Reflections: Exceeding expectations

When Mary and Martha’s brother Lazarus became sick, Mary and Martha expected Jesus to intervene in the situation. “Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.” (John 11:3). Mary and Martha asked Jesus to come to them. They expected that Jesus, a close friend of Lazarus’, would come to be with them and to heal Lazarus. 

When we pray, we ought to pray specifically and expectantly. This kind of expectation in prayer can only come through relationship with Christ. 

Mary and Martha both had great reverence for Jesus and a close relationship with Him. They wanted to share with him about their brother being sick and as a result they eagerly sent for Jesus to come to them. Because of their closeness to Christ, because they knew He cared for them, Mary and Martha longed to cast their cares on Him. They expected Him to move, but they couldn’t anticipate just how God would work in their situation.

Like us, Mary and Martha were human, and therefore didn’t have a complete understanding of God’s timetable. They tried to expedite Jesus coming to them by sending news of their sick brother, and they were more than likely thinking that Jesus would come and heal him. What they didn’t understand was that Jesus had a greater plan in mind than healing their brother (v. 4). 

Thank God, His logic is much different than ours. While our understanding is finite; His is infinite. God Himself said that “my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways … For as the heavens are higher than the Earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). Mary and Martha thought Jesus would heal their brother, but He had greater plans of raising their brother from the dead. 

Jesus purposefully delayed His arrival and Mary and Martha had no choice but to wait. Even – especially – while we’re waiting, God is working. David wrote in Psalm 27:14, “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.” Waiting on the Lord and His timing requires us to be of good courage. 

When word came that Jesus was near, we read how Mary and Martha expressed themselves. “Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house.” (v. 20). Martha came to meet Jesus; she was ready again to earnestly enquire of Him. Mary, on the other hand, stayed in the house (probably because she was so consumed with grief). Martha had a lot to say, Mary didn’t, and Jesus was moved by both (v. 33). 

Even when we don’t know how to pray, and even when we cannot find the words, God hears our cries, and He knows every tear (Psalm 56:8). Mary and Martha both showed evidence of their faith in Christ, albeit in different ways. They both believed in Christ’s power. 

Mary and Martha were looking for Lazarus to be healed, and instead, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. God always does exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20), even in a literal life or death situation like that of Lazarus. As Matthew Henry wrote, “The afflictions of the saints are designed for the glory of God, that he may have opportunity of showing them favour; for the sweetest mercies, and the most effecting, are those which are occasioned by trouble.”

What an encouragement to know that even our trials are designed to bring glory to God!

Hope Reidt