Ignoring Illness
Tim Temple


How different things on earth must have been for the Lord Jesus as He lived here from the place of living in the eternal present to dealing with the human sorrow and loss in this temporary kind of life that we live. The passage to which we come in our study of the Gospel of John is one of the best examples of that. As you may know, it is built around the sickness and death of one of Jesus' very close friends on earth, not one of the disciples, but a man whom He loved and ministered to and who ministered to Him while He was on earth. Not only does Jesus demonstrate the scope of His power in this passage—the power over even death itself—but He also demonstrates for us His identification with us in this kind of situation of loss and sadness which all of us have faced or will face sooner or later.

The Report of Lazarus' Illness

The first thing that we see in the chapter is the report of this illness that Lazarus had. Jesus receives that report in verses 1-3. The first two verses reveal the closeness of the friendship that Jesus had with this family. Look at verse 1:

John 11

1Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.
2(It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.)

Just reading through these verses you can see how the names and the events that are listed about this family are spoken of with an air of familiarity. John's original readers would have probably heard about this family, and we have read in other studies of the New Testament about them, particularly the two sisters, Martha and Mary. Mary's act of sacrificial love is specified, in verse 2, where she had anointed Him with oil and wiped His feet with her hair as a demonstration of her love for Him. So this was a very close set of friends that Jesus had. It serves as a reminder of the fact that sickness and tragedy—even death—can come into the lives of people who are very close to the Lord.

I think that most of us know the Lord and Scripture well enough to not be surprised when those things happen, but there are many people who think that if they just live a good life and if they do the things that God would want them to do, surely nothing bad will ever happen to them. But we know from experience and from the Word of God that even those who were living very close to the Lord, those who were among His very closest friends while He was on earth, can suffer tragedy and loss. The admiration between Jesus and this family is mutual. Look at the confidence of this family that is demonstrated, in verse 3:

John 11

3Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.

Notice how they refer to Lazarus in this message to Jesus: “He whom You love is sick.” They just knew that Jesus would want to know that His friend Lazarus was sick, because somehow in their dinners together and whatever other time they had had together and with these various dealings with each other, they could see that Jesus loved Lazarus. They knew that their brother Lazarus was a very special person to the Lord Jesus.

Isn't that a wonderful thing to see that Jesus not only loved people, but that they could see it? They could sense that He loved them to the point that they didn't even use Lazarus' name. They just said, “He whom You love is sick.”

Actually, all believers could refer to themselves in that way. John refers to himself in that way in several places in his book. Sometimes people have the idea that Jesus loved John more than He did the other disciples, but in looking through the Gospel, it wasn't so much that Jesus loved John any more than He did the others, but it was that John was so sensitive to the Lord's love for him and so aware of it that John had the confidence that Jesus loved him, and he could refer to himself as the one whom Jesus loved . Listen, you and I have every bit that same privilege. John, chapter 3, verse 16, says:

John 3

16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

There are many other verses that tell us that Jesus died for us because He loved us. He saw our need and wanted to meet our need. If I got sick, my sisters could pray to the Lord and tell the Lord that the one whom Jesus loves is sick. This could happen to any other man in this room. Your sisters could inform God that the one whom He loves is sick, and the same thing of any of the females here. What a wonderful truth that we are people whom Jesus loves! That is a mind-boggling thought when you think about it.

A Beautiful Example of Prayer

The last part of verse 3 is a beautiful example of prayer. Look at what they say:

John 11

3…Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.

You say, “Wait a minute. That's a prayer? That is not a very eloquent prayer.” That is a perfect example of what prayer is in its essence. Prayer is not primarily telling God what to do or even begging God to do this or that. Prayer really is simply informing God of what is going on in our lives—bringing the situation to God's attention. Of course, He already knows the situation. He knew it before time began. He knows it as God, but as our Father Who loves us, He loves to hear us come to Him with those needs.

He styles Himself as a Father because He knows that that will communicate to those of us who are parents how special it is for Him to hear us express our needs to Him, just as we know, at least generally, what our children want and what our children need, but we take delight in hearing our children express that to us. We know that our children love us. We can sense that in the way that they obey us and from other sources, but it thrills us to hear them tell us that they love us. It reassures us.

