This is the fourth part in the Bible study series: How to Be God’s Friend. Friendship implies a relationship that is intimate and trusting. Friends have influence over one another and hold each other accountable for their actions. They respect and accept each other. In our next study in “How to Be God’s Friend” we’ll examine these traits in the example of a family in the Book of John. We’ll notice that Martha served, Mary anointed Jesus’ feet and Lazarus died. Join us as we discover how their friendship with Jesus intersects our lives.
[Steve Myers] Good evening everyone. Welcome to Bible study. This is our last in a series of how to be a friend of God. So we’re going to try to wrap things up. In fact, we’re going to look at a few siblings tonight. Mary, Martha and Lazarus are the topic for the evening and so we’re gonna be discussing some events that happened in their life and try to try to pinpoint some examples for us. Things that we can see, and put into practice in our life, that they experienced in becoming a friend of God. And so we’re going to take a look at the night. But before we begin, let’s ask God’s blessing on the study. If you’ll bow your heads.
“Great, Loving, Heavenly Father, God Almighty, thanks so much for your wonderful blessings. What a wonderful thing it is to understand Your truth. So we certainly thank you for opening our minds to understanding Your way and Your plan and Your purpose for life. What a blessing it is, God, and we thank You for that and we certainly don’t take that for granted. We pray and ask God, that you give us insight tonight. Help us to dig a little bit deeper tonight so that we can understand more fully what it means to be Your friend and how we can better become friends with You and Jesus Christ. So Father, we pray for Your inspiration, Your guidance, and certainly your inspiration that we would understand what you’re teaching us. And so, Father, we put it in Your hands and we pray all of this and ask it by the authority of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.”
Alright, as I mentioned, this is the last in our series. Mary, Martha, Lazarus, they’re pretty familiar figures. I think everybody knows maybe just a little bit about them but sometimes, I think, knowing a little bit of their story in a way can maybe short circuit some of understanding because they’re well-known, we may miss some of the details in parts of their stories. In a way we sometimes polarize them and put them in a little box and we say, “Well that’s what they’re all about…”, and sometimes those caricatures might take away some of the real picture of the kind of individuals they are. So if you heard the name Martha, or maybe better said, “Martha. Martha,” does something already come to mind when you have those words spoken? Maybe that’s not always the best. Maybe that’s not necessarily who she was; what she was all about. So what I thought it might be helpful is to dig down into their stories a little bit and see if we can get a little bit more accurate view of these sisters and brother. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. What was it that made them friends with Jesus Christ? What was their relationship like?
We’re going to dig into that and try to get a clear picture of who they were and how they related with Christ Himself. So let’s do that. Now when you think of, Mary, Martha; they’re actually pretty prominent ladies in the gospels so they’re mentioned quite a few times. They are mentioned in each one of the gospel. So Matthew, Mark, Luke, John; all of them mention Mary and Martha. There’s something odd about them: the fact that they don’t mention any husbands for either one of them. They don’t mention a father for either one of them. And do so that is unusual for a woman in the Bible; that there are no other connections except to their brother, Lazarus, that is really specific and really obvious in scripture. So as we think about them; pretty unusual for a woman not to be married that’s used in the scripture. So what if that tell us about her? About Mary about Martha? Well either they were very young women, which could be a possibility. Were they orphaned maybe? That seems to be a possibility. Or were they young enough not to be married as yet? That’s at least one category.
There are others that, as they look at this particular story of the sisters, they may wonder if, well maybe they are older. Maybe they’re on the other extreme. Maybe their older widows who were married at one time and yet now have lost their husbands and so which side of the equation are they on? We don’t really know. It’s possible either one, and it’s even possible that in their enthusiasm to follow God, that they had chosen to be single. So those different stories seem to impact the ladies.
