Believest Thou This?

April 2019

“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?” —John 11:25-26

This conversation between the Lord Jesus Christ and Martha begins with her saying to Him, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.” Perhaps you can relate to her conditional statement. How many of us, in a state of despair or grief, have made Martha’s claim: “Lord, if You had been here, this bad thing would not have happened.”

You can feel Martha’s struggle between faith and doubt: she knew the Lord. It was practical, common-sense Martha, cumbered about much serving, who had waited on Him as a guest in her home—a home attributed to her, the elder sister, and most likely a widow of some wealth. She loved the Lord, even when He had gently admonished her, repeating her name, “Martha, Martha,” and reminded her that only one thing was needful. She also knew that the Lord was capable of healing her sick brother, which is why she and Mary had sent for Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.”

After she had sent for Him, Martha waited. She watched Lazarus grow weaker and weaker. Then her brother died.

A day’s journey away, Martha could not hear Christ tell His disciples, plainly, that Lazarus was dead, or that He was glad, for their sakes, that He was not there when it happened, or that He was on His way to wake Lazarus out of sleep. “And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother” (Jn. 11:19).

Scholars say that the days of mourning were usually 30: three days of weeping, seven days of lamentation, and 20 days of sorrow. While the number of days varies, it is possible that by Day 4—the day Jesus would come—mourners had moved from tears to lamenting, which could mean loud wailing, the tearing of garments, a sadness so strong that it pulls one down to sit and rock. Relatives closest to the dead remained in the house, which is where Martha and Mary stayed. (When your heart is broken, where do you stay?)

The Bible says, “Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house” (Jn. 11:20).

As believers, how we respond, especially when we’re in pain, is so important. People write in all the time to ask, “If God loves me so much, then why didn’t He heal my loved one, or protect me from harm, or stop this bad thing from happening in my family?” I don’t know the answer to those questions. What we do know is that in this passage from John 11, the Holy Spirit is careful to point out, “Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.” He loved them. Remember His reaction to the initial news that Lazarus, “whom thou lovest” was sick. The Bible says, “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.”

We start out loved by Him, and, as believers, our journey with Him leads us ever forward to the glory of God. In between, we are kept by His grace. Regarding Martha’s family, Matthew Henry said, “Here was a house where the fear of God was, and on which His blessing rested; yet it was made a house of mourning. Grace will keep sorrow from the heart, but not from the house. When God, by his grace and providence, is coming toward us in ways of mercy and comfort, we should, like Martha, go forth by faith, hope, and prayer, to meet him.”

Martha, surrounded by mourners, somehow hears that Jesus is on his way. Perhaps she overheard some of the Jews whispering:
“That one they say delivered a man from devils is on His way here.”
“You mean the one who fed the multitudes?”
“Yes, that carpenter’s son. I heard He opened the eyes of a blind man.”
“Is it true that this Jesus makes the lepers clean?”
“I don’t know, but He’s coming.”
Like us, Martha didn’t have all the answers to her plight. But none of that mattered now. Jesus was coming, and to the believer, there are no sweeter words to hear.

As soon as she heard, she left her house and went to meet Him. “Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.” In His presence, Martha’s faith surges, and she says what she knows to be true.

“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.” Some say her answer indicates this as a small consolation; my husband says Martha’s reply shows an understanding of this great doctrine—the resurrection—a knowledge far more advanced than most in Israel had. But what the Lord says next opens up an entirely different perspective on this doctrine. “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?”

As one commentary put it, “There was her brother lying in the tomb dead, and there he would lie for ages dead….What comfort did the vague and remote hope of reunion after long ages of untold change bring? What comfort is to sustain her through the interval? When parents lose the children whom they could not bear to have for a day out of their sight, whom they longed for if they were absent an hour beyond their time, it is no doubt some comfort to know that one day they will again fold them to their breast. But this is not the comfort Christ gives Martha. He comforts her, not by pointing her to a far-off event which was vague and remote, but to His own living person, whom she knew, saw, and trusted.”

Christ was not expounding on doctrine she had learned with her head. I believe the Son of God lifted her chin to meet His eyes and spoke directly to her heart saying, in essence, “Martha, look at Me. I am the resurrection and the life.” If only we learned all of the fundamentals of our faith the same way that Martha learned this one. Away from her house and day-to-day living, meeting with Christ as He comes to meet her, in His presence—this is where Martha truly understands that Jesus is the resurrection. If we’ll do the same, He will reveal Himself as the salvation, the divine healer, the baptizer of the Holy Spirit, and the truth—He is coming again.

“And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” This is, my husband notes, is one of the greatest promises found in the Word of God. The key is believing in Jesus. That means a sinner must believe that Jesus Christ is God, and that He came into this world, took upon Himself a human body, and offered it up on Calvary’s Cross as a sin offering to pay man’s terrible sin debt. The sinner must believe that this sacrifice of Christ paid it all, and that whosoever believes in Him and what He did for him at the Cross will have eternal life.

Believest thou this?” Earlier, before Lazarus died and Martha was only anxious about much serving, the Lord had said to her, “Martha, Martha”—a repetition that showed relationship. Now, as Martha comes to the understanding of who Christ really is, she offers a repetition of revelation by telling the Master, “You are the Christ, the Son of God.”

As my husband notes, to Martha, Jesus is no longer a mere man with extraordinary powers. He is the Christ, the Anointed One, the Messiah, the hope of Israel, the hope of the world—the Son of God. “And when she had so said, she went her way.” Lazarus was still in the tomb, but with Christ’s word in her heart, I believe Martha knew that Jesus was going to raise her brother from the dead. Why? Because no one has ever left the presence of Jesus Christ without being blessed, changed, and full of hope in Him. In this short passage, we see Martha move from messenger to mourner to going her “way”—a way made immeasurably easier by this glorious and wonderful encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ.

“Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see.”

The next time Martha stood before her brother’s tomb, Jesus—the Resurrection and the Life—stood with her. Scholars tell how even though He knew what He was about to do, the Lord still allowed Himself to feel the pain of loss that Martha and Mary are feeling, and He weeps.

Wherever you have laid your dead—whether a loved one, or perhaps a dead dream or a dead marriage—invite the Lord to come and see. He is the only one who truly understands your loss, and He will weep with you. Then He’ll say, as He did back then, “Take ye away the stone.”

And when doubt and carnality resurface, as it did in Martha, informing the Lord that by now the body smells, He will remind you to have faith.

I believe Jesus had a smile on His face when he cried out, “Lazarus, come forth!” Now the Bible doesn’t say what Martha’s reaction was, but as soon as she saw her brother alive again, surely she looked back to the Lord and heard His words echoing in her heart: “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?”

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