God is the same way. When we have a need, we could very legitimately say that God knows this need, and God will take care of it; but over and over again, He tells us to cast our cares upon Him. He tells us to pray about everything. What Mary and Martha do here, even though it is a bare-bones kind of prayer, is perfectly legitimate prayer.

We always feel as if we have to suggest a plan of action to the Lord. That is all right, but really all that we have to do is tell Him about the need. All the rest of that is an optional luxury. It is a great privilege that we can tell Him what we want Him to do, but prayer really is just bringing the situation to God's attention. Mary and Martha prayed, even though in that particular little period of history, they could do it physically and personally to Him.

Jesus Delayed Going to Lazarus

Jesus got the report of the illness, in verses 1-3. Then in verses 4-16, we see His reaction to the illness. The first part of the reaction is something that we wouldn't expect if we didn't already know the story, and that is delay . Look at verses 4-6:

John 11

4When 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.
5Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.
6When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was.

If we didn't know the story already, that would not be what we expected to read, would it? We would expect to read, “ When He heard that he was sick, He hurried to his bedside,” but notice how the delay is carefully specified there, in verse 6: “When He heard that he was sick, he stayed two more days.” It wasn't that He didn't know about the need; it wasn't that He didn't care. Verse 5 tells us very clearly that He loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. He wasn't upset with any of them. He didn't lack in love for any of them. He knew the need, and yet He delayed anyway.

Why He Sometimes Waits to Answer Prayer

Why does God do that? Has God ever done that to you? Have you ever brought something to the Lord in prayer and He didn't do anything about it? You prayed and you prayed and you prayed, and God didn't do anything. Verse 4 explains why Jesus waited and why sometimes He waits to answer our prayers. Notice verse 4 again:

John 11

4When 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.

Sometimes when we pray, God says no, and sometimes it takes us a while to realize that that is what He is saying. Sometimes He says yes, and we rejoice when He does. We are usually amazed when He does. We are thankful when He does, but sometimes, as in this case, He says to wait. When God says to wait as He did here, it is true what else He says here: “It is for the glory of God.” When God waits to answer our prayers, even though we may not be able to imagine how it could be, He waits because it will bring more glory to Him to answer that prayer later than it would bring if He answered it now. “This situation is not unto death; it is for the glory of God.”

This story gives us the opportunity to see how that could be so. The death of Lazarus, followed by his resuscitation, accomplished far more than an immediate healing ever would have, even a miraculous healing. We will see that as we move through the passage. Healing would have been good, and that was what they were assuming Jesus would do, but resuscitation was even better. Someone has said, “The good can be the enemy of the best,” and that is true spiritually. This story illustrates it. Be careful that you don't demand from God the good when He could be reserving the best for you. It is an easy thing to do when we are having to wait on God.

Let me also point out that I have referred to this a couple of times as a resuscitation , and that is to be technically correct. He raised Lazarus from the dead. We have a tendency to talk about Lazarus' resurrection, but actually Jesus was the first person to be resurrected. Only those who believe in Him will be resurrected in the future. Lazarus was just resuscitated back to life. Fortunately or unfortunately, Lazarus was going to die again. The poor family of Lazarus had to pay for two funerals for the same guy, but I am sure that they felt like it was worth it. I will try to be referring to this as resuscitation just to be technically correct as we talk about it in this chapter.

Disciples' Concern Regarding Danger

Jesus loved that family, and He loved them so much that He waited to go and see about the need. The first aspect of Jesus' reaction to Lazarus' illness was delay, but in verses 7-16, we see that it also included a discussion. The discussion was precipitated by the announcement that Jesus made, in verse 7:

John 11

7Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judaea again.

He waited two days after He got the news about Lazarus, and then He said, “Let's go to Judaea.” But in verses 8-15, the disciples raise an argument about that decision. The first part of the argument is concerning the danger involved in that. Look at verse 8:

John 11

8His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again?

At the end of chapter 10, Jesus had gone back to the area where John the Baptist had been preaching because the Jewish leaders took up stones to stone Him after He talked about being the Son of God. They rejected it so thoroughly that they took up stones to stone Him and He, in another of those miraculous disappearances, just moved through the crowd and left that area. Verse 40 of chapter 10 tells us that He went back to the area where John the Baptist had been preaching, and it goes on to tell us that there was a great response to Jesus' ministry there. The disciples said, “Master, we just left that area because of the danger that Your life was in. Now You are going to go back there where they tried to kill You and where they want to kill You.”

