Luke 10: 38-42
John 11: 1-5; 12: 1-3
Reference was made in the reading on Lord’s day to Mary of Bethany, and I have been thinking a little bit since then about this family at Bethany and their exercises, and particularly their exercises in coming to appreciate the love of Jesus for them, the love of Christ for each one of them. I think we will see, as with the Spirit’s help we speak over this, a link with what our brother has already said in relation to gaining the victory. Christ has gained the victory and there are those who gain the victory through His work.
In the first scripture we find Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus. Mary was very quick to come to appreciate the Person whom she had come into contact with. She was very quick to appreciate the Lord Jesus, and to appreciate the love that the Lord Jesus had for her; and to appreciate the place where all her exercises and her needs would be met - at the feet of Jesus. What a blessed place to be found! I trust each one of us knows what it is to find our place at the feet of Jesus. I speak as much to myself as to anyone else in this. I feel the burden of the word in relation to being more fully in the appreciation of the love that the Lord Jesus has for each one of us. We know that the Lord has loved us, the Lord has died for us. I suppose each one of us here from our very earliest years has sung of the love of Jesus:
Jesus loves me, this I know,
For the Bible tells me so.
Each one of us knows these things, but how much do we appreciate, really and fully in our lives and in our walk, the love of Jesus, the love that He has for each one of us, the love that He has for us day by day in our walk here? Mary was quick to come to this realisation and appreciation as she is found sitting at His feet.
In this first scripture Martha does not appear to have the same appreciation of the love of Jesus. She loves the Lord; she invited Him into her house. It was not Mary that asked Jesus to come into the house, it was Martha that received Him into her house, but “Martha was distracted with much serving”. There were things that came into her life that came between her and her appreciation of the love that the Lord Jesus had for her. That is often the case with each one of us; I speak for myself. We know that Jesus loves us, but do we really put Him first in all our ways, and do we really know and appreciate in a full way the love that He has for us? The more we appreciate the love that Jesus has for us, the more we will love Jesus. How much greater our love will be for Him as we appreciate His love for us. How much He has done for each one of us! He has given Himself for us. How great a matter it is that He has given His life for us, that perfect life, that perfect life in which He fulfilled all the will of God. He gave that for us. He went into death that we might be secured: “we being still sinners, Christ has died for us”, Rom 5: 8.
When we come to the second scripture we find these two sisters again, but then we find that they also have a brother. He is not mentioned in the first scripture. He is not on the scene in the first scripture, but here we find him in this scripture. This scripture in John 11 specifically says, “Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus”. Again Martha is given prominence. “Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister” - it does not mention Mary by name - “and Lazarus”. An exercise had come into this family at Bethany; it says, “Now there was a certain man sick, Lazarus”. We are told about Lazarus having died: the Lord Jesus says, “Lazarus, our friend, is fallen asleep”. Now Martha speaks to the Lord and says, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died”. Something had come in in exercise in this family that had caused this malady with Lazarus. He had grown sick and he had died. The gracious words of the Lord Jesus are, “This sickness is not unto death”. Thank God that if you are a believer if something comes in even that only distracts you from the Lord Jesus, you might say it is not a sickness unto death, because your links with the Lord Jesus go through to eternity. Even if something comes in that distracts you from the faithfulness of the pathway, these links go through to eternity. It is as if the Lord Jesus would graciously say, “This sickness is not unto death”. But exercises had come into this household, as they do to all our households. Martha had her exercises. But how awful it must have been for this household that their brother had come into this condition where he had died; perhaps, we could apply it ourselves that we might have declined spiritually. The man who had taken the Jericho road had become “in a half dead-state”, but then the Lord is able for these things. The Lord is able for whatever exercises come into our lives and we can be found, as Mary was, sitting at the feet of Jesus; the Lord loves us, He loves each one of us. He loves you, dear brother, dear sister, He loves me, and He would desire to bless each one of us as He desired to bless these three members of this house at Bethany. Despite all the exercises, despite all that had come into their lives, the Lord Jesus desired to bless them. I have often been impressed with this scripture where it says, and I go over it again, “Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus”. He loves each one of us. He is able for the circumstances, and He is able to bring in help and to bring in healing, and to be able to call Lazarus out of the grave and restore him.
So in John 12 we find a completely different scene. We find a scene where I might suggest that each one of them, not only Mary, but Lazarus and Martha, have come to a fuller appreciation of the love of Jesus for them. They had gained victory over all that had stood in the way. They had gained victory over all that the enemy would bring in to distract them from that blessed One, and it says here, “where was the dead man Lazarus”. I suggest that that was a different thought to what Mary says about her brother dying in the previous chapter. Here now was a man, you might say, who was dead to this world but alive to God, as we might be related to a Man in resurrection, one who was related to the One who had gained the victory, who was to be raised from among the dead in a new order of life. So we can reckon ourselves dead to all that is in this scene but alive to all that belongs to the Lord Jesus, alive to all that belongs to God. The apostle Paul could speak of “the Son of God, who has loved me and given himself for me”, Gal 2: 20. Lazarus would come into the appreciation of that, the love of Jesus for Him was to go that way but had already delivered him from the power of death. Martha we see serving here - it says, “and Martha served”, able to provide something at this supper, something for the heart of Christ, something for His appreciation because now she was herself in the appreciation of the greatness of the love that Christ had for her. How wonderful it is! And then Mary again, Mary has something special, she has something that can be poured out, “anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair”; and it says, “and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment”. How wonderful that is, a full appreciation by these three persons of the love that Jesus has for them so that there is a wonderful response from the heart of each person in relation to that blessed One. May it be our portion to be those who know the love of Jesus personally, and to be able to respond to Him in love, in response to His love! I trust that the application of these scriptures will be appreciated by all. May we be encouraged for His Name’s sake.
18th September 2012