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Part 4 Gods Plan for the Extended Family
1 Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.
vs 1 What was the relationship between Mary, Martha, and Lazarus? How close to each other did they live?
Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were brother and sisters. They all lived in the town of Bethany, which was situated only a few miles outside of Jerusalem. They apparently were believers, and worked together to host Jesus when he stayed in Bethany.
2 It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.
3 Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, "Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick."
vs 2-3 What do these verses tell us about the family? How do you think the sisters sent word to Jesus? What does verse 3 tell you about Jesus relationship to the family?
The brother and sisters apparently were quite close and had a great love for each other. Mary and Martha cared about their brother deeply, and when he became ill, they sent word to Jesus for help. It must have required a great effort on their part to send word to Christ.
Martha and Mary knew that Jesus loved them. They had seen it in the way he acted toward them. So when Lazarus became ill, they sent for him. No doubt they had seen or heard of his miracles. They knew that Christ would want to know about the illness of Lazarus.
McGee writes, " He whom thou lovest. Lazarus is loved by the Savior. Paul said, He loved me" (see Gal. 2:20). John called himself the disciple whom Jesus loved. Peter declared that Jesus loves us. And by the way, He loves you and He loves me. Anyone who is a child of God is one whom Jesus loves."
4 When Jesus heard that, He said, "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it."
5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
vs 4-5 What does verse 5 tell us about the closeness of the three siblings? How close are you to your siblings or other family members?
Notice that John thinks of the three siblings as a unit. Jesus loved them all equally. This tells me that they must have been very close for John to think of them in these terms. I think Jesus wants us to be close to our family to be concerned for them and do things to help them out.
38 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house.
vs 38-39 Whose house was this? What does this tell you about Martha?
The fact that the house is called Marthas has caused some to conclude that Martha was the oldest and Mary and Lazarus were younger siblings living with her.
This verse tells us a lot about Martha. She was hospitable and wanted to help Jesus and his disciples. In order to host the large group that was traveling with Jesus, she must have had a good store of food and her house must have been large. Since she apparently had no servants, she must have been a very responsible and industrious person to have such a large supply of foodstuff. Not only had she been hard-working in building up her stores of provisions, but she was willing to share it with others to help in the ministry.
Her decision to host Jesus and the disciples involved a large sacrifice on her part. It meant she would have to be doing a lot of hard work to prepare all the food for such a large group. And it meant that she would be donating much of her time in the preparations. It also meant she had to be willing to part with some of her food stores which no doubt were accumulated with a great deal of effort. But she wanted to help, so she was willing to go through all this trouble. How much trouble are we willing to go through to be a blessing to others, and to our family members? Sometimes it may involve a great deal of our time and effort and even our resources. Are we as willing as Martha was to reach out and be a blessing to others, even family members?
39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus feet and heard His word.
vs 39 Why was Mary living here? Do you think Lazarus lived here also? What does this verse tell us about Mary?
Martha had a sister named Mary. She was probably younger. As Kerr informs us, "From the fact that the house into which Jesus was received belonged to Martha, and that she generally took the lead in action, it is inferred that she was the elder sister."
Mary was one of these people who led with her heart. Later in John 12:3 we see her anointing Jesus feet with spikenard. But now she is sitting at his feet. She was fascinated by Jesus teaching. She wanted to learn as much as she could from him. She listened intently to every word he said.
Matthew Henry commented in 1721, "She sat to hear which denotes a close attention. Her mind was composed, and she resolved to abide by it: not to catch a word now and then, but to receive all that Christ delivered. ... Our sitting at Christs feet, when we hear his word, signifies a readiness to receive it, and a submission and entire resignation of ourselves to the guidance of it."
40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me."
vs 40 Why do you think Martha was frustrated? Who do you think was older Mary or Martha? Who was acting more responsibly?
Martha was distracted with all the work. It had turned out to be a bigger job than she had anticipated. And instead of helping her, her little sister was just sitting down. Perhaps Mary had been this way as a child a little on the lazy side, always trying to think of ways to get out of work. Perhaps this was what Martha was thinking: theres my lazy sister not willing to help just like when she was younger.
You see Martha had become so involved in all her duties, that she wasnt listening to what Jesus was teaching. She didnt stop to think that perhaps Mary needed this instruction at this time. All Martha could think of was her own concerns, and her own embarrassment at not being able to keep up with the serving.
As family members, its important that we consider the needs of others. Too often, we are only focused on our own needs and concerns. Let us be willing to think of the needs of our family members and be willing to help them.
41 And Jesus answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.
42 "But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her."
vs 41-42 Why did Jesus say Martha was worried about many things? What do you think she was concerned about? How had her concerns clouded her thinking about her sister?
Notice that Jesus doesnt condemn Martha for trying to be a good hostess. Rather, he tells her that the problem is she has become anxious and troubled over these things. She had lost her perspective of why she was serving in the first place. She wanted to do something nice to help out to be an encouragement and help to Jesus and his followers. But she lost sight of her mission. It was not to appear as a wonderful, competent hostess. Rather, her mission should have been, and probably was at first, to facilitate Jesus to give him a place to teach others, and to be able to minister to his needs. She had lost sight of that and actually interrupted Jesus teaching to vent her frustrations.
Jesus gently rebukes Martha. Concerning Marys good choice, Brown points out, "...not in the general sense of...good in opposition to bad; but, of two good ways of serving and pleasing the Lord, choosing the better."
Jesus said that even though what Martha was doing was important, there was only one thing that was needful. What was that one thing? It was sitting at Jesus feet learning from his teaching. When we neglect time alone with God, and when we neglect time learning from his word, we may become anxious and troubled about many things. But there is only one thing that is needful. Lets not neglect it in our life.
This study on Gods Plan for the Extended Family © 1999 by David Humpal. All rights reserved.
All scriptures unless otherwise noted are from the New King James Version © 1984, Thomas Nelson Publishers
Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, vol. 4, pg. 437 © 1983, Thomas Nelson Publishers
Kerr: International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, electronic database, © 1996 Biblesoft
Matthew Henrys Commentary, vol. V, pg. 689, MacDonald Publishing Company
David Brown: Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary, vol. III, pg. 258, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company