Safety Comes In Walking In the Will of God

In verses 9-10, Jesus talks about the safety that comes in walking in the will of God. Look at verse 9:

John 11

9Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world.
10But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him.

We have to recognize that the statement that Jesus makes in these verses is an allegorical statement. If you notice, in verse 9, He says, “If he walks in the day, he does not stumble because he sees the light of this world.” What He is talking about here is not walking in daylight; He is talking about the spiritual walk that we do. Walking in the day, in verse 9, is speaking of the light that God gives to us as we walk in fellowship with Him.

That is what chapter 1 of the Gospel of John is all about. He comes into the world, and He is the light of the world. He gives the light of life to those who walk with Him. John refers to that in his first epistle later on about Jesus Christ as light, and so that is what Jesus is talking about here. As we walk in fellowship with Him, if we seek to do His will, we walk in His light, and He gives us light to see what to do next and to understand what His will is.

By the same token, the night is a reference to getting out of the Lord's will. We get out of the Lord's will in ways like the disciples were just about to do here. They didn't want to do what Jesus was telling them that He was going to do. Jesus, as God, was telling them what His will was, and they said, “No, Lord. We don't want to do that because that is too dangerous.”

That sounds familiar, doesn't it? We think the Lord is leading us to do something. We are pretty sure that is what His will for us or His will for our children or for someone close to us is. We are pretty sure that God's will is along this line, but we think it is so dangerous or so difficult, or any number of other things that cause us to shy away from doing God's will. Jesus said, “As long as you walk in the light, you are going to be protected. As long as you are walking in the will of God, you have nothing to fear.”

Someone says, “Wait a minute. I know of a person who fully believed it was God's will for him to go to the mission field, and he got killed on the mission field.” But, you see, to the person walking in fellowship with the Lord and doing God's will, regardless of the consequences, death is simply a matter of going home to be with the Lord. So you see, there is nothing to fear there. A person who is even imprisoned or a person who suffers financial loss, if he is doing it in the will of God, has nothing to fear, because God is leading him in that way for a purpose, and it is done in the light of God's leadership.

The person who has something to worry about is the person who steps into the darkness by refusing to do God's will. In effect, Jesus is saying to the disciples, “We will be safer going back where those people tried to stone us because that is what God wants us to do than we would be staying here where nobody is trying to stone us.” He says, “Be careful that you walk in the light and don't step back into the darkness.” If we insist on doing things our own way, we can get into situations that could cause temporal or even eternal harm from the standpoint of the Judgment Seat of Christ.

Confusion About Physical and Spiritual Death

The first part of the discussion is concerning danger, but after that reassurance, it becomes a discussion concerning death. In verses 11-15, we see the typical confusion about physical and spiritual death. Notice verse 11:

John 11

11These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.
12Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well.
13Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep.
14Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.

There is a false doctrine of soul sleep that the Bible does not teach anywhere. That is the idea that when a person dies, he just goes to sleep. Then when the Lord returns, God wakes that person up, and he comes back to wakefulness—back to life—and goes into Heaven. The bodies in the graves right now are just asleep. That comes from a misreading of verses like these, and it comes from ignorance of verses that talk about our being absent from the body and present with the Lord.

Jesus does use this kind of terminology, and it is always true when Jesus or anybody else refers to death as sleep. Paul uses that term several times. But if we look at it in its context, we see that they do it to emphasize the lack of finality that death has for a believer, for the transitory nature of death. For a believer, we don't go to sleep, literally speaking, but death is no more than just going to sleep and waking up in Heaven. It is of no more significance for the believer than sleep is from a human standpoint. Jesus is just trying to emphasize to the disciples, who are about to go and find Lazarus in the grave, that even death and the grave is really not a significant thing as far as Lazarus is concerned.

Lazarus Died for the Glory of God

Verse 15 gives a hint at the reason for this whole episode:

John 11

15And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him.

This goes back to what Jesus said in the very first part of the chapter. “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God.” Lazarus did die, but it wasn't eternal death. It was not even eternal death from a temporal standpoint. He was only dead for a few days, and it was for the glory of God. Here Jesus zeros in a little more specifically on how it is for the glory of God: “…so that you may believe.”

