological terms. 


Pharisees in Jesus' day believed there was such a thing as the resurrection of the dead.  Sadducees, however, did not believe in the resurrection of the dead.  They believed that once you died, that was it.  There was no life after death.      


Verse 25 clearly states that Jesus was not talking about the resurrection of the dead at the end of this age.  Jesus said; "I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me will live … and he who lives and believes in me shall never die." 


First of all, we have another "I am"  statement, as we have seen throughout the book of John.  Jesus has previously stated that He was light, the gate, the Good Shepherd, the bread of life, and the water of life.  Now He states that He Himself is resurrection and the life.  All the power of life and death exists in Him, and if we give ourselves to Him we enter that place where death will have no power over us.  Jesus says that even though we die, we will live.  We die physically, but we will take up a new form of existence and live for eternity. 


The reason why Jesus could say that He was the life is because of what we see in the creation account of Genesis.  When the text says that God spoke the word and it came into existence, that word spoken was Jesus Himself, in a form we know little about prior to His incarnation into humanity.  John 1:1 states that Jesus is the Word of God, the divine logos.  That simply means that Jesus was the mind of God, or, that's the simplest way to explain something we have a hard time explaining.  The short of it all is that Jesus Himself is life.  He holds all living things together as seen in Hebrews 1:1 to 3.  Without Jesus, no kind of life exists, not now, not in the past, and not in the future.          


Then Jesus asks Martha in verse 28, "Do you believe this?"  That is to say, "Do you believe life exists because of me?"


In verse 29 Martha replied, "Yes Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God who was to come into the world."  Martha’s response could not have been much better.  Jesus basically asked her if she believed that He was the resurrection and life; the One who holds all life in His hands.  Martha had a good grasp on who Jesus was.  She believed that He was the long awaited for Messiah, the Christ, and, the Son of God.  Just to what detail Martha understood these things, we just don't know, but, she had simple trust in Jesus, and, simple trust in Jesus is what is important.


In verse 28 we note that Martha went into the house and told Mary that Jesus was looking for her.  I think that Jesus knew there was something wrong with Mary.  She probably would have been the first to run out and greet Jesus but she remained in the house.  As I said earlier, I think Mary was pouting.  I think she was discouraged that Jesus had not come before her brother died.  I think she might well have been quite upset at this point, and for this reason, Jesus wanted to talk with her.  Again, all this assumes that Mary actually knew that Jesus was on His way to visit her and her sister.      


Note that Martha, right after calling Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, now calls Jesus "the Teacher."  The NIV capitalizes the word "Teacher", probably because it is in reference to Jesus, but, the Greek text would not have had nay capital letters.  The fact remains that Martha understood Jesus to be the ultimate Teacher of truth.


Verse 29 tells us that Mary left immediately to meet Jesus.  Some suggest, because of this verse, that Mary did not know that Jesus had arrived.  That being the case, my speculation that Mary was upset with Jesus would not be valid.  If Mary really didn't know that Jesus had arrived, then my point that Mary was upset is not valid, but, I'm not sure the text really clarifies that Mary did not realize that Jesus had arrived.  Both positions on this point are a bit speculative.


In verse 30 we note that Martha met Jesus outside the village of Bethany .  She must have heard that He was on His way and so she ran to meet Him, or, she must have just happened to meet Him.  I think she knew He was on His way somehow. 


Verse 31 tells us that when the Jews who were with Mary saw her leave the house so quickly, they followed her, thinking she was going to the tomb.  Again, these Jews would have been professional mourners who were hired to mourn the death of Lazarus, which was the tradition of the day.  


In verse 32 we see Mary with a similar response to Jesus that Martha had.  She fell at Jesus’ feet in great sorrow and anguish.  She was obviously very passionate at this point in time.  She told Jesus that if He had been there prior to Lazarus' death he would not have died.  She just knew that Jesus would have healed her brother.  She didn't seem to know that if Jesus could heal a dying man, He could also raise the dying man from the dead.


It is interesting that Mary
told Jesus the same thing that Martha did.  This is, "If you had been here Lazarus would not have died."   Though each woman said the same thing, it appears to me that it was said with a different attitude and with a different tone of voice.  Martha was more calculative, spoken with logic and reason.  Martha was more of a logical, practical, business type person.  Mary fell at Jesus feet in great emotion.  Her statement was said with emotion and feeling from her heart.  She was more of a heart person, motivated from her heart, not from her head, like Martha. 


The difference between these two ladies shows up in this experience.  Martha would have made a good business woman.  She liked being busy doing things and organizing things.  Mary seems to be more of the laid back artistic type, not so busy organizing but creative in her approach to life.  I could see her as a painter, a song writer, or some kind of person with artistic talent that she was passionate about.        


At this point Mary was crying and those with her were crying.  In verse 34 we see that Jesus was affected by these emotions and John tells us that He "was deeply moved in spirit and troubled."  In fact Jesus Himself was caught up in the sorrow of the moment.  We see the heart felt compassion of Jesus here.  That is something we must never forget.  Man simply will never know how much love and compassion Jesus has for humanity. 


Jesus had to experience life like you and I in every aspect.  That was part of His job.  He came into this world to live as a human being.  He was not allowed to escape any aspect of being human.  Thus, sorrow touched Jesus’ heart as it would you and I.  He experienced every human emotion possible, and this is just one of these emotions. 


In verse 34 Jesus then asks where they had laid Lazarus.  They took Him to the tomb.  In verse 35 we have the shortest verse in the Bible.  Verse 35 says:  "Jesus wept."  Just two words, but these two words say a lot about the character of Jesus.


The Jews who came with Mary were thinking just as I have stated about Jesus’ sorrow over this situation.  In verse 36 they said; "See how He loved him."  This tells me that when these people saw Jesus cry, they saw His sorrow.  They felt the compassion Jesus had for Lazarus. 


I do believe that Jesus was sad.  He was sad mostly because of all the tears He saw.  The emotions of these people spilled over to Him and made Him sad, but, was He sad because of Lazarus’ death?  I don't think so.  He knew what was going to happen in the moments to come. He knew that He would raise Lazarus from the dead.  He knew this all along.  He knew it from the moment that the message of Lazarus' illness reached Him.  He could not have been saddened by the death of Lazarus.  He was saddened because the sadness of those around Him touched His heart.  We should know that in times of our sadness, Jesus feels the pain along with us.  He is that concerned about us.


Verse 37 ends this section by the Jews asking that if Jesus could heal others, He could have healed Lazarus.  What they were about to experience must have been exceedingly shocking.       


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