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The grieving family and friends
John 11.17-19 – When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother.
The scene portrayed here is typical for the death of a loved one. Families grieve and friends provide what amount of consolation they can muster.
Let’s not miss the fact that Jesus is present. Jesus is never absent from the death experience of a family. Our tears and grief may cloud our vision of Christ, but he is present, none the less.
We will learn about the Holy Spirit in later chapters of John. The Greek word for the Holy Spirit in John is “paraclete.” It literally means “someone called alongside.” Some versions of the Bible translate paraclete as “Advocate.” A lawyer or advocate stands beside us in the courtroom.
Other Bible translations use the word “Comforter” for the paraclete. When people are experiencing the deep pains of grief, we can pray for the Holy Spirit – the One who is called alongside of us – to reveal himself as Comforter to these people.
As we consider the thousands of deaths from the corona virus, we can play a role in helping through our prayers. Please ask God to show people that he is present in the very midst of their suffering. Ask that they experience the presence and comfort of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter.
Mary and Martha
John 11.20 – When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home.
Luke’s Gospel introduces us to Mary and Martha. Luke describes the love and devotion this family gave to Jesus. Jesus was welcome in their home with both Mary and Martha giving him their best (See Luke 10.38-42).
On this very sad day, it was Martha who ventured out to meet Jesus.
Jesus talks to Martha about life.
John 11.21-27 – Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.”
23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”
Martha came to Jesus with a mixture of deep grief and faith. Jesus, the One who loved her family, was absent in the time of their greatest need.
One of God’s greatest qualities is that we can be honest with him about how we feel. Martha was able to frankly tell Jesus what she thought about his delay.
We too can tell God our pain, disappointment, sorrow, and even anger. Many have found words to express their grief in the prayers of the Psalms.
How do we understand Jesus’ statement in verses 25 and 26?
Verses 25 and 26 are a bit complicated. The “bottom line” in these verses is they contain the best news possible for people who have put their trust in Jesus.
We know from the Bible and experience that earthly death is spared no one, not even Jesus. But the power of death, despite having to die, is broken by the work of Jesus the Messiah. Thus, death does not have last word in a person’s life.
The Apostle Paul describes the experience of death as, “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5.8).
Questions and Answers
Jesus asked Martha, “Do you believe this?” (verse 26).
Could it be that Jesus was asking Martha (and people of all ages) whether we are willing to let Jesus be more real than life and death? I don’t know about you, but that question stretches my faith. How can we answer it?
Martha answered with a very strong affirmation that Jesus was the Messiah. Even though her brother was still in the tomb, she expressed her firm faith in Jesus.
Multitudes of Jesus’ followers have the kind of assurance that was present with Martha. To them, there is no doubt that Jesus is more real than life and death. They have lived as Jesus’ friend for so long that it is natural for them to trust Jesus in all things, including the end of their life on earth.
Side note: Jesus and Women
The world in which Jesus lived was very harsh for women. They had very little status in society, but Jesus often placed his trust in them. In John’s Gospel, the outcast woman from Samaria (John 4), Martha (John 11) and Mary Magdalene (John 20) all received vital revelation about the person and work of Jesus, often before any of his male followers.
A short prayer started all of the events of John 11. You will recall that Mary and Martha sent their prayer to Jesus and simply said, “Lord, he whom you love is ill” (John 11.3).
Would we even have this chapter in the Bible, if these women had not prayed? That’s a hard question to answer. What we do know is the fact that they opened the door for Jesus to act by praying a short, seven-word prayer.
Where is Jesus needed in your life right now? You can ask him to meet those needs.
What about the people who are suffering with the corona virus? You can invite the Holy Spirit – the one called alongside of us – into their hospital rooms to bring healing and comfort.
Let’s praise God today for his willingness to include us in his work through the means of prayer.
Dear God, we praise you for the number of truths in this chapter of your Bible. Through prayer, we open the door for you to bring hope and life to our world.
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- Jesus Shares Our Pain
** Jesus is here and calling for you.
John 11.28-29 – When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him.
The Gospel of John is my favorite book in the New Testament. I love to remember the lives that Jesus transformed by “calling” them into a relationship with him, just as he called Mary (verse 28).
Chapter 4 – An outcast woman from a troubled people group was “called” by Jesus and given living water.
Chapter 5 – A paralyzed man was “called” by Jesus and enabled to walk.
Chapter 8 – A woman discovered in the act of adultery was “called” by Jesus to a new life of freedom and joy.
Chapter 9 – A man blind from birth was “called” by Jesus to see, both physically and spiritually.
Chapter 11 – Two grieving sisters were “called” to experience Jesus at the point of their greatest suffering.
We, too, are “called” to meet with Jesus and to receive exactly what is needed for our lives. Notice that when Jesus called Mary, she immediately got up and went to him (verse 28-29).
Today, Jesus is giving to us the invitation of a lifetime. Let’s get up quickly and go to him.