The disciples already believed in Jesus as Savior, but what He is saying here is, “You are going to be able to comprehend even more Who I am and what I can do and why I am here. This is to strengthen your faith, and so I am glad that I was not there. I don't apologize for waiting. I don't apologize for letting Lazarus die.”

God is not sorry when He waits to answer our prayers. Even though we may suffer some kind of temporary, temporal physical loss, God is not sorry because He always has a purpose in that waiting even if it causes loss for us from a human standpoint. In fact, He probably wouldn't have any reason to say it, but if He did, He would say the same thing that He said to His disciples: “I'm glad that I wasn't there when Lazarus died, because it is going to have a greater effect than it would have if I had been there.”

Jesus and His Disciples Go Back to Judaea

We saw the announcement of Jesus' plan to go back to that Judaean area and the argument about it, so now, in verse 16, we see something beautiful. We see the disciples' acquiescence in that:

John 11

16Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellow disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him.

Thomas is the same guy who has come to be known as doubting Thomas , because he wouldn't believe Jesus was risen until he saw the marks in His hands and put his hand in His side. I never have understood why Thomas wanted to put his hand in His side, but that is how definite he was about wanting to have proof. Thomas was kind of a negative sort of person. He looked at the cup as half empty instead of half full. He says, “Well, He is going to die anyway, so let's go with Him.” His idea was that it was better to die with Christ than to live without Him. We can't fault that. We have to give Thomas some credit here. He just couldn't get around the probability of Jesus' being killed if He went back to Judaea. Even that pessimistic outlook was a part of his loyalty to the Lord. “If He is going to get killed, we might as well get killed, too. Let's go with Him.” Apparently, the other disciples agreed with that because they all went there.

The apex of the story is in verses 17-44, where we see the rebuke of the illness by the Lord Jesus. This is the last miracle that John records about Jesus—chronologically not the last miracle He performed, but the last one that John lists.

We talked in the beginning of our study of the Gospel of John about how John selects various incidents from the life of Christ. John's purpose is not primarily to give us a chronological story of the life of Christ. Matthew, Mark and Luke do that. They are called the Synoptic Gospels because they synthesize the life of Christ. They put the various incidents in the life of Christ into an almost three dimensional kind of view of the life of Christ, but John's purpose is to show that this man was God. Of course, that is the other Gospel writers' purpose too, but their purpose is more to focus on the life story. John's purpose is to take bits and pieces of that life and focus on the deity of Christ. He says at the very end of his book that Jesus is the Christ and that believing, you might have life through His name. He tells us plainly there in John, chapter 20, that Jesus did a lot of things that John didn't write down, but he did write down enough to show us that Jesus is the Christ.

The Finality of Lazarus' Death

This is the last miracle or sign, as John refers to the miracles, that John records. Of course, this is the best known one, and it is by far the most impressive one, showing His power not just over disease and demons, but even His power over death itself. John records three factors about this miracle, and these factors lead up to and are meant to emphasize the tremendous nature of this miracle. First, he emphasizes the finality of the situation, in verses 17-19:

John 11

17Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already [that is pretty final] .
18Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off:
19And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.

John records this to show us that the fact of Lazarus' death was indisputable. He had been dead four days already. It was so final that the mourners from Jerusalem were there. In those days there was a tradition of making a very great demonstration of mourning and weeping. It was not just the emotional crying that all of us do at the time of the death of a loved one, but it was more of a funeral dirge. It was not just weeping, but it was an open demonstration of sorrow. Some of these people were even professionals who would go and weep with the family and mourn and cry and carry on. It was a show of respect and a show of loss. It was something like a prayer service for the dead that the Catholic church and some Protestants also have or like a funeral service. It was that kind of thing. It was so definite that Lazarus was dead that not only had he been in the grave all this time, but these mourners had come, and the funeral ceremony was going on.

Martha's Reaction to Lazarus' Death

Another factor in the setting for the miracle was the faultfinding of the sisters, in verses 20-32. John records each of them separately. In verses 20-27, there is Martha's reaction to Lazarus' death, which is one of the typical reactions to death. How many times when a loved one dies do people say what Martha says, in verse 21: “If only… If only we had gotten him to the hospital sooner. If only we had had a different doctor. If only I had gotten there sooner. If only, if only, if only.” Of course, for the believer who trusts in the direction of God and the sovereignty of God, that is very often a futile exercise because even if we did fail in some way, it is too late now. Look what Martha says, in verse 20:

John 11

20Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house.
21Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.

