Douglas Yade, Kirkland Lake, ON
"Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus" (John 11:5).
The faces of these three were as different as their experiences. Each was loved without reserve. We may see ourselves in the mirror of their story.
Martha stands out for her service, Mary for her devotion and worship and Lazarus for His experience of resurrection and his consequent fellowship with the Lord at the table.
The Link - Martha
The colorful, swirling crowd in Bethany couldn't stop Martha that day. With determination written on her face she made her way to Him. She quickly invited Him and "received Him into her house" (Luke 10:38).
Of course Mary and Lazarus lived there also. But she made the contact and introduced Him to the others. What an important role! She could have boasted, "If it wasn't for me..." But this is not the reason why He loved her.
Teaching the Teacher
Here we first meet with her forwardness. She is busy. More potatoes, another pot to boil, dishes on the table. It is all for Him. At least it was at first. Now she is tired. She speaks out to correct Him. 'Don't you care that my sister has left me to do everything?" Oh? Does He not care, does He not love?
Mary has been listening to the Teacher. Martha is blunt as she teaches Him a thing or two to pass on. "Teach my sister."
How gentle is His rebuke. She had missed the reason for the season. They were not there just to eat but to also hear His Word. Ah, but He knew her; knew how she would correct Him, even before He stepped over the dusty threshold of that home the first time. And "Jesus loved Martha."
Let's talk; you listen
Again we meet her forwardness in John 11:20. She merely hears that He is on the way. She acts! Her sister and the other mourners sit at home. When they meet she speaks out first. "Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died." Even under a burden of sorrow she lets Him know where He should have been when she wanted.
How she differs from Mary. When Mary meets Jesus she also is the first to speak and she expresses what Martha has already said. But Mary weeps now. And then He weeps with her. With Martha, who seemed to need to talk, He talks. He knew the need of each. "Jesus loved..." He could talk, He could listen, He could weep; and He loved them both.
Here's a Better Idea, Lord
Even at the tomb Martha corrects Him again. She implies, "Don't you know better, Lord? It's not a good idea to take the stone away now? Do you realize that?" The Shepherd stops her and calls on her to confide in Him again just as at the first. She was Martha through and through. For none of these reasons did He abandon her. Simply without reason or reserve, without measure, without explanation, "Jesus loved Martha" even though she was Martha.
Home, Home at His Feet - Mary
Mary was so different. She was herself. She had a quiet nature. Her faults were not so plain, especially out of the home. But she was aware of them. (So was Martha).
She had not been first to welcome Him to the home. But how her heart must have worshipped when they first met. She felt at home at His feet, as a Learner (Luke 1.0), as a Mourner (John 11) and as a Worshipper (John 12).
Here she anoints His feet with the "very costly" spikenard that she had not even used for her own brother when he died. Her devotion filled the house and every following century with its fragrance. But it was not for this that we read "Jesus loved ... her sister..." Read on!
Back Again - Lazarus
It was obvious. They all talked about it, pointing him out. Everyone knew how He loved Lazarus. It is recorded that "he whom Thou lovest ("phileo" - a deep attachment, more intimate than "agape") is sick. What wonderful fellowship they must have enjoyed in that home while others took note.
We do read some beautiful things of him in John 12. There as Martha serves (of course) and Mary worships (again), we read "Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with Him." Later we read that because of his testimony (v. 11) he was a marked man, enduring death threats.
What a wonderful commendation is this! Lazarus was at the table as "one of them" and near Him as a man marked out by the world. It was not for these reasons that He loved him. Not because he was found in the right place, doing the right thing or because he experienced a miraculous resurrection; no, not for all this, but for no given reason we read, "Jesus loved ... Lazarus."
It does us good to be broken again by the wonder of His love; to feel again in our very souls, He Loves Me. He loves in spite of our failings and faults and because of Who He is: not because of what we are or are not.
We are compelled to sing with the children anew the old song which needs to bite afresh into our lives,
"Jesus loves me this I know,
For the Bible tells me so."