Daily Devotion: The Faith of Mary and Martha

Continuing with the short series in John 11.

Mary and Martha believed that Jesus was capable of healing their sick brother Lazarus, so they sent word to Jesus to let Him know about Lazarus’s condition. After Lazarus died and Jesus finally arrived, Martha went out to meet him.

“Lord,’ Martha said to Jesus, ‘if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.’

Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’

Martha answered, ‘I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’

Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’

‘Yes, Lord,’ she replied, ‘I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” – John 11:21-27

Notice that Martha believes that Jesus can still intervene in the situation even though Lazarus has been dead four days. She says to him, “I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” This statement is both a declaration of faith in Jesus’s ability to work a miracle as well as submission to His will.

Jesus doesn’t deny that Martha is right–He is in fact planning to raise Lazarus from the dead–but He directs her attention to the greater resurrection to come. Jesus could have saved Lazarus from his sickness, He will save Lazarus from this first physical death, but the greater salvation is the eternal one found by believing that Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” 

Following this conversation, Martha goes to tell Mary that Jesus has arrived and is asking for her. Mary goes to Jesus and then falls at His feet weeping and says, 

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” – John 11:32b

After this they went to the tomb where Lazarus was buried and mourned for him.

Then Jesus instructed them to roll away the stone covering the tomb, to which Martha responded,

“But, Lord,’ said Martha, the sister of the dead man, ‘by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.’

Then Jesus said, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” – John 11:39-40

Did Martha not really believe that Jesus could raise Lazarus earlier? Or did she think He would do it in another way if He did? Or had she taken it as Jesus saying that He wouldn’t when He directed her towards focusing on the ultimate resurrection?

Maybe in a sense Martha did believe that Jesus could raise the dead, but then in that moment she doubted, whatever the case, Jesus was about to solidify her faith and many of the others who were mourning as well.

“So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.’

When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go.’

Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.” – John 11:41-45

Mary and Martha had great faith in Jesus. They believed He could heal the sick and that He was the Messiah, the son of God and source of eternal life. Through raising Lazarus, Jesus increased their faith, allowed them to see “see the glory of God”, and brought others to faith.

 

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