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Mar 25 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Be Loved, Do Love, See Glory

Luke 10:38-42 and John 11:1-7; 12:1-3

Intro: John will bring Jesus’ public ministry to a close in chapter 12

But just before reaching the end, there is this amazing crescendo!
– Jesus goes to the grave of a dead man and calls him back to life
– this is one of those points where John’s story differs from the Synoptic gospels
• Matthew, Mark and Luke say nothing about Lazarus’ resurrection
• in Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus’ ministry comes to an end
◦ but in John’s gospel, it is only Jesus’ public ministry that comes to an end
◦ he still has a lot more to give his disciples before leaving them (chs. 13-17)

In spite of the different direction John goes,
– the way his story overlaps with the Synoptic gospels is recognizable
• for example:
◦ Martha and Mary, whom we met in Luke, enter the story
◦ the story of a woman who poured perfume on Jesus occurs here
(as we find in Matthew and Mark)
◦ John also records Jesus grand entrance into Jerusalem
◦ Jesus quotes Isaiah 6:9-10, as he did in Matthew
(and partially in Mark and Luke)

In Luke, Martha and Mary are one-dimensional characters

Martha is a doer and Mary is a romantic
– Luke presents them this way to make a particular point
• nor do they break character in John’s gospel
• yet in John, both women have more depth and color

The first thing about the sisters that we learn from John:
– there was a special quality to their relationship with Jesus
Lord, he whom you love is ill (Jn. 11:3)
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus (Jn. 11:6)
[Bystanders at Lazarus’ grave] See how he loved him! (Jn. 11:36)
• this makes Jesus’ immediate response hard to understand
• their message was urgent, he loved them, but he delayed
◦ that is not what we would expect from a loved-one
– this is why, from the start Jesus had to define the course of the illness
• it was not about death, but glory – God’s and his own
• the theme of glory persists through this chapter and the next
◦ 12:23-24, my hour has come – strangely, it includes a death
◦ 12:27-28, how Jesus felt about what his coming hour:
▫ what he wanted to pray, but did not, Father, save me from this hour
▫ what he did pray, Father, glorify your name
▫ God answered, I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again
◦ what would happen at Lazarus’ grave side was a prelude
▫ to an even greater event and a greater glory

  

I want to go a level deeper into this

We return to Martha and Mary
– too late to heal Lazarus, Martha heard Jesus was coming
• true to form, she jumped up and went out to meet him
◦ but not Mary – John says she remained seated in the house
• Martha’s complaint, Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died
◦ after saying this, Jesus and Martha have a conversation about Lazarus, death and life
◦ John does not report all of it, but he gives us enough
– I find it heartwarming that Jesus spent more time in conversation with Martha
(than he did with Mary, his disciples, or anyone else in this chapter)
• we could get the impression Mary was the more receptive sister
◦ so Jesus would have more to say to her
◦ but Mary got what she needed from Jesus’ teaching
• Jesus knew that Martha was also a good listener,
◦ that he could be straight with her,
◦ and that she would trust what he told her, because she knew he loved her

Martha’s first words, Lord, if you had been here . . . – then she added,
But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you (v. 22)
– I don’t think she meant, “Even now, you can bring him back”
• as the story goes on, we’ll see that idea never crossed her mind
• rather, she was saying, “I still believe that if you had come in time, he would not have died”
◦ she had lost her brother, but not her faith in Jesus
– at some point in their conversation Jesus told her,
If you believe, you will see the glory of God
• Martha knew Jesus could have healed Lazarus
◦ even her friends and neighbors assumed he could do that (v. 37)
◦ but no one knew Jesus could raise Lazarus from the dead!
• had Jesus healed Lazarus, it would have been a miracle, but with less impact
◦ raising Lazarus intensified the revelation of God’s glory

When Jesus delayed coming to Lazarus’ rescue,
– it was not that he was too busy or did not really care
• it was a matter of timing
– when the disciples objected to returning to Judea, Jesus said,
Are there not twelve hours in the day?
• that doesn’t make much sense at first
• but what it tells us, is Jesus was alert to the timing of his next move
◦ his timing was not off – it was perfect (it always is!)

