Today, the Feast for Your Soul Bible Study devotionals continue with part two of our series entitled “The Women of Bethany.” I encourage you to listen to the audio of the drama. It is a live recording, so please pardon the background noise. Our hope is that listening to the drama will help you enter into the Scripture and better understand the hearts of the women who lived in Bethany. In the drama we give our interpretation of the encounters these women had with Jesus. If you have not read and listened to part one of the series, please do so before moving on to part two. The stories build on one another as we look at the faith building lessons and miracles that took place in the village of Bethany. The hearts of those who lived there were forever changed and interwoven together with Jesus. Bethany was one of Jesus’ favorite places to visit.
Todays drama is based on John 11, Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. As you listen you will enter this story in Scripture through the eyes of Martha played by Sherry Barron. Here is the link https://youtu.be/HYmKBLyS8-8
If you are not familiar with this incredible passage of Scripture, you may also want to take a few moments to read the Scripture in John 11:1-53 to learn all of the details. The Scripture can be found at the end of this blog.
There are many faith lessons to be learned as we walk the pages of Scripture with the women of Bethany and their brother Lazarus. This little village of Bethany was a favorite place in the heart of Jesus, a place where He often visited for rest and fellowship. In part one of this series we saw that Bethany was...a place of love, feasting and welcome. It was also a place of service, listening and transformation. In today's devotional we learn that Jesus' ministry there brings some hard lessons and miracles!
A place of love
Throughout this series we see that Bethany first and foremost is a place where Jesus is loved and loves His own. All of the faith lessons and interactions that Jesus has with this family are rooted in His deep love for them. We will learn that even in the difficult lessons and hard seasons it all comes back to love.
A place of waiting and hope
In our suffering we want explanations, answers, deliverance, but Jesus wants to give us a revelation of Himself. To Mary, Martha and Lazarus it seemed that Jesus had waited until it was too late. They believed that Jesus should have come and healed. They didn’t understand His view and greater purpose of a resurrection and a building of faith that many would come to believe in Christ as a result of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.
Jesus did ultimately meet the need. He just did it on His Father's time clock in a way no one expected. He chose a way that would develop the character and faith of all in Bethany that day and bring the most glory to God.
Death is hopeless and four days after death is beyond hopeless. The family had sent word that Lazarus was sick asking Jesus to come and he didn’t come. Jewish belief in that day was that on the fourth day the soul leaves the body permanently. Sometimes God allows us to experience situations that are beyond human aid so that He can be a display of resurrection life within us and for others to see.
Often, we simply must wait… in the suffering… in the pain until His time of resurrecting power.
His goal is to bring freedom and victory. The power of His resurrection follows the fellowship of His sufferings.
That is our hope!
Waiting can be a difficult lesson to learn. I have found that basing my faith on God’s performance is a profound mistake.
His promises are true. His ways are perfect. The only solid foundation for a faith that doesn’t waver despite our circumstances is to believe that God is. Our faith must be rooted in the belief and knowledge of His character and confidence that He does “all things well,” no matter what takes place.
What is the waiting in your own life?
What is the performance you are expecting of God that He hasn’t met in the way you thought He would?
In Bethany the mystery and the majesty of God collide. We can never understand or fully comprehend His ways.
“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!”
We must simply surrender to His ways in the waiting and rest in the hope of who Christ is.
A place of friendship
A true friend is someone with whom you feel safe, welcome, heard and valued. Jesus felt all of these things by the family in these passages and he returned the friendship. In regard to Jesus weeping at the scene at the tomb, the Jews said, “Look how he loved him.”
Fellowship and intimacy with Jesus is a choice and it takes time. It is a matter of our priorities.
It is the main course of the meal. And Jesus says when we make that choice it counts for eternity.
Friendship with the living God is a treasure to be cherished.
Because Mary had befriended her Lord and taken the posture of listening at His feet as a disciple, she had the courage to share the deepest sorrows of her heart with him. She had found that place in her heart of authentic relationship with Jesus. And so she crumbles at His feet and pours out her heart of suffering about the death of her brother.
A place of suffering and death
“Sometimes the brightest light comes from the darkest places. And what doesn’t destroy us ends up defining us in a significant way.” Frank Viola
In my own life I have seen the dark places of suffering bring forth a refining in my character. Those seasons have defined me, made me stronger and made me dig deeper into the knowledge of who God is. The Lord has used the times of waiting and suffering in my life to shape my character. One reason that Jesus allows us to suffer is so that our faith is developed until it rests in Him alone. But He also allows us to suffer so that we become a display of his glory.
