I read a book a while ago called, Where Is God When Bad Things Happen? Written by Luis Palau. As you can imagine from the title, the author talks about the traumas and tragedies that you and I experience in life, and why God seems to allow them. Where was God? What was God doing? What is God doing? That’s what Martha and Mary were wondering in this story, and probably Jesus’s disciples, too.
You and I might think evil is easy to recognize. But the truth is, evil much more often comes in disguise, pretending to be oh so good, oh so high minded.
She was held in his gaze, paused, at peace, at rest, then Jesus closed his eyes, and an audible groan rose up from voice after voice, as she rose to up on her knees, lifted the jar with both hands, and poured a golden green brooklet of ambrosial oil onto Jesus’ head. Narrow rills streamed through his hair, and over his beard, the perfume so potent it overwhelmed even the incense burners.
Jesus received from Martha that night, and he received from Mary. Both worshiped in their ways, giving the Lord a rare blessing. In their working together, supporting each other, Martha and Mary’s love and honor to Jesus was multiplied.
Faced with the same evidence, some were moved to belief, and some were hardened in unbelief. And yet God’s purpose for Messiah still advanced. Even with free will, no person can alter God’s divine plan. As one commentator put it, Nothing people can do will thwart or alter the sovereign will of God, and nothing God does ever sets aside the free choice of people.
It is God Who creates new life within you and me, Jesus calls us by name and brings us out of death and into new life. Then God calls others to come help us unwind the old life from ourselves, all the things that had bound us in death.
Faith involves doing hard things. And obedience to God reflects belief in God and God’s word. Martha would have to put her belief on the line in front of her sister, in front of all those religious dignitaries, in front of all their extended family and people who had come down from Jerusalem.
Each change is loss of what was as we move into what is, and face what it seems must be.
[In the Greek] Though Martha’s voice had leaned more heavily on the final catastrophe of death itself, Mary spoke from the devastation of personal betrayal, her voice leaning on the connection of her brother, the unspoken meaning clear: you said you loved me, and he was my brother.
Jesus had received a message from Mary and Marth of Bethany, Lazarus was gravely ill. But rather than come to them, Jesus sent word back that Lazarus’ illness was not to death but to God’s glory.