It is interesting that every recorded conversation that we have of Martha includes her chewing Jesus out about something. Mary wouldn't come and help her serve the dinner, so Martha marched right in there and chewed Jesus out and told Him to chew Mary out for her. Here the first thing she says to Him is, “It's all Your fault, Jesus. You could have prevented this.”

I have a very good friend who has been through all kinds of problems in the last five or six years. He really loves the Lord. He said this jokingly, but I think he was half-way serious. We were talking about all the burdens and problems he had, and he said, “You know, I just can't wait for the Lord to come back and just take us out of all this suffering and sorrow. I am just getting kind of frustrated, and I am very much afraid that when the Lord comes, I am going to say, ‘Where have you been? We have been waiting for You'.”

That was Martha's idea here. “Lord, why did You let this happen? Where have You been? If You had been here, this would not have happened.” We are going to see in this passage one of those things that is true of a lot of women who speak their mind but really have hearts full of love. A lot of them cover it up real carefully, but they really have a heart full of love. They say a lot of things, but they don't often say how much they love someone. Martha loved Jesus and trusted Him enough to know that if Jesus had been there, her brother wouldn't have died. That is a tremendous amount of confidence that she had in Jesus, so we shouldn't be too hard on her. We are going to see in a verse or two that she had great faith in Him also. Look at verse 22:

John 11

22But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.

We are going to see that she was surprised at the resuscitation, so I am not sure that was what she had in mind, but she knew that Jesus could do something even now. In verses 23-24, we see that her belief in the Resurrection was limited to a kind of theoretical, theological concept. Look at verse 23:

John 11

23Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again.
24Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.

That is why I say that she didn't have that in mind when she says, “I know that even now whatever you ask of God, God will give it to you.” She wasn't thinking in terms of resurrection, because to her, resurrection was just something way off in the future. She didn't realize that she was staring it right in the face.

In verses 25-26, Jesus gives her and us a whole new slant on the Resurrection. I want you to think carefully about this. It is something that as many times as we have heard this story, you may have overlooked it. She said, in verse 24, “I know that he shall rise again in the last day.” Look at verse 25:

John 11

25Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
26And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?

Here is another one of those places where we have to remember that Martha had never heard this story in Sunday School before. She had never heard Jesus or anybody else articulate the fact that He is the Resurrection and the Life. Notice what Jesus says to her. He did not say, “ I will bring about the Resurrection.” He didn't say, “I will be there for the Resurrection.” He said, “I am the Resurrection.” He didn't say, “Whoever lives and believes in Me will rise again,” but He said, in verse 26, “Whosoever believes in Me shall never die.”

Think carefully about this. I think it is a bit hard to grasp, but what Jesus is saying is that for those of us who believe in Him, the Resurrection is already a fact. It is not something way off in the future. It may be from a temporal standpoint, but the resurrection of our bodies and our presence with the Lord is just as real today as it will be whenever the Rapture takes place. That may be tonight or tomorrow, or it may be fifty years—who knows when it will be? But the Resurrection is real. It is already ours because Christ is ours. He is the Resurrection and the Life. We have eternal life right now. Eternal life has already begun for us.

At some point known only to God, each of us, unless the Rapture comes first, will step through a doorway called death . We will go to sleep, and we will wake up in Heaven. Death to us is just stepping into another room. Death to us is just going to sleep and waking up in another place.

My family and I have just finished a long trip to Kentucky. This trip was unique in that all three of our kids were awake most of the trip. We have just come through about a ten year stretch where at least one of them and sometimes all three of them would be sound asleep all the way from the city limits of Abilene to the city limits of Paintsville, Kentucky, twelve hundred miles away. Sometimes they didn't even wake up when we stopped to go in and eat somewhere, and a couple of times I thought, “That is what death is like for the Christian. He goes to sleep in Abilene and wakes up in Paintsville and never knows the difference.”

That is all death is for the believer—going to sleep in Abilene and waking up in Heaven and not being aware at all of what took place in the meantime because Christ is (present tense) the Resurrection. If we have Christ, we have the Resurrection. We have (present tense) eternal life. We are going to move to another place to live, but we have eternal life right now.