Martha runs to Mary with a glimmer of hope and faith and she says in John 11:28 “The Teacher is here and is asking for you.”
Imagine Mary running through the village, frantic, her tears blinding her eyes and streaming down her face.
She is overcome at her helplessness. Surely her mind was spinning with “What if’s”….
And maybe you’ve been there…I know I have.
And Mary fell sobbing, helpless, hopeless at Jesus feet and says, in John 11:32
“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
She was so defeated because she thought He was too late.
The mourners had followed Mary, weeping. And the text tells us that Jesus was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.
In John 11:33, the text indicates he felt more than just grief. He felt anger that day in Bethany as Mary wept and her friends wept with her. Grief and anger, compassion and emotion overcame the heart of Jesus so that He could no longer contain it.
I would imagine that his voice must have been choking with emotion when he said, “Where have you laid him?”
When those around him replied gently, “Come and see Lord”…. Jesus wept. John 11:34 -35
We see Jesus weeping three times in the New Testament
The words describing His tears indicate that He wept aloud over the holy city of Jerusalem. He sobbed silently at the tomb of his beloved friend, Lazarus.
We can take comfort in our own pain and suffering that Jesus knows and feels our pain
for He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8
A place of resurrection and freedom
In this place Jesus proclaims who He is: “I am the resurrection and the life!”
Martha runs to find Jesus and says in John 11:21-22, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
In the Scriptures we see Jesus patiently persisted in developing Martha‘s faith until it was focused on Him and Him alone.
He replied with words that have resonated throughout the centuries giving hope at the graveside of thousands of believers of every generation.
“John 11:25 - 26” I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this? “
His eyes must have seemed to penetrate past her doubting mind and into her broken heart to the very depths of her being when Jesus asked Martha, “Do you believe this?”
Anne Graham Lotz writes in her wonderful book “Just give me Jesus,” “Do you believe that when there is no hope, when there is no recourse, when there is no answer, when there is no way, when there is no remedy, when there is no solution, when there is nobody, there is hope if you have Jesus. Do you believe Jesus can make a way when there is no way? Gradually the light pierced through the depths of Martha‘s grief and despair and she affirmed with a beautiful confession of faith. “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ the Son of God who was come into the world.” John 11: 27.
Martha recognized and acknowledged that apart from Jesus she was totally helpless and totally hopeless. Jesus has shifted Martha’s focus from her own suffering and grief and pain and problems and despair and hopelessness and helplessness to Himself.”
In Bethany, death doesn’t have the last word. Jesus does.
In three simple words, “Lazarus, Come Forth!” Lazarus is awakened and set free from the bondage of death.
But Lazarus is still in the bondage of his grave clothes. Notice that Jesus asked those present to unbind him and set him free.
"The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” John 11:44
What are you in bondage to today? Fear, guilt, the flesh, sin, addictions, the ways of the world?
Jesus came to set you and me free. And He may ask us as believers to be part of the process of freedom in someone else’s life.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
And so, we must ask ourselves some hard questions from the lessons in this incredible miracle and story in Scripture.
Am I willing to trust and rest in who He is and how He chooses to act in my life?
Because in that place of surrender in your waiting, in your suffering, in death, you and I will experience an awakening to the power of God like nothing we have ever known. We have an incredible God, a Savior who has the power to raise the dead to life and a God who weeps with us in our pain.
Father, thank you for your love and friendship. Jesus help us to trust you in the times of waiting and suffering and to find comfort in the fact that you weep with us. Help us to find our hope in who you are, in your Sovereignty and perfect plan for our lives. Your ways are always perfect, despite our circumstances.
Father, show us the things that are keeping us in bondage and give us the courage
to live set free in the resurrected life!
In the powerful name of Jesus,
Resting in Christ,
Resources: Sermons and writings by Charles Spurgeon, Ann Graham Lotz, Frank Viola, Ken Gire, Pinterest Images
A beautiful song by Keith and Kristyn Getty to encourage you, I Will Wait for You.
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John 11:1-53 ESV
1 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. 3 So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4 But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. 7 Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
17 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. 20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”
38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
The Plot to Kill Jesus
45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, 46 but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. 53 So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.
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