We’re not yet through with Martha and Mary

But first, one more word about “glory”
In Matthew and Mark, Jesus had to explain to his disciples why he taught in parables
– the reason, he said, was so that,
they may indeed see but not perceive,
and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven
(Mk. 4:12)
• this is a quotation from the prophet Isaiah (Isa. 6:9-10)
◦ John includes the same quote in chapter 12
• but instead of applying it to parables, he applies it to Jesus’ entire ministry
◦ the inability of people to see, hear and understand explained the Lord’s limited success
◦ John adds that Isaiah was given this prophecy when he saw his [meaning Jesus’] glory and spoke of him
– there was another reason why some leaders did not confess their faith
(yes, some of them did believe in Jesus)
Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God (Jn.12:42-43)
• this is painful, but all too common
• we compromise our faith,
◦ because we are overly concerned about how we appear to others
◦ for some religious leaders, public opinion is everything
(drawing attention to their accomplishments is more important than serving for God’s glory alone)

Jesus’ conversation with Martha was about faith

Jesus had explained to his disciples that although Lazarus had died,
– they still had good reason for going to him
Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe (Jn. 11:14)
• then, when Jesus told Martha Lazarus would rise, she said,
I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day (Jn. 11:24)
• Jesus responded with perhaps his most brilliant “I am” statement in John’s gospel
I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this? (Jn. 11:25-26)
◦ he begins with a universal possibility: whoever and everyone
◦ but then narrows it down to this one person: Do you believe this?
– Martha reached as far as her faith could take her
Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world (v. 27)
• that’s actually pretty far–almost exactly what Peter said in his great confession
You are the Christ, the Son of the living God (Mt. 16:16)
• but Jesus wanted to expand her knowledge and faith beyond that statement
◦ he was more than enlightenment and healing
◦ he was resurrection and life

Mary had waited for a call or invitation to go to Jesus

True to form, she fell at Jesus’ feet
– every time we see Mary with Jesus, she is at his feet (Lk. 10:39; Jn. 12:3)
• but, surprisingly, she says the same thing her sister said
◦ we could expect something more characteristic of each sister
• but grief has a way of sucking the same desperate feelings out of all of us
– after this brief encounter, Mary quickly fades into background
• they do not have a conversation like the Lord did with Martha
• but Mary reappears in the next chapter
◦ Jesus is again in the sisters’ home and
they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served [of course!], and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from [an aromatic plant], and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume (Jn. 12:2)

Matthew and Mark also tell this story (Mark also mentions that it took place in Bethany)
– but only John identifies the woman who anointed Jesus and the disciple who complained
• the most beautiful statement in story is followed by the ugliest statement
The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume
But Judas Iscariot…said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?”
– Judas immediately poisoned the atmosphere
• no one had opportunity to savor Mary’s extravagant love
• her lavish devotion to Jesus was reduced to dollars and cents
◦ in Matthew’s gospel, the question began, Why this waste? (Mt. 26:8)
◦ as if anything given to Jesus could be considered a waste!
– Jesus once again came to Mary’s defense as he had in Luke’s story of the two sisters
• John has painted a vivid contrast between these two followers of Jesus:
◦ one a lover and the other a traitor
◦ one a giver and the other a thief

Conclusion: Martha and Mary do not represent a Christianity divided between doers and dreamers

St. Augustine and St. Aquinas saw in Martha and Mary the distinction between
The Active life and the Contemplative life
– but they saw these as two practices of every Christian
• the active life has its arena where it is most effective, but also has its limitations
• the same is true of the contemplative life
◦ Martha, as we see, was also able to contemplate and reflect
◦ Mary, as we see, could also get up and do something for Jesus
(something that he appreciated and in which he saw a hidden meaning)
Thomas Aquinas wrote, “under the active and the contemplative lives is comprised that kind of life which is made up of both. But just as in every mixture one of the simple elements predominates, so in this mixed kind of life now the contemplative and now the active predominates.”
– and so with us, now Martha and now Mary

The point is that we exercise both of these spiritual muscles
That in contemplation we stretch our faith,
staying alert, open and receptive to God’s grace,
and in service we do what we can to bless the lives of others
bringing to them the love and goodness of Jesus the Christ,
the Son of God

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