Martha, Lazarus, and Mary

We are into John 12.1-11 and I’m struck by the way that John portrays the three siblings, Martha, Lazarus, and Mary as he recounts Mary’s act of devotion for Jesus.  They are all three significant.

  • Martha – “Martha served,” John tells us succinctly, which is exactly what we have come to expect of the character of Martha.  She was a servant, and a gifted one, and we find her faithful to her character and calling here.  No surprises.
  • Lazarus – Look how John refers to Lazarus in this passage:

    1. “Where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.” (vs. 1)
    2. “Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table” (vs. 2)
    3. “They came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised   from the dead.” (vs. 10)

    **IF you were inclined to argue that Lazarus had not been raised from the dead—which John must obviously had been concerned about—you would be hard pressed to win your argument because John points out again and again that this is the Lazarus who, yes indeed, was raised from the dead, and oh by the way, sat down for a feast with Jesus.  The dead Lazarus?  Yeah, he was alive again.

  • Mary – The woman was extraordinary.  Consider what we see her doing in this passage

    1. She anoints Jesus from head to toe [John says his feet, Matthew and Mark say his head.  One assumes that together they mean from head to toe].  Bob Utley points out a possible interesting tidbit from this anointing: “This expensive spice may have been Mary’s wedding dowry. Many unmarried women wore this type of perfume in containers around their necks.”  If this was Mary’s wedding dowry, then she is laying everything down for Jesus because now she no longer has any dowry.  Jesus is worth more to her than being married, which if you understand Hebrew culture, will realize that this was the ultimate sacrifice for her.2. She seems to have been the only one who had an inkling of what was to happen to Jesus.  When Judas Iscariot (and others?) complain about such a waste of a year’s salary, Jesus responds: “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial, For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.””  A. T. Robertson comments: “This is what Mary perceived with her delicate woman’s intuition and what the apostles failed to understand though repeatedly and plainly told by Jesus.”

Martha, Lazarus, and Mary perhaps the most extraordinary siblings in all of the Scriptures.



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