The Sympathizing Saviour
Although each place associated with our blessed Saviour during His sojourn among men possesses interest for us; there is one that especially does, the resort in which, during His earthly pilgrimage, Jesus so often found rest and refreshment, the home of Martha and Mary at Bethany. The family that once dwelt there has long since moved to the eternal home, but that sacred spot is still fragrant with the memory of the Lord’s presence. In that home at Bethany Jesus found a safe retreat from the misunderstanding, malice, and hatred encountered on the way to the cross; there He enjoyed the love of His true friends, the love that helped to soften the harshness of His last days. His love for the humble household and the sympathy He extended to them in their hour of sorrow frequently have served to cheer and encourage many a faltering pilgrim on his way to the Heavenly mansions.
In the scene recorded in this passage, the tender sympathy of the Son of God is manifest. He enters the home in the attitude of a real perfect human friend; nevertheless, He reveals Himself in all that is implied in His glorious title “Emmanuel,” which means, “God with us,” for He displayed His essential Deity by His power over death.
“As Man He wept in heart-felt grief
Beside a loved one’s grave;
As God He burst the bands of death,
Almighty still to save.”
The Lord grant that all may glean from the details of this lovely incident, the Christian solace and comfort which His own people, at one time or another, need. These have been, in times past, as the balm of Gilead to many bleeding and broken hearts. Our prayer is that the sympathy of the Lord Jesus, so beautifully expressed at the home in Bethany, may be the portion of those who are passing through some furnace of affliction. The three valuable lessons that are to be learned from this chapter may be thus stated:
The Love Of The Lord Jesus
The tenderest keynote in the entire chapter is found in verse 5, “Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.” His love beams forth from the expressions: “Behold, he whom Thou lovest is sick,” and “Behold how He loved him!” This love was mutual for they in turn loved Him. Their love was expressed in the willing service and hospitality that they extended to Christ, although the work and the attitude of each were diverse in character. Martha was to Christ, as to others, very practical in her ministry of comfort. Mary understood the Master because of her contemplative spiritual insight. Modest and retiring Lazarus always made the Lord welcome. We do not wonder, therefore, that Jesus loved them. He loves all of His own in spite of their diversity of individualism; therefore, we can rejoice in His infinite love for us.
The happiness of the home at Bethany was darkened by sickness and death; the joyous dwelling was turned into a house of mourning. Frequently, the brightest sunshine precedes the darkest cloud, but such shadows only serve to prove the sun is shining. Let us remember that, when the Lord allows the shadows of pain and suffering to cross our path, His love is unchangeably the same, for, “Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth” (Heb. 12:6). The friends at Bethany might have doubted His love for them when, after hearing of the sickness of their brother, “He abode two days still in the same place where He was.” It was not that He did not love them, but that His first concern was for the glory of God.
Occasionally, the Lord lingers in sending relief to us in distress in order that we may learn to obey His words, “Cast thy burden upon the Lord.” Martha and Mary later understood when they saw the glory of God in Christ as “The Resurrection and the Life,” that “Love’s delays are not denials.” Divine love permits sorrow to come into our lives that we might cleave unto the One Who is a true friend in every time of need. Let us remember that our first concern in every experience should ever be the glory of the Lord.
The Sympathy Of The Lord Jesus
Martha and Mary had the heart-breaking experience of seeing their brother gradually grow worse. Still Jesus lingered, and eventually Lazarus died. Moreover, not until after he had been buried four days did the Lord Jesus enter the village. When He did Martha went to meet Him and blurted out, “Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.” Quickly, He assured her that Lazarus would rise again, and followed her to the sepulchre to weep there; for we read that along with the sisters, “Jesus wept.” How profound this statement in the Word of God! Let us turn aside and see this great sight, the Creator of the world, the Mighty God, the Man Christ Jesus, expressing in tears His tender sympathy and deep grief with those that wept. He knew that He would soon change their sorrow to joy, He knew that He would soon wipe away their tears; nevertheless, He wept in sympathy with them. Moreover, the Lord knew that the scene in which He then was taking such an active part was but an example of many others at which, although invisible, He would be present. His tears at the grave of Lazarus are a proof of His loving fellowship with His own in bereavement and distress. They have Him ever as an High Priest Who is touched with the feeling of their infirmities (Heb. 4:15). When God’s beloved people are in sorrow, to recall that “Jesus wept” either dries away their tears or gives them warrant to flow. The Master knew all about the trouble in the household at Bethany and how they longed for Him to come. Certainly in this they were not disappointed. We need have no fear, for the One Who loved us unto death still loves us, and will not forget us in our trials.
“In every pang that rends the heart
The Man of Sorrows has a part;
He sympathizes in our grief,
And to the sufferer sends relief.”
When passing through sorrow, dear believer, in those tears of the Saviour take comfort. He knows every anxious moment during your loved one’s sickness, the nights of weary watching, the closing scene, and the sadness of the parting. He, Who comforted the aching hearts of the sisters in Bethany, is “the same yesterday, and today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8), and, as the God of all comfort, comforts in every tribulation (2 Cor. 1:3-4).
When our blessed Lord witnessed the desolation and sorrow caused by death; the havoc wrought by sin, and its attending evils; in spite of the fact He was soon to manifest His glory in the miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead, His soul was deeply stirred, and “He groaned in spirit.” This story is recorded to prove the power of Jesus over the last enemy, death. The careful reading of such a moving incident carries with it the conviction that Jesus is the Son of God.
As the words of the Lord, “Lazarus come forth,” pealed through the vault of death, the stilled heart of Lazarus began to beat, and the silent form moved. Lazarus lived!
“Death is vanquished! tell it with joy, ye faithful,
Where is now thy victory, boasting grave?
Jesus lives! no longer thy portals are cheerless;
Jesus lives! the mighty and strong to save!”
Christ, for His own, robs death of its sting, and the grave of its victory. Should we die before His return, we shall live again; should we remain until that event, we shall be changed in a moment, and transformed into His likeness. Dr. Andrew Bonar once quaintly said of this incident, “So mighty was the voice of the Resurrection and the Life that when He cried, “Come forth,” had He not specified Lazarus by name, all the dead in and about Jerusalem, yea in the whole world, would have sprung from their graves. When we are called upon to stand by the graves of our loved ones, our sorrow may be assuaged by the remembrance that He Who is the Resurrection and the Life has given us the hope that our loved ones in Christ shall come forth from the grave to meet their Lord in the air. Even now let us remember that Christ delivers from the sting of death by His blood (1 Cor. 15:55); the fear of death by His grace (Heb. 2:14); the hopelessness of death by His resurrection (1 Cor. 15:20); and the loneliness of death by His presence (Psa. 23:4). “Thanks be to God, Who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”