And where they lived was also an impact on who they were. They lived in Bethany; the brother and sister all lived there. And Bethany is an interesting place. There was no doubt a group of Essenes that lived there. And Essenes were a sect that were very aesthetic. They were strict and held their beliefs, you know, very closely. They wanted to make sure they kept what was given to them truthfully and so they seem to be related to that group that took care of the Dead Sea Scrolls. They were in Essene as well. And so the town itself may have something to do with the story and the stories that we find in the Bible. Bethany seems to have had a hospice there where some type of a place that took care of sick people; took care of those were injured; took care of those even, some of the story say ritually unclean; those that may have been lepers as well could have gone to Bethany, it seems, and been taken care of there at a hospice that Bethany was known for. And so it’s possible that Mary Martha and, maybe even Lazarus, had something to do with taking care of those were sick. We’ll see how that comes into play as we kind of rehearse their stories. Those two were sick. Those were destitute. Those that that needed help. In fact if you looked into this word Essene, it came to represent their group. It seems to be related to the Hebrew word for healers. Healers has a connection to the Essenes and so Bethany seems to be that kind of a place where there was a hospice, or a home; a place for those that were hurting; those that were in need; those that were not only destitute, but those were sick as well. So that comes into play with Mary and Martha especially.
Now we look at the Bible. Hard to tell how old they are, like we mentioned. Their marital status, seems that most women at this time were married by the time (well guess how old they were by the time they got married usually)? About 16. You’re getting pretty old. You’re getting to be an old lady if you weren’t married by the time you were about 16 or so. So society was a little bit different during the first century.
It’s also interesting, as we look at the stories. Normally Martha’s mansion first which may, or may not tell us much. Mary gets in there once in a while, but Martha usually mentioned first which may seem to point us to the fact that she was probably the older sister. And then there’s Lazarus who seems to perhaps be much younger than the other two which may tie into the fact that there was much wailing; much sorrow when Lazarus died. You know was his death something that was really unexpected, and being a young man, even that much more unexpected. So that may play into this, the whole scenario, especially as maybe no parents around. No husbands around, that the grieving might have been that much more. Maybe they lost their parents to any young age and then to lose a brother, as we will find out, just adds to the grief that they experience. So those are possibilities when we see them as individuals in the Bible.
Now it is also interesting, even with their circumstances, they seem to be pretty wealthy. They seem pretty well off. They seem to have a home. So single women to have homes was pretty unusual because it wasn’t unheard of. It wasn’t, you know, rare, but definitely unusual for women to be in this position. We know from one of the stories that Mary had very, very expensive perfume. How did she come too own that? Was it just the fact that they were very rich? Very possible. Very possible. Normally widows would be in that position to have a home; maybe leaders in the community in that way. That isn’t an unusual in the Bible. In fact we read the story of Christ preaching and teaching and those that supported Him were oftentimes women. There’s a story over in Acts, or not Acts; in tax in the Book of Luke. We’re going to turn over the Book of Luke for just a moment. We can see the example of women who supported the ministry of Christ. Take a look at Luke, Chapter 8 and in Verse 2 . We can see a number of women that were involved in the ministry of Jesus Christ. Right at the very beginning of Chapter 8, it says:
Luke 8:1 Luke 8:1And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and showing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him,
American King James Version× “And it came to pass afterward, that He…” (this is Christ) “went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings…” the good news “of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him.”
But we see it wasn’t just the twelve. It says:
Luke 8:2-3 Luke 8:2-3 2 And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils,
3 And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered to him of their substance.
American King James Version× “And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto Him of their substance.”
So this is Luke, Chapter 8 , talking about those ladies who supported the ministry of Christ. How did they do that? Well they get it out of their own means because they seem to have the resources to be able to support Christ and the 12 as well. And so this seems to point to the fact that Mary and Martha were probably home owners, who at that time would have been fairly well off. Now living in Bethany also gives us some insight into their background as well. Bethany means “the house of something”. It seems they can lead a couple of ways. “Beth” meaning, “house”. Bethany seems to tie into “house of misery”, or maybe “house of the poor”, which may be part of the name that connects to this hospice, or this home, where they would take care of the sick and the destitute.
Others argue that it doesn’t mean that at all. Some will say, well it actually means of “the house of figs”. And it has to do with olives and figs, and of “the dates” is the other aspect of that, “the house dates”. And of course that area of the country was pretty famous for the fruits and, you know, those kinds of things that were available in the area. So that’s a possibility as well. And the fact that, as we get to this section of scripture that we will go over tonight, this was an important place for Jesus Christ. Not only did Mary and Martha and Lazarus live there, but Christ spent a considerable amount of time in Bethany itself. It was Bethany where He began that will ride into Jerusalem where He rode on that colt of a donkey. That started at Bethany. Bethany was the place that He basically spent that week before the crucifixion. He was there in Bethany the last few days. Just before the crucifixion He was in Bethany and after the crucifixion it was near Bethany that Christ ascended into heaven. So a pretty important place that impacted the ministry of Christ and His relationship to these ladies. So as we launch into the study I thought it would be helpful to look at some specific events in the three siblings’ lives.
