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That there are great depths in this and the preceding sentence, every reverent believer will always admit. We feel that we do not see the bottom. The difficulty probably arises from the utter inability of our gross, carnal natures to comprehend the mysteries of life, death, and resurrection of any kind. One thing is abun. dantly clear, and that is the importance of faith in Christ. “He that believeth” is the man who though dead shall live, and shall never die. Let us take care that we believe, and then all shall one day be plain. The simple questions, “What is life, and what is death ?” contain enough to silence the wisest philosopher.
[Believest thou this ?] This searching question is the application to Martha of the great doctrines just laid down. “Thou believest that the dead will rise. It is well. But dost thou believe that I am the Author of resurrection, and the source of life? Dost thou realize that I, thy Teacher and Friend, am very God, and have the keys of death and the grave in my hands? Hast thou yet got hold of this? If thou hast not, and only knowest me as a prophet sent to teach good and comfortable things, thou hast only received half the truth.”
Home questions like these are very useful. How little we most of us know what we really believe, and what we do not; what we have grasped and made our own, and what we hold loosely. Above all, how little we know what we really believe about Christ.
Melancthon points out how immensely important it is to know whether we really have faith, and believe what we hold. 27.--She saith... Yea, Lord: I believe.] Poor Martha, pressed home
with the mighty question of the last verse, seems hardly able to give any but a vague answer. In truth, we cannot expect that she would speak distinctly about that which she only understood imperfectly. She therefore falls back on a general answer, in which she states simply, yet decidedly, what was the extent of her creed.
Our English word, “I believe,” hardly gives the full sense of the Greek. It would be literally, “I have believed, and do believe." This is my faith, and has been for a long time.
Augustine, Bede, Bullinger, Chemnitius, Gualter, Maldonatus, Quesnel, and Henry, think that the first word of Martha's reply is a full and explicit declaration of faith in everything our Lord had just said. “Yes, Lord, I do believe Thou art the resurrection and the life,” etc. I cannot see this myself. The idea seems contradicted by Martha's subsequent conduct at the grave.
Musculus strongly maintains that Martha's confession, good as it was, was vague and imperfect. Lampe takes much the same view.
[Thou art the Christ... Son of God ... came ... world.] Here is Martha's statement of her belief. It contains three great points : (1) that Jesus was the Christ, the anointed One, the Messiah ; (2) that He was the Son of God; (3) that He was the promised Redeemer, who was to come into the world. She goes no further, and probably she could not. Yet considering the time she lived in, the universal unbelief of the Jewish nation, and the wonderful difference in the views of believers before the crucifixion and after, I regard it as a noble and glorious confession, and even fuller than Peter's, in Matthew xvi. 16. Melancthon points out the great superiority of Martha's faith to that of the most intellectual heathen, in a long and interesting passage.
It is easy to say that Martha's faith was rather vague, and that she ought to have seen everything more clearly. But we at this period of time, and with all our advantages, are very poor judges of such a matter. Dark and dim as her views were, it was a great thing for a solitary Jewish woman to have got hold of so much truth, when within two miles, in Jerusalem, all who held such a creed as her's were excommunicated and persecuted.
Let us note that people's views of truth may be very defective on some points, and yet they may have the root of the matter in them. Martha evidently did not yet fully realize that Christ was the resurrection and the life : but she had learned the alphabet of Christianity,-Christ's Messiahship and Divinity, and doubtless learned more in time. We must not condemn people hastily or harshly, because they do not see all at once.
Chrysostom says, “Martha seems to me not to understand Christ's saying. She was conscious it was some great thing, but did not perceive the whole meaning, so that when asked one thing she answered another.”
Toletus remarks, “Martha thought she believed everything Christ said, while she believed Him to be the true promised Messiah. And she did truly believe, but her faith was implicit and general. It is just as if some rustic, being questioned about some proposition of faith which he does not quite comprehend, replies, I believe in the Holy Church.' So here Martha said, 'I believe, Lord, that Thou art the true Christ, and that all things Thou sayest are true;' and yet she did not distinctly perceive them." This is a remarkable testimony from a Romanist.
Ought we not, perhaps, to make some allowance for the distress and affliction in which Martha was when she made her confession ? Is it fair to expect a person in her position to speak as distinctly and precisely as one not in trouble ?