That has a practical application. So many times we think that when we get to Heaven, we will be able to praise the Lord. “When I get to Heaven, I will love the Lord, and I will do things that are pleasing in God's sight.” That is true. We will be much more able to do those things when we are in Heaven than we can now, but at the same time, for all practical purposes, we might as well be in Heaven right now. We are just as much God's children, just as much partakers of eternal life right now as we will be after we have been in Heaven for a year or a hundred years. Heaven has already begun in a certain sense for us. We don't have our glorified body yet. We don't have the presence of the Lord yet, but we have eternal life right now.

Martha Believed That Jesus Was the Christ

Martha may not have understood all the ramifications of this new teaching, but she did believe that Jesus was the Christ. She knew that much, and that covered everything else. Look at verse 27:

John 11

27She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.

That is a beautiful testimony. So many times Christians think, “Well, I just can't understand how this could be, so I am not going to get too involved in this Christian thing. I am not going to get sold out for Christ because I don't understand this. How could this be? I know that Christ died for my sins, but I am not going to get too involved in this because I don't understand this over here.”

Martha apparently didn't understand what Jesus meant fully when He said, “I am the Resurrection and the Life,” but she knew that He was the Savior, and that is all that she needed to know. Listen, that is all that we need to know to give ourselves to Christ. There are many things that the human mind cannot comprehend, and I think whole denominations have been built around efforts to understand how we could be chosen in Him before the foundation of the world, and yet whosoever will may come. Seminaries have been built around the different views of that doctrine. We don't have to understand those things. All we have to be able to do is to say what Martha said: “I know that You are the Christ, the Son of God Who is to come into the world.” That is all that matters.

If that is really Who Jesus is, then what does it matter when God envisioned our salvation and when God chose us to be saved? What does it matter whether there are seven dispensations or four? What do all these theological things matter? It is important to know those things, but if you are bothered by why God would let women and children die in the Old Testament or if you are bothered about whether God would choose somebody before the foundation of the world, Satan has worked a trick on you. If you are refusing to go deeper with the Lord because you don't understand this or that, you have fallen right into his trap.

If Jesus is really the Christ, if He really is the Son of God and all of these things that the Old Testament points forward to and all the things that the New Testament records about Him are really true, then that is all that really matters. Those other things will fall into place, and when we get to Heaven, I think that we will be a little surprised about some of these things that we have argued about. I think that we are going to discover that all of us have missed the point on some of it. There is probably some explanation for it that nobody ever thought of. There may be ten dispensations instead of seven, or there will be some other kind of understanding that we just do not have about all these various things that seem like such big issues and that keep people separated from each other as Christians and that keep people from going on with the Lord because they don't understand. Martha is a great testimony to us.

Mary's Reaction

In verses 28-32, we find the reaction of Mary:

John 11

28And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee.
29As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto him.
30Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met him.
31The 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.
32Then 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.

I think Mary and Martha had compared notes on what they thought about Jesus' not being there. She says almost exactly the same words. The verse says almost the same words in its entirety. John doesn't record many details, but we know from other stories about Mary that she wasn't saying this critically. I don't believe Martha was saying it critically. They were just expressing their understanding of the the situation. If anything, Mary had even more confidence in Jesus than Martha did, and Martha believed all that she needed to believe about Him and all that we need to believe about Him. Mary comes to Him, and she just pours out her heart to Him.

It is interesting to notice that Jesus loved these people so much that He talked to each sister independently of each other. He took the trouble to look up both of them individually. They both had enough comfort in His presence and were comfortable enough with Him that they could tell Him exactly what they thought. I said a few minutes ago that prayer is simply informing God of our situation, and I want to be careful how I say this, but I think that includes telling Him our disappointments. They were disappointed that Jesus wasn't there. They are going to understand in a little while why He wasn't there, but right now they are disappointed in that.


It never hurts to tell God that you are disappointed. He loves to hear your heart. He loves to hear what you are thinking. He knows it anyway, but He loves for us to be honest with Him. If you wonder why He is doing what He is doing or why He is not doing what it seems like He is not doing, tell Him that. Believe it or not, it will draw you closer to Him. Be careful that you don't tell Him that with a rebellious or angry spirit. Mary and Martha were so secure in their relationship with Jesus that they could even tell Him that kind of disappointment.

We will stop here, but there is more to the story. We are going to see, in verses 33-40, that Jesus loved them and had from a human standpoint the same kind of love and appreciation for them that they had for Him.

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