First of all, I want to start over in Luke, Chapter 10 , and look at a couple of instances. We’re going to start out with a visit from Christ. That’s the first event we’ll look at. Let’s take a look at Luke, Chapter 10 , and notice this visit from Jesus Christ.
Luke 10:38 Luke 10:38Now 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.
American King James Version× “Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village.” He is Christ. What village is He entering? It’s Bethany. “And a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.” So we see its Martha’s house. Especially here in Luke 10. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. 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. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
Now most of us have probably be heard this little bit of story about Christ visiting the home there; the circumstances of Him teaching. And then we see Martha. Martha doing these many things. Now that shouldn’t be that unusual because for a woman at this time, well one of the chief responsibilities she had was hospitality. They were to be hospitable. They were to serve the meal. In fact in this society at that day, this was a very important job. This almost as sacred duty for the women to take care of the hospitality; welcoming people into their home. Of Mary sitting at Christ’s feet that are a normal kind of a position to be in for a disciple that’s being taught.
Now here’s a question: Was Martha doing evil things that she had to be reprimanded by Christ? Well, no. In fact, what was she doing? She was doing good things, wasn’t’ she? She was serving. She was giving. She was helping. She was feeding everyone. She was watching over the family. She was taking care of the guests. I don’t think any of us would put that in the category of doing bad things. So she was doing a good. But often times when we think of Martha, then we think of “Oh yea, she’s just way off track.” Yes she was doing good things. Now what was the problem though, and what was Christ focusing on here? Well it says that she was “distracted”. She was distracted. So we can say she was way, maybe over-occupied. She was a little too busy. She was drawn away even though she was doing a good thing. Even though she was doing what we could say was right, it wasn’t the best. She was doing the expected thing. Everybody expected her to be a good hostess and yet Jesus points out the fact, not that she was some kind of an evil person, but she wasn’t choosing to do the most important thing. Yes to take care of the guests. Yes to feed them. Yes to do all those things but put it in its place and then put first things first. And so He points out the fact that Mary, her sister, chose the best. She chose the best: to be with Christ. To learn from Him. To set those things aside for a minute because we’re not told the whole story here. You know maybe was Martha and Mary both getting things prepared and then the guests arrive and then Christ began teaching and that’s where, you know, Mary sat down and started to listen and Martha was still taking care of the dishes and the dessert and all the other things? You know we’re not really told the whole story. But Martha, at some point, Christ says, chose what was most important; chose what was most profitable. And I think that’s a wonderful lesson for us. One of the lessons from this is that we got to be sure that in this instance we’ve got to put God first. We’ve got to put Christ… If we’re going to be a friend of God we’ve got to make sure, in whatever the instant is, that we put God first.
I am always amazed by this story. To think that Martha did good things, but sometimes good things is not what God’s after. Is it the best? Well we could say, “Was she doing sinful things?” It doesn’t say she’s sinning.She just didn’t choose what was best. Sometimes I think we find ourselves in that kind of a position in our life. You know, it might be okay. You know this isn’t blatant sin or anything like that, but do we really hold ourselves accountable to do the best? Martha needed to order her life with God first. First. And certainly it’s a reminder for all of us. That’s what we need to do. Is God really there at our heart and our core? And so it really gets down to the fact that’s it’s not that God’s word means a lot to me because it should and there’s no doubt about that. It doesn’t mean that, boy, I would like fulfillment from, you know, understanding God’s way. What really, I think, Christ is pointing at here is that God IS our meaning. And that’s a little bit different than just saying God is meaningful to me. No, that’s OK but it’s not the best. The best is to understand God IS our life. God IS our meaning. God IS what fulfills us. Not that it’s just this nice little section of my life. And so this story certainly helps us to frame our life in that way and I think in ways today it’s even that much more important for us because there can be so many distractions and we can get taken so far off course and we can become so busy and those things that distract the storekeepers us or keep us busy or we find ourselves kind of engulfed in; may not be blatantly evil. In fact they might be good but because we get drawn away it’s not the best. So imagine the things in this world that we count as important. How lasting are they? How lasting are things?
