There’s a pull between belief & unbelief in this part of the story. There’s this constant shift between full faith & false faith. First, we’ve got Thomas (who’s called the twin because he had faith battles in the very face of Jesus), and his moment of sarcasm. See, Jesus told them that Lazarus was dead…on their way to Bethany, and Thomas says “well shoot…let’s just go die with them” (the people in this region didn’t like Jesus too much). Then, we get follow Martha as she claims her own mountains & travels in a few valleys of faith. How do I know that Martha fought internal belief battles? I listened to what she said…
“if you’d been here..” Once Martha gets to Jesus, she says “Lord, if you’d been here, my brother would not have died…”There’s a lot in that statement (bear with me, k?). First of all, this statement is a statement of faith. It shows that she believed that Martha knew that Jesus’ presence would’ve resulted in a healing. She believed that if He’d just….been there, if He’d just…been around, if the Word had spoken a word, her brother’s body would’ve had to respond, and he would’ve been healed. She believed in His power. However, this statement is also arguably showing a lack of faith. It shows a lack in Jesus’ ability to be everywhere at the same time. He never left her (and He’s never left you). That’s how He knew Lazarus died. That’s also how He knew that Lazarus’ sickness wouldn’t be the thing that ultimately killed Him; He knew the end of the story at the beginning….because He’s always (literally always) there.
Martha’s statement also suggests that she believed that because Jesus didn’t do what she wanted when she wanted it done, that He wasn’t there, or that He was unaware. I mean, clearly, if He was there, we know that He would’ve healed Lazarus….right? So many times, we assume that walking with God, or being in His presence automatically guarantees the best case scenario for our situation. Somewhere along the line, we’ve equated walking with God to being a pain free life. Therefore, when we experience heartbreak, etc., we assume that He’s left us out in the open, and that this is just a trick of that nasty enemy! (‘Bad things shouldn’t happen to good people’, ‘violence shouldn’t be running rampant like this if God was real’, etc.) I think I’ll call this a ‘Martha mentality’, and this ‘Martha mentality’ is wrong. Walking with God doesn’t always guarantee the best case scenario; it guarantees victory. You can win a fight that never starts. Every win may not be pretty, but as my big brothers say “a win is a win.”
Just when we’re ready to shake our heads at Martha, and tell her to do better, she says something that makes the church girl in me ever so happy: “…but even now.” She essentially says ‘If you’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died….but even now, I know that if you ask God to raise him again, He’ll do it.’ Can you say that? Do you have ‘even now’ faith? Can you go to God believing that even after you’ve lost something, after the kids are gone, after the money is spent, after the mistake is made…that He can still do something amazing in your life? Even thought it’s dead. Even though they’re gone. Even though you don’t have the money, time, resources, etc. that you think are necessary….even now…do you know that if you ask God for ANYTHING He’ll give it to you? Let’s take a quick second to dig into the word “know”, and I’m going to ask you that question again…
‘Know’ is the root word of ‘knowledge’. Knowledge is something that people can take away from you. See, somebody could take my physical degree. They could somehow snatch it & cut it into pieces. Nothing would change though. I still have the knowledge necessary to be a BSW. The same goes for the knowledge I have (and will) gain in law school. The paper, the bar card, etc. are all SYMBOLS of something internal. Sounds a bit like faith, huh? The substance of what we hope for…and EVIDENCE of things not seen. You can’t see my knowledge in my brain, but the degrees are evidence of what’s inside of me. Knowledge and belief are internal things that are shown through our outer actions. They’re displayed in the things that we say, and the things that we do (ex: running to Jesus after He’s missed your deadline). So, once again, do you know that even now God can work a miracle in your life, and elevate you into new spaces?
After Martha runs to Jesus, and says what she had to say, Jesus simply says “your brother will rise again” (v. 23). Let’s pause for the cause & ask another question: Could He be saying the same thing to you? Your finances will rise again. Your hope will rise again. Your peace will rise again. Your influence will rise again. Love will rise again. Joy will rise again. YOU will rise again! Now just when we’re all raptured up yonder, but TODAY…RIGHT NOW, God is waiting on your unwavering ‘even now’.
Now if we were in church, somebody somewhere would start screaming, and running. Think about it, Jesus essentially guaranteed a resurrection before He even got to Lazarus’ grave. That’s solid dancing & shouting material, but our friend Martha listened with her ‘natural’ ears & not with her faith. She thought Jesus was being deep, and talking about that great getting up morning when we all rise. It’s a classic ‘I know you can, but I don’t think you will’ moment. It’s in those moments that a lot of us lose the battle, and give up. We know that God has the power, but we don’t feel like we’ve “earned” this big of a blessing, so we lower our expectations & wait for what we know is inevitable. That way, we’re not disappointed, and we can still say that God answered our faithful cry. Martha, sweet Martha, did you ask Jesus to raise Lazarus up with everybody else at the end? No? Then why do you assume that He’s jumped from the impossible to the possible? Why reduce the King of Kings to what you know? Why not trust Him with what He can do? Why run to a God that you don’t believe will meet your need? You’ve come this far; it wouldn’t make sense to lower your expectations now.
After Jesus has a ‘recognize who you’re talking to’ moment with Martha, He asks her the same question I believe He’s asking us today: do you believe? After all you’ve (seemingly) loss, after the storm, after the deadline passes….do you believe? It’s a closed-ended question. Yes or no? Yea or nay? Do. You. Believe? Do you believe that He’s the resurrection? Do you believe that He’s yet able? Do you believe that He & He alone decides when this fight is over? Martha said yes, and her yes pulled her brother out of his grave. Martha’s yes opened the door for countless others to see the power of Christ. They watched Lazarus come out of the grave because she said yes. She saw the power of her faith because she said yes. Now, one thing I’ve realized is that God doesn’t necessarily need our faith to do a thing, but our faith puts a demand (or an expectation level) on HIs power. I’ve learned that even God likes to know that you believe that He can do it. It’s not if He can do it; it’s do you believe that He will do it? Martha said yes…how about you?
**part 3/3 next week**
Background music: Lord Do It - Hezekiah Walker; He’s Able - Deitrick Haddon
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