19 And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.
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.
28 And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee.
29 As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto him.
30 Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met him.
31 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.
32 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.
33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled.
34 And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see.
35 Jesus wept.
36 Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him!
37 And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?
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?
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.
45 Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him.
Jesus weeps with us in our loss!
I notice right away that Martha has what seems to be a secret plan. She goes to Mary, and tells her that Jesus wants to see her, yet that is not substantiated by the former passage. In other words, there is a legitimate question as to whether Martha was doing something on her own, or was in collusion with Jesus against some of the people that were known to be opposed to Jesus who were at Martha and Mary’s place.
I find it intriguing to suggest the possibility that Martha felt Mary was closer to Jesus, and might therefore move Him to perform a miracle more easily. The evidence for this is found in Martha’s request, at least not directly answered by Jesus: “But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.” He does not directly deny her request, but rather points to the final resurrection as the one in which Martha should really be concerned. Mary nearly reiterates the request, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.” It is at this point the Lord is moved to tears, and seeks out the grave.
But on consideration, I think this may be reading into the text for the following three reasons:
1) Thomas makes a statement about going to the funeral that they (the disciples and Jesus) might die with Lazarus. Most probably Thomas was swayed by the opposition that he knew they would be facing.
2) Martha came to Mary secretly, not to hide it from Jesus, but rather to tell her that her Lord had come at last. This seems to be a fact verified by Mary not telling those in her own house where she was going, but some followed her anyway, supposing that they needed to be with her in her grief.
3) In verse 46, I am told that some of the Jews went directly to the Pharisees to tell what Jesus had done; the best interpretation is that they were sympathetic to the Pharisees and against Jesus. I think it also helps explain Thomas’s remark about dying if they went to visit the home place of Lazarus.
So I think the best interpretation is that, as the Scripture plainly says, Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. Evidently these three were also part of a larger circle which included people not sympathetic to Jesus or his followers. I find it humbling that God Himself would weep with me, when I am grieved with the deep grief of death of loved ones.
I cannot help but reflect on this chapter a bit more, for it represents the farthest point of my memorization in the gospel of John. As a young man, I was fascinated by the powerful teachings of this gospel, and I attempted to memorize the whole gospel. (I had been taught at Multnomah School of the Bible by the “Walking Bible”, John G. Mitchell) I look back at those younger, energetic years, and wish now I had continued with the remaining chapters. One thing I notice as an older person is that my walk with Jesus has deepened in some ways. He has been around my life for so many years, I scarcely recollect what life was like without Him. I have all of eternity to be blessed with His presence, and wish to redeem the remainder of my days wisely, walking with Him. Maybe a renewal of my memory program would be in order? I know this: planting the Word of God carefully in my heart was used frequently by God, both then and even now. God does speak through His Word, and I am thankful for the memory work that I did while yet in my first small church. I had only 80 members in that church; on a normal Sunday, we might see 40 in the service, and yet those members of that church had a profound effect on me, and I look forward to renewing my acquaintance throughout eternity.
Church In The Wildwood
1. There's a church in the valley by the wildwood,
No lovelier spot in the dale;
No place is so dear to my childhood,
As the little brown church in the vale.
2. How sweet on a clear, Sabbath morning,
To list to the clear ringing bell;
Its tones so sweetly are calling,
Oh, come to the church in the vale.
3. There, close by the church in the valley,
Lies one that I loved so well;
She sleeps, sweetly sleeps, 'neath the willow,
Disturb not her rest in the vale.
4. There, close by the side of that loved one,
To trees where the wild flowers bloom,
When the farewell hymn shall be chanted
I shall rest by her side in the tomb.
5. From the church in the valley by the wildwood,
When day fades away into night,
I would fain from this spot of my childhood
Wing my way to the mansions of light.
Come to the church in the wildwood,
Oh, come to the church in the dale,
No spot is so dear to my childhood,
As the little brown church in the vale.
Lyrics: William Savage Pitts