Think about your car. “Well, my car is really valuable. I need it to get around. Well, am I going to take it with me? Nope.” It’s not going to last. Our houses aren’t going to last. You know, so many things in our life, they’re temporary. They’re here. They’re done. It’s over. But see Christ points out the fact there are things that cannot be taken away. You see too often times we find ourselves holding onto those things or desiring those things; wanting those things that don’t last, and won’t last, and can’t last and here’s Christ pointing out Mary’s chosen the things that cannot be taken away. Boy, isn’t that the kind of choice we that we want to make? We want to make that choice that certainly, if we put God at our heart and core, and He is our meaning. Never going to be taken away. That cannot be taken away from us. So I think that’s an amazing lesson that we can learn from this section in the Book of Luke.
Alright let’s flip over and look at a second aspect. We looked at Jesus’ visit. Let’s jump over to Lazarus and his situation. He starts out this section in a pretty dire strait. Well, more than dire. He’s dead. John, Chapter 11. One of the things that is interesting about this story is because of the scenario the fantastic miracle of Lazarus being resurrected back to physical life kind of overshadows some of the story; that we can understand the point that, alright, Lazarus is going to be resurrected. This is a phenomenal miracle. He comes back to physical life, but there’s parts of the story that sometimes get overshadowed because of the awesome nature of the miracle that happens here.
So let’s look at John, Chapter 11:
Joh 11:1 “Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.” So we’ve got the scenario here. We’re back in Bethany. They live there. It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.” So he’s still alive here as we begin. “Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.”
Alright, as we think about being a friend of God, think about these three being friends with Jesus Christ. It’s interesting, we get an insight into this relationship by the message that they send to Christ.
If your brother or sister were sick and you knew that there was healing power in the Savior, in Christ, and He was your good friend but He wasn’t there and you needed to send Him a text or you needed to e-mail him, or phone Him, would you say what they said? What did they say? You see their message? “Lord, he whom you love is sick.” Or would I say, “Get over here now? He’s going to die!” Pretty interesting the way that they approach this. They didn’t, you know, “fly off the handle”. They identified Lazarus as the one Jesus loved. That’s pretty amazing. Wouldn’t it be great if, you know, our name was there? That Jesus is the one that loves me? I mean, we know that. That’s true too. They identify Lazarus only. They didn’t even – even to here – it doesn’t even say his name. “Lord, the one you love is sick.” What does that emphasize? What does that remind us of? I think it helps us to realize this was a pretty close relationship that they had. This wasn’t just an acquaintance. This was a close intimate, relationship and they didn’t have to say more than that because they knew that Christ would understand. Now it’s a little surprising because Christ doesn’t go right away. He deliberately stays a couple more days. So He doesn’t go. It’s also interesting that in Verse 5 , it says:
V.5 “Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.”
So now we realize not that Jesus only loved Lazarus but now we have all of them. All of them were told Jesus loved. He loved them all. So He framed this relationship in a very close friendship. Now we’re going to see some of the characteristics of this friendship come to light as the story plays out.
So let’s skip down; we’re going to skip down a little bit over a couple little areas where the disciples are one wondering, “Well, should we go back to Jerusalem or should we leave here; what are we going to do? This could be trouble. How’s this going to work out?” We get through all of those kinds of things. We have Jesus’ coming up to the scene where Lazarus has already died. Let’s go down to Verse 17 :
V.17 “So when Jesus came He found that he had already been in the tomb 4 days.” So he’s been dead a while. “Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off.” So Bethany was near Jerusalem about 2 miles away. “And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.” So they were mourning and of course they were crying and the sometimes there were professional wailers that would be at these kinds of funerals and at the tomb. “Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house.”
So we find Martha went out to meet Him. You see, if we get too critical of Martha in the story of “Martha, Martha”, and Jesus telling her to come and help Me. Now where’s Mary? Well, she’s sitting in the house. It seems like it was known that Christ was coming and yet Martha’s the one that goes out to meet Him. So we see kind of a little bit of a change in perspective here. So Martha goes out and an interesting circumstance begins to take place. Once the scene; we have the death of the brother and what happened in society during this time, in fact going all the way back in the Old Testament. What happened when individuals died? How was the funeral scenario conducted? What happened, you know, when people were in this situation? Well mourning and lamenting, pleading with God; that was all a part of traditional things that went on at that time of death. And, in fact, if you flip with the back to Jeremiah Chapter 9, Verse 19, it gives us a little bit of insight into kind of a traditional role for women during this time of death. So go back to Jeremiah Chapter 9 , look at Verse 19. Here’s almost some instruction to traditionally what the ladies would do. It says here:
Jeremiah 9:19 Jeremiah 9:19For a voice of wailing is heard out of Zion, How are we spoiled! we are greatly confounded, because we have forsaken the land, because our dwellings have cast us out.
