The One You Love Is Sick
Sharon W. Betters
The one you love is sick (John 11:3).
Learning to articulate my ultimate identity as God’s disciple rather than as a mother forced me to find new ways of responding to my redemption. Like the excruciating pain of learning to walk again after an injury, every step caused anguish, but my spiritual health demanded that I face the challenge.
What if God’s plan for my life includes other losses? What did I have that could not be taken away? Jesus answered this question in His conversation with Martha when he directed her to cultivate her passion for Jehovah. Out of that passion, one day would flow service that was more than an obligation; it would be a loving response. Choosing the better part would mean responding out of wholehearted worship, not reluctant duty. Understanding her identity in Christ would change her motivation, though not necessarily her mode of service.
When we meet Martha again, she is face to face with the greatest enemy of man – death. Lazarus, her brother is dying (John 11:1-44), but this time her message to Jesus reveals increased understanding. In her earlier encounter, she told Jesus how He should handle her sister. But this time, she does not demand a specific response. She simply says, “Lord, the one you love is sick” (John 11:3). Certainly, Martha expected and hoped that Jesus would hurry to the bedside of her brother and heal him, but her words reveal her belief in His sovereignty.
Jesus, who is bound by no one’s desires but God’s, took His time traveling to the home of His friends. By the time He arrived, Lazarus had been in the grave for four days.
What were Martha’s thoughts as she awaited His arrival? My own struggles to harmonize God’s character with the way He sometimes works give me empathy for Martha. She knew Jesus loved Lazarus, but the delay did not fit her definition of love. Concealed in her grief were the pointed words Jesus had spoken to her earlier: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Was the key to her relationship with Jesus hidden in those words?
When Jesus finally arrived, Martha’s belief in His sovereignty rang out in her exclamation, “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” (John 11:20-21).
Her words revealed the struggle going on inside her. She did not demand that Jesus bring her brother back to life. Instead, she expressed what she believed Jesus could do without defining what she thought He should do.
Jesus dealt with the grief of the sisters by gently leading them into deeper intimacy with Him. To Martha, He uttered these astonishing words: “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?” (John 11:25-26).
Martha’s response, considering the circumstances, was also astonishing: “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world” (John 11:27). This proclamation of faith would determine Martha’s reaction to future circumstances and enable her to serve Him with contentment and joy.
Jesus confronts each of us with the same question: “Do you believe this?” When I stood beside my son’s casket and cried, “Lord, if you had been there on that highway, my son would not have died!” a similar set of words echoed through my pounding head: “Sharon, I was there. I am the resurrection and the life. Mark is not dead. He is alive with me. Do you believe this?”
My identity as a believer, a child of the King, determined my answer. But would my whispered “Yes” push me through my anguish to a place where God could use me as a physical demonstration of His faithfulness? Even the power to whisper “Yes!” comes from intimacy with Christ:
(Not in your own strength) for it is God who is all the while effectually at work in you – energizing and creating in you the power and desire - both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight.
Philippians 2:13 Amplified
When Jesus invited Martha to enjoy intimacy with Him, He knew that future circumstances might disillusion her and tempt her to doubt His love. His previous exhortation prepared Martha to confront this doubt and reconcile it. As a result, by the time her brother died, her faithfulness was rooted in God’s character, not in her circumstances or emotions. She was willing to love and serve Him even when He did not do what she wanted or expected Him to do. (Excerpts from Treasures of Encouragement, Sharon W. Betters, Women Helping Women, pages 36. Used with permission from P&R Publishing).
Father, thank you for how Jesus loves us so much, He not only became a man but was also tempted in every way as we are, willingly took on our sins and died on a horrific cross, was buried, and then rose again, conquering death. Remind us of His love when we are tempted to despair.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sharon W. Betters is a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, pastor’s wife, and cofounder of MARKINC Ministries, where she is the Director of Resource Development. Sharon is the author of several books, including Treasures of Encouragement, Treasures in Darkness, and co-author with Susan Hunt of Aging with Grace. She is the co-host of the Help & Hope podcast and writes Daily Treasure, an online devotional.
For more from Daily Treasure please visit MARKINC.ORG.