Welcome back to another post in my "First Observe, Then Serve" series. To participate in this online discussion, please see my first post of this series with all the information on what to expect over the next four weeks! Feel free to join our Facebook group, as well, where people from all walks of life are joining the conversation.
This week will be talking about Mary and Martha, with regards to the death of their brother, Lazarus. This story is found in John chapter 11.
Jesus knew this family well. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus knew Him to be the Savior, and Mary and Martha had faith that He could perform miracles. This is why, when their brother became ill, they sent for Christ to come and save Lazarus.
Instead of leaving to go heal Lazarus right away, Jesus stays where He is for a few more days. After that time, He tells his disciples that He will go to Judea to see His friends. His disciples try to dissuade the Lord, because there are many people in that part of the land who want to kill Christ. Jesus's answer is that He must go and wake Lazarus. They think He means that Lazarus is sleeping, but Christ means that Lazarus is dead and He will resurrect his friend.
When they get closer to the home of Mary and Martha, Jesus learns that Lazarus has been buried for four days. Many people were going in and out of the house to comfort the sisters, so Christ stays further away from the house. When they hear that Christ has come, Martha runs to Him and, in her grief, states, "Lord, is thou hadst been here, my brother had not died."
This statement was not a condemnation of the Lord's actions, though. As soon as she states that she knew Jesus would have healed Lazarus, Martha reveals even more faith in her Savior and says, "But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee."
Christ tells her that her brother will rise again, and she says that she knows she will see Lazarus after the resurrection, not realizing that the Savior can literally bring Lazarus back from the dead immediately. Then comes one of my favorite scriptures from the Savior's lips as He tells Martha, "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die." He then asks her, "Believest thou this?"
Martha tells Him that she believes, then takes her sister aside from the other mourners to tell her that Jesus has come. They go together again to the place where He is waiting for them, followed by those who had come to comfort the sisters. Mary expresses the same faith as her sister, stating that Lazarus would still be alive if the Lord had come earlier.
The Savior asks to be taken to the place where Lazarus is buried. When He gets there, he weeps. He tells them to roll away the stone. He prays, and then commands Lazarus to come forward, and Lazarus does.
The first thing I notice about this story is the fact that, even though Christ heard about a need, He waited. We know that Christ is all knowing. He knew that this would be an opportunity to strengthen the faith of Mary and Martha and help others realize His true nature. Therefore, He waited before He hearkened to a request for help.
How does this apply to us? I believe that if we are in tune with the Spirit, there will be times when a call for service will be answered by the Spirit telling us to wait. I have experienced this in my personal life. There have been times when I knew that I needed to do something for myself and felt the need to wait. There have been times when I felt the urgency of a situation for someone else, but I felt the need to wait. In all these instances, when led by the Spirit, the timing worked out more perfectly than what I originally thought it should be. God is amazing like that.
Another way that Christ observed in this story was to not come directly into the house when He arrived. I think His disciples might have thought this was because there were those who wanted Him dead, but I think it was for a different reason. I think He knew that His presence would garner a very large amount of attention on Himself, and this situation was not only about Him. It was also about two sisters who were grieving a very serious loss. They no longer had a protector and provider. This situation was almost dangerous, in fact. His focus was on helping those in need, not on creating a lot of attention for Himself. And so, He stayed away from the house.
There will be times when there are very serious needs around us, that are also very public knowledge. In those times, our true character will be tested. Are we serving to be seen? Or are we serving out of love for our brothers, sisters, and God? Granted, there are times that service is unavoidably public, but I feel that the majority of our service can and should be done in a way that creates trust. This can only happen when done in confidentiality, sometimes.
Next, the Savior observed and served as He continually explained Himself throughout this story. When someone did not understand exactly what He was talking about, He clarified. This is the pattern for good and open communication--something desperately needed in our society today. Martha stated her need, Christ gives her hope. She misunderstands, Christ clarifies. He is very in tune with what she is saying and what she is taking away from the conversation.
This kind of productive communication takes TIME and the guidance of the Spirit. It takes a willingness to understand where another person is coming from. It is genuinely thoughtful and supportive. This is how I wish our communications with each other would be conducted. There would be a lot less anger and more forgiveness floating around out there if so.
Another simple act of service that Christ performed was to weep. He literally mourned with this family. We are commanded to do the same. It is not weakness to cry with someone who is in great pain and anguish. It is Godly. It can help those suffering see that we are truly feeling what they feel and help us connect more one on one.
Sitting and crying with someone going through a bitter disappointment can, in and of itself, start to bind up wounds that are exposed and raw. I say this with personal experience. There have been a few times when I had someone willing to sit and just cry with me as I talked through things. Usually, this is my husband. Yes, he cries with me. Please don't let him know that's all over the internet, though. ;) But because he is willing to do this, our marriage is stronger. Others who have cried with me are dear friends that I could not trade for anything in this world. These relationships are the ones that last through moves, years, and other happenings. All because someone was willing to cry with me.
Lastly, the supreme act of service that Jesus was intending--raising Lazarus from the grave. In so doing, He showed that He was there to give hope--not just to this family, but hope to everyone in a resurrection! Really, this act of service is even for US, though it took place thousands of years ago. The knowledge that Christ has the power to literally raise the dead can give us hope that a resurrection will happen. It really will! Each of us will be resurrected because of Christ's Atonement and His power to do so! What an amazing gift.
We may not ever be able to do something as extraordinary as this, but I know that, with the help of the Spirit and God, we can do hard and seemingly impossible things. So, my invitation to you this week is to do something that is difficult for you, with regards to service. It might be taking time to make a treat and giving it to a neighbor. It could be making that phone call to the person you would really like to never speak to again. Perhaps it's just going out of your way to help your spouse with housework or other projects you feel are their responsibility. Whatever it may be, I know that you can do it, and so does the Savior! We are cheering you on!
So, what do you see in this story about the need to first observe, then serve? I can't wait to hear your thoughts! Feel free to email me, comment below, or join our Facebook group. Do what you are comfortable with! I'll be back next Tuesday with the next story in this series. Until then, HUGS and prayers sent your way! :)