American King James Version× “For a voice of wailing is heard out of Zion, How are we spoiled! we are greatly confounded, because we have forsaken the land, because our dwellings have cast us out. Yet hear the word of the LORD, O ye women, and let your ear receive the word of his mouth, and teach your daughters wailing, and every one, her neighbors lamentation.”
Now, without taking a long time to delve into Jeremiah, it’s pointing us to the fact that there was a tradition of lamenting those who died. So let’s think about this concept of lamenting because this comes into play during the scenario of the sisters and the death of their brother Lazarus. It was expected that women would lament. It was encouraged that they would lament. What was a lament anyway? Well it was at a prayerful plea to God and normally it would have a number of parts to the way that they would lament.
What was the scenario involved to lamenting in this traditional kind of a way. Well normally it was 4-fold. There were four parts to a traditional lament.
First: That first part is kind of known as “the address”. Alright, who are you talking to in other words, who are they pleading to? Where is its focus? Where is this lament focused? And the lament is - you’ll find a lot of examples throughout the Bible - of Hanna during the time of, when Samuel was being born and all of that type of thing when she was wanting to have a baby. She was lamenting during that whole scenario with Eli and that back in 1 Samuel and you can check that out. You can look up some of the Psalms. Psalm, Chapter 6 is a lament. The whole Book of Lamentations is lamenting over Jerusalem and crying out about that. And so all of those things seem to encompass these different parts. So we have the address. Who are we talking to?
Second: We also have what you could call “the complaint”. What’s the problem? What’s the issue? Why are you crying out? Why are you pleading? What is the issue? What happened in other words? What happened here? And, of course, once you know you’re talking to, and what happened, now we have to say, “Well, what’s the solution?” You know, what you saying? So in a way we’ve got the solution or, (let me see, let me spell that right, “solution”. There you go.) You know, what is the issue that you would like solved? What are you petitioning God about? What is that solution? And then, ultimately, it’s recognizing where that solution really is in order to solve that petition. We’ve got to realize that it’s going to be solved by God declaring our faith and our confidence and trust in God. So as you keep that in mind, what does that have to do with the section of scripture? Let’s notice a couple things. Go back here to John, Chapter 11 . We go back to the story where Christ has come. Lazarus is dead. Martha goes out to meet Him. Martha meets Him. What’s the first thing she does?
Number 1: “Lord”. She greets Christ and she just doesn’t say, “Jesus”. She addresses Him as Lord. As Master. As king. And it begins to follow this form of a traditional lament. She gets right into the situation; into the complaint. She says, “Lord, if You had been here my brother would not have died.” Yea, that’s the problem. That’s the complaint. The death of her brother and, in fact, she is so bold to say , “You’re part of the problem, Christ”. Is that what she is saying? “If You would have been here, he wouldn’t have died. You’re part of the problem .”
Interesting that she points that out to Him. She’s holding Him accountable for not being there. Now we might step back and say, “Wow, what a babe in the faith.”You know, “What little, immature faith this woman had.” You ever thought that? Well, maybe not. Maybe no so immature. This kind of bold statement is recognizing some pretty powerful things. What did she say? She said , “Christ, I have no doubt. I have absolute faith You can heal my brother.” So this isn’t just a question that, “Oh wow, I wonder it would’ve been different if You were here.” It’s not like that. She had no question that Christ could heal. She had absolute faith. Only the fact that He wasn’t there to help. And so in a way we see she’s demonstrating this boldness of faith as she complains to Christ. Well now what are we going to do? Now what are we going to do about it?
Third: We find that we come to this this third element . What’s “the solution” ? What am I petitioning Christ about? Well she says, “Lord, if You had been here my brother wouldn’t have died.” But Verse 22 . Notice the faith say she has:
V.22 “But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.”
She’s saying, “I know You can still heal him. I know You could do this. I know”. She’s expecting a miracle, it sounds like to me.