28.- And when she had said this, etc.) The affection of Martha for
her sister appears here. Once assured that her Master was come, and perhaps somewhat cheered by the few words He spoke, she hastens home to tell Mary that Jesus was come, and had called for her. We are not told expressly that Jesus had mentioned Mary, but we may suppose that He did, and had asked where she was.
The word “secretly" may be applied to the word which follows, if we like, and it would then mean that “Martha called Mary, saying secretly." This is probably the correct rendering.
The word rendered, “is come” would be more literally translated, “is present: is actually here."
The expression, “the Master,” is probably the name by which our Lord was familiarly known by the family at Bethany. It is literally, “the Teacher.”
Bullinger remarks that the word “secretly” is purposely inserted, to show that the Jews who followed Mary had no idea that Jesus was come. Had they known it, he thinks, they would not have followed her, and so would not have seen the miracle.
Hall evidently thinks that Martha told Mary “secretly," for fear of the unbelieving Jews who were among the comforters. He remarks, “Christianity doth not bid us abate anything of our wariness and honest policy : yea, it requires us to have no less of the serpent than of the dove."
29.—[As soon as she heard, etc.] The two last words in this sentence
are both in the present tense. It would be more literally rendered, “She, when she heard, arises quickly and comes to Him." It is evident, I think, that the sudden movement of Mary was not caused by hearing that Jesus was come, but that Jesus called for her.
It is not unlikely, from the word “arose,” that Mary was lying or sitting prostrate on the ground, under the pressure of grief. We may also well suppose that our Lord, who doubtless
knew her state, asked for her, in order to rouse her to exertion. When David heard that his child was dead, and nothing left for him to do but to be resigned, he “arose from off the earth.” (2 Sam. xii. 20.)
JOHN XI. 30—37. 30 Now Jesus was not yet come into | 33 When Jesus therefore saw her the town, but was in that place where weeping, and the Jews also weeping Martha met him.
which came with her, he groaned in the 31 The Jews then which were with spirit, and was troubled. her in the house, and comforted her, *34 And said, Where have ye laid him? when they saw Mary, that she rose up They said unto him, Lord, come and hastily and went out, followed her, say see. ing, She goeth unto the grave to weep 35 Jesus wept. there.
36 Then said the Jews, Behold how 32 Then when Mary was come where he loved him! Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down 37 And some of them said, Could not at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if this man, which opened the eyes of the thou hadst been here, my brother had blind, have caused that even this man not died.
I should not have died ?
Not many passages in the New Testament are more wonderful than the simple narrative contained in these eight verses. It brings out, in a most beautiful light, the sympathising character of our Lord Jesus Christ. It shows us Him who is “able to save to the uttermost all who come to God by Him," as able to feel as He is to save. It shows us Him who is One with the Father, and the Maker of all things, entering into human sorlows, and shedding human tears.
We learn, for one thing, in these verses, how great a blessing God sometimes bestows on actions of kindness and sympathy.
It seems that the house of Martha and Mary at Bethany was filled with mourners when Jesus arrived. Many of these mourners, no doubt, knew nothing of the inner life of these holy women. Their faith, their hope, their love to Christ, their discipleship, were things
of which they were wholly ignorant. But they felt for them in their heavy bereavement, and kindly came to offer what comfort they could. By so doing they reaped a rich and unexpected reward. They beheld the greatest miracle that Jesus ever wrought. They were eye witnesses when Lazarus came forth from the tomb. To many of them, we may well believe, that day was a spiritual birth. The raising of Lazarus led to a resurrection in their souls. How small sometimes are the hinges on which eternal life appears to depend ! If these people had not sympathized they might never have been saved.
We need not doubt that these things were written for our learning. To show sympathy and kindness to the sorrowful is good for our own souls, whether we know it or not. To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, to weep with them that weep, to try to bear one another's burdens, and lighten one another's cares,
-all this will make no atonement for sin, and will not take us to heaven. Yet it is healthy employment for our hearts, and employment which none ought to despise. Few perhaps are aware that one secret of being miserable is to live only for ourselves, and one secret of being happy is to try to make others happy, and to do a little good in the world. It is not for nothing that these words were written by Solomon, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting :”— “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” (Eccl. vii. 2, 4.) The saying of our Lord is too much over