HE LEFT HIM TO DIE
Mary of Bethany… Little cameos of Mary’s life give us insights into her spiritual journey.
Martha and Mary, two sisters living together, with Lazarus, their brother, in a little home in Bethany…Jesus used their home as a place of fellowship and even refuge from the ever-present Pharisees.
Martha – the busy one.
Mary – the contemplative one.
Lazarus – the invisible one.
Mary catches my attention. She was the quiet one, perhaps introspective, internalising her experiences and pondering deeply on Jesus and His teachings.
She sat quietly and unobtrusively at His feet as He taught about the glories of God’s kingdom in her home. The disciples ignored her presence since Jesus allowed her to stay in their company.
Fascinated by His teaching, Mary was forming her opinion about this man. Could He be the Messiah? Gradually her opinion changed to conviction and trust until…
The Lazarus event!
The “invisible” brother enters the picture. Until now, we know nothing about him. Did he have reservations about Jesus that kept him out of the story? Was he skeptical, indifferent, opposed to Jesus and His friendship with Martha and Mary?
Despite his absence from the story, he was beloved, both by his sisters and by Jesus.
Lazarus falls deathly sick….
“So, the two sisters sent a message to Jesus telling him, “Lord, your dear friend is very sick.”
John 11:3 NLT
Jesus was close to the Father. He recognised the moment… the Father’s opportunity for Jesus to reveal Himself to this family and far beyond.
And so, Jesus begins the course of events that would bring Him to the greatest revelation of who He was, through to the final countdown to His death.
The sisters’ message goes unanswered. It’s as though He had not heard their plea to come quickly. His disciples are puzzled. It was not like Jesus to ignore an urgent request. He just stays where He is, makes no effort to get back to Bethany.
One day, two days go by then, finally, Jesus moves. “It’s time, guys. Let’s go back to Bethany.” His disciples are, by this time, convinced that He was hiding from His enemies. What now?
Jesus ignored the danger He was in. He had work to do regardless of the plot against Him. This Lazarus event was the key to His future. Lazarus had to die to live again. So, He, too, had to die to live again.
His return to Bethany, albeit too late to save Lazarus, sparked a mixed response from the sisters. Martha, quick to meet Jesus with her rebuke, “Why didn’t you come?” expressed her disappointment in this “Messiah” she had come to trust. Her rebuke runs into one of Jesus’s greatest claims, “I am the resurrection and the life.” Wait and see, Martha. I will show you who I am.
This exchange between Jesus and Martha is almost a theological discussion, somewhat detached from Martha’s heart, her true feelings about Jesus and His failed response to their predicament.
Mary, the quiet one, shuts herself away, so disappointed, devastated, and disillusioned that she doesn’t even want to see Jesus.
“Martha, where is Mary?” Reluctantly, Mary leaves her room and goes out to meet Him at His call. Same words of rebuke as Martha’s, but loaded with anger, doubt, and grief, not only because Lazarus was dead but because JESUS LEFT HIM TO DIE.
Mary is distraught. Her anguished sobs move Jesus to tears. He is angry, not with Mary, but because Mary’s grief and disillusionment have brought her into this unnecessary pit of despair. Her faith in Him did not go far enough.
Had Mary only trusted Him beyond the present, she would have reaped the full glory of this Lazarus event. Her heart would have rejoiced in the victory of true faith devoid of regret for not trusting Jesus.
How often does Jesus not weep for us when our faith falls short of victory! We could save ourselves from emotional devastation if we would just wait until He has completed what He has begun.
“We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.”
Hebrews 6:12 NIV
Perhaps our greatest life’s lesson is that final moment when patience wins over unbelief. Only when we choose to wait on the Lord and allow Him to bring the test to its conclusion, will we understand that God is utterly faithful and reliable to do what He has promised.
“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world…. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.”
1 Peter 1:6-7, 9 NLT
A few more minutes of expectant faith in the Jesus she thought she trusted would have saved Mary from her terrible grief. Could He raise the dead? After four days? This Mary must learn, as did Mary, the mother of Jesus, that…
“With God nothing will be impossible.”
Luke 1:37 NKJV
Had Jesus, her Messiah, the one she thought she had come to trust implicitly, failed her?
Mary had to learn that He was writing her small story into His big story, leaving no detail out but putting everything into the perspective of eternity.
“For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!”
2 Corinthians 4:17 NLT
We have a glimpse, in the following chapter, of the outcome of Mary’s fiery trial.
“Six days before the Passover celebration began, Jesus arrived in Bethany, the home of Lazarus—the man he had raised from the dead. A dinner was prepared in Jesus’ honour. Martha served, and Lazarus was among those who ate with him. Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance.”
John 12:1-3 NLT
Mission accomplished! Her fiery trial produced pure gold. Mary had finally become a worshipper.
” But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”
John 4:23-24 NLT
HE LEFT HIM TO DIE