And so we find that there’s your recognition of her faithfulness. She’s testimony to the fact that she does have faith in Jesus Christ. Then, of course, Christ answers this. Here we are, we’re still on number 3. She petitioned Christ here. She says, “Christ, I know God will give You what You ask.”
V.22 “But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.”
Jesus’ response in Verse 23:
V.23 “Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?”
So we start as little reply by Christ, kind of helping to straighten her out a bit, because Martha misunderstands the resurrection. And what does Christ do? He challenges her. He challenges her to take it to the next level – to understand this whole thing on a deeper level. And what we find here is a pretty amazing conversation between two friends. Isn’t it? Amazing conversation. Martha is honestly, openly, boldly telling Christ what’s on her heart. How she really feels. Jesus challenges her to think differently about the resurrection; to think differently about life. And then how does she respond? See I think this is the amazing part; she responds like a true friend. And it takes us to this fourth part of what a lament is all about.
Look what she says to Christ in Verse 27:
V.27 “She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.”
So she expresses her trust; her faith; her confidence in the power of God. She identifies with Jesus Christ. She identifies with her friend. She understands her dear friend’s authority and power over life and death. And so we have a remarkable of the exhibition of her faith. So when you think about this in terms of being a friend; being a friend of Jesus Christ. She wasn’t afraid to challenge Him. “Why weren’t You here?” She wasn’t afraid. She just openly, straightforwardly, laid it on the line. She kind of questioned Christ and she talked about the consequences; how it impacted her as well. You know, when you look at this, would you say that she was intimidated by His power? By His identity? Now that can mean that she didn’t hole Him in awe and respect and fear in that honorable kind of way but she wasn’t intimidated by that. And I think that is because she was a friend. So that illustrated her true conviction; how convicted she really was to Jesus Christ. And so we have these amazing characteristics of friendship where we have this confidence and trust and faith. Boy, that’s remarkable things, that that trust is exhibited by her actions and by her words. So what a testimony to the friendship between the two of them.
Of course the story doesn’t end there. It goes on. We’re four days into the death which is kind of significant by itself because oftentimes, especially at this time, it was almost like a visitation you might have today, or what they used to call a “wake”, depending on what are of the country you are from, hoping that somebody might awake from death. Well traditionally, by the time you got to four days, forget it. It’s over. No way this guy’s coming back to life. So the four days seem to be significant in that sense; that there is no hope that we got this wrong. He’s really dead. Then of course we have Christ weeping. He doesn’t seem to be weeping over the death of Lazarus. He knew He was going to resurrect him. So that doesn’t seem to be the reason that He is weeping, but certainly get insight into Christ’s humanity; the human side of Christ here. Certainly be able to experience the whole range of emotions. You can imagine the scene with the ladies around that are wailing and crying and sobbing and truly enough affected by Lazarus ‘death. Boy that can sure trigger a lot of emotions. In fact it says here, let’s see, down in what is it, Verse 35 were He groaned or He was deeply moved or troubled.
V.35 “Jesus wept.”
There almost seems, if you were to look that section up; it’s a little bit of anger involved in this emotion that He’s displaying here. And I got to thinking about that. Why would Christ be angry if that’s really what this growing or being deeply troubled or disturbed was about. Yea, He cries. He seems to have that connection with the human emotion of those that have experiencing a loss but it also seems maybe that this little bit of being perturbed or angry maybe has a connection to just life itself and humanity itself of the because we are sinners. We are sinners and Christ had just about enough of sin. You know He’s gonna take care of that as He establishes His kingdom and ultimately sin is going to be done away. So maybe that’s a little bit the destruction and problems in sin cause is certainly something to be angry about so maybe that has something to do with His reaction here. But ultimately we find that He resurrects Lazarus and have this wonderful, amazing miracle that transpires. We’re going to kind of skip over that story and, with the little bit of time left, we’re going to go to the third story.
This particular story is the anointing (that’s what I’ll call it). (I don’t know if anointing has one or two “n’s” but I put two just in case. Probably has one, right? Alright?) The anointing. (Actually now that I look at it, it probably does have one. Alright.)
The anointing (written on the white board).
Let’s look a little bit further here in the book and John. So we’re going to stay here. Just going to fast forward a little bit over to Chapter 12 . Chapter 12 bumps us up to the time that we’re just before the crucifixion. We’re just about a week out or so. Beginning Chapter 12, Verse 1 , it says:
John 12:1 John 12:1Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead.
American King James Version× “Then Jesus six days before the Passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead.” So here we are back in the same town. “There they made him a supper;…” And guess what? Of course, Martha served. She is bound to do that. No doubt, “and Martha served: but ,” it says, “Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him.” So Lazarus is eating with Christ. Martha is serving; taking care of everybody. What happened to Mary? Here comes Mary on the scene. Verse 3:
V.3 “Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him, ‘Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?’ This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein. Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always.”
So we find a little bit more insight into what it means to be a friend of God. Now here we are, and it is kind of interesting here, back at of the house in Bethany, if we were look up this home in Matthew , or the Book of Mark , it actually talks about “Simon the Leper’s house”, which kind of takes us back. Well, who’s Simon the Leper? It doesn’t really tell us in the Bible who this is. Her in John it talks about Martha’s house. Is it possible Martha’s helping at Simon’s house and that’s what it’s about? That doesn’t seem to make sense. Is it possible that this Simon -sometimes they may translate the word leper, not only for leper, but it it’s also very closely connected to the word for being devout. So it could be “Simon the Devout”. Well would that be possible that maybe that’s their father? Some of the scholars kind of go around and around about that sort of thing then. Maybe, as a man who was wealthy, left his home, when he died, to his children, who then were also wealthy, because of that. So very possible. Even some will speculate that maybe the home was donated as a part of a community to help those of who were afflicted. So all of that kind of ties together.
Well with that, it kind of give us some insight into, well where would with Mary come up with this expensive perfume? We’re talking about this oil of spikenard that would cost a year’s worth of wages. And yet she used it to anoint Jesus’ feet. Well, kind of an interesting scenario but it does, I think, give us insight into friendship.
Let’s see, where are we? I guess these were some of the points in that regard. What does this point to? I think what it’s saying here is friendship costs something. Friendship is costly. It costs us to be a friend of God but is that something that is going to hurt us? Or is that something that’s a good expense? You see, in Mary’s case, she was so humble. She was convicted. She was dedicated to Christ. She was dedicated to His teaching. She understood the gospel message. She understood stood why she was born. She understood all those things. So it came down to the fact that there wasn’t any expense. There wasn’t any cost that was too much for her to exhibit the fact that Christ was her friend; that Christ not only was her Savior; not only her King, and her Master and, you know, her coming King, There was nothing that was too demanding for her to honor her friend. To honor The Savior. And as you read through the story, it doesn’t say, well she had this really expensive oil that was a year’s worth of wages and its cost and so she took a drop and put it on his feet. You know it doesn’t say that. It doesn’t say, well she poured out half of it and stuck the rest on the shelf for other things. No, it doesn’t say that. It says she poured it out. She gave it all. She gave it all. She spent it all. All that she had in that sense. All the oil was poured out for her Savior. And I can’t help reading that and wonder about my stingy heart and how much do I hold back? You know, what is it that I am not really willing to give? And so here she just said such an amazing example. And then as I think about those things my mind starts to wander a little bit. Can you imagine, with just a couple days before the crucifixion, and this oil is the just really fragrant, and by the time they got to the crucifixion, I wonder if Christ could still smell that oil? You know as He is agonizing through the torture that He had to go through; if that fragrance was still there? Would that have reminded Him of this relationship He had to a dear friend? Could that have even helped Him through the whole thing? I don’t know; kind of speculating there. But it’s just interesting to think about. You know that the action of this this one woman maybe had an amazing impact; maybe it was even prophetic that she fulfilled this. You know, did it comfort Him? I have a feeling it certainly did. I think it did. And as you think about that, what a wonderful example of our Savior, too. You see because, when we do things that honor God, we don’t always get the pat on the back; that He would say, “Wow! That was great. You’re doing a good job. This is wonderful. That’s amazing. You’re such a servant.” Na, you don’t get that. A lot of time its, “Yea, what what’s wrong with you? You’ve got other motives. You’re not doing this for…” and you get criticized, and you get put down, and you get condemned for when you’re doing something for the right reasons. And I think this is a great example of this friendship that was between the two of them. Christ defended her. He defended her and said, “Leave her alone. Leave her alone. She’s doing what’s good. She’s doing what’s right.” So Christ defends her. He vindicated her.
And so, for us, I think we can say, “Wow.”When we’re put down and were criticized for doing something that God wants us to do, remember Mary. Remember her because I think this is such a wonderful example of what is good at what is right and something that reminds us of what true friends do for each other. True friends do stick up for each other when they’re doing what’s right. True friends absolutely do that because this points to the kind of relationship that they had and the kind of relationship, then, that we need we have. We need to have a close relationship. We need to have that kind of an intimacy; that kind of closeness with our Savior and with God the Father as well. That’s the goal. That’s the kind of friendship we want to attain to. And so as you look at these several stories whether it was Jesus visit; the resurrection of Lazarus; the anointing, here, that we go to; I think in a way, it almost summarizes all the Bible studies that we’ve had on this particular topic about being a friend of God because here these stories certainly point to the fact that we share something in common as friends. We share something in common. We do, with God the Father and Jesus Christ. We share our values and, of course, that’s because we change to make God’s values our values. God’s concerns become our concerns, don’t they? Don’t God’s directions, His ideas, His concepts, the way that He looks at the world? That should be our world view. That should be our perspective. I mean, just think about the good friends you have right now, the friends around us. Don’t we hold things in common? Don’t we have those kinds of connections? We’re going to have a relationship that really grows and really thrives? Well, we need that. We need that kind of thing.
And so here Christ certainly had that with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, and He wants to have that with us. And so I think that’s an important aspect. This whole aspect of sharing, and friends share those common values; they share the concerns and the ideals. But it certainly doesn’t stop there. I mean, we know that friends influence each other and, humanly speaking, we can do that for the good. We can do it for the bad. But, ultimately, part of what we find in this scenario is that influence can be a really good thing especially in the sense that the way that Christ and Martha, especially, talk; that through discussion that through talking things out and, yea, sometimes disagreement. You see, even though Martha disagreed with the fact Christ didn’t show up, she didn’t hold it against Him once she understood. It actually brought them that much closer together. So friends can disagreements that they can resolve it and be that much closer and through discussion and sometimes, it’s got to be blatant. It’s got to be bold. It’s gotta be direct. And yet, when we do that, we have a great influence upon each other. And of course that’s the kind of thing we can do when we pray to God; when we have issues and we want the direct with God. He says, “Come boldly before the throne of grace”.
Hebrews 4:16 Hebrews 4:16Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
American King James Version× “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace – that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
I love that it says, “the throne of grace,” right? We’ll do that. Be like a Martha and come boldly before God. Demonstrate your friendship. Demonstrate and submit to His influence in our life. That really begins to show what a great friend that we are because we already know, on God’s side of things, He already is a great friend. So friends do that sort of thing. Friends also respect each other. There’s a love and a respect and certainly an accountability that we hold to each other that has to be there. This acceptance of each other. Not accepting of sin, but accepting our personalities; that we’re all different and yet we respect each other. I mean God loves us and you know what? He didn’t make is all “yellow pencils”. We’re all different and that can be a very good thing when we ultimately respect Him. So, yeas, we’ve got to have that influence in our life as well.
I think the other thing is, that kind of ties in with his influence, is when times are tough, we can count on each other. We can count on each other when times are tough. That’s certainly the example we see of with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus’ death. We can count on each other for support. When things are tough. When the time of crisis. When we need support, we know where to turn. When things get emotional. When things are difficult, we can depend on God and we know that He’s gonna be that kind of a friend to us. So certainly the stories of Mary, Martha and Lazarus bring out that point. And maybe if we were going to sum all of these things up, I think we could probably, maybe one word would do it. This whole concept of trust. Trust is a great word because it is closely tied into that word for faith; that we have the confidence. We have a confidence in God as His friend. Not just His children but as His friends as well. Remember what Christ told the disciples, you know that, yes, we can be friends and we can be intimate and we can be close and we’re brothers with Him, and God is our Father. And so this friendship we see that we can have is a friendship that is a relationship of trust; a relationship of confidence and a relationship of being close. And then of course then what we’ve gotta’ do is take that same friendship and we’ve gotta spread it around. We’ve got to be known as people who live by that standard and as a collective group; as the Church of God, this should be one of the evident things; one of the things that stands out about us. So here we are in Cincinnati. We should be known for our friendship; for how we mirror the kind of friendship that God extends to us; the kind of friendship that Jesus lived. And we should pray about that and ask God to help and to guide and inspire us to be that kind of a friend. I think if we do that then ultimately we can become like an Abraham and truly be known as a friend of God.