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MARTHA AND HER SISTER AND LAZARUS.
St. John xi. 1-4.
Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose orother Lazarus was sick.) Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.
This Bethany is thus described to distinguish it from that other village of the same name where our Lord had just been tarrying. The sisters, from St. Luke's earlier account, were not unknown. Martha is there mentioned first, as the mistress of the house; but here,- for that she chose that good part,--the last shall be first, the elder shall serve the younger; and henceforth it is, “Mary and her sister Martha." 3
And lest any might mistake her for one of those other Marys mentioned in the Gospels, our Evangelist is careful to add a note of distinction ; referring by anticipation to an event which in the regular order of time did not occur, as he himself records, till somewhat later; an event by which, as the Lord predicted, she was to become famous in the annals of the Church for ever after. The faith of these holy women was thus early manifested. Observe how they speak of their brother, “he whom Thou lovest.” As our Evangelist says in an Epistle,
i St. John X. 40.
shew that, notwithstanding His re? On the question why the Raising proof of her, Jesus yet loved her; and of Lazarus was reserved for St. John in the latter, the order in which they to record, see Bp. Wordsworth's intro- were estimated by the Jews is given. ductory note. See also the opening But the comment is to be taken of passage of Bp. Hall's Contemplation, course rather in its spiritual than in “O the wisdom of God in penning His its literal signification; the order in own story," &c.
which they are regarded by the 3 Vv. 5, 19, may seem exceptions; Church, not the invariable order in but in the former Martha is expressed which they are mentioned by the by name emphatically, in order to Evangelists.
“ We love
“ Him because He first loved us.” And immediately after mentioning the fact of his sickness, it is added, “ Therefore his sisters sent unto Jesus.” As a matter of course. To Him first and above all. As the needle to the pole, so these true hearts turned at once to their Lord. “In the midst of life we are in death : of whom may we seek for succour but of Thee, O Lord ? ” 1
? Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world." All that was about to happen, what He was going to do, the events that should befall Him or them, all was spread out, as in a map, before Him. But for the present He keeps it locked up in His own breast; revealing now only so much as they might afterwards call to mind, for the proving of His words, and for the confirmation of their faith in Him. So in the audience of them all He says, as it were pronouncing aloud His inward meditation, “ This sickness is not unto death.” And He adds the end of all such sickness. The glory of God, and the glory of the Son of God, is one glory.” He who, to assure us of His all-sympathizing humanity, in things relating to God, was ever speaking of Himself as the Son of man,-here in things relating to man, to assure us of His Divine power, styles Himself the Son of God. The sentence to these faithful ones was, we find, not all enigmatical."
THE SAME SUBJECT —continued.
St. John xi. 5-10.
Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was. Then after that i The Order for the Burial of the
3 Vv. 41, 42 below. Dead.
Vv. 21-27 below. 2 Bengel.
saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judæa again. His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again ? Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him.
There is no contradiction here. He delayed, because He loved them. He loved them, therefore He delayed. It was for this that He decreed that two days' delay, and then decided to depart; re-crossing, as He needs must, the river Jordan, and re-entering the land from which through the malice of His enemies He had so lately been compelled to retire, placing this natural barrier between Him and them. It would seem as though the sisters had thought of this when they sent Him merely such a message. There was simply mention of the fact; no entreaty to come. They scarcely perhaps expected Him to come under their roof. They hoped, it might be, as in the case of that Centurion's servant, He would speak the word only, and their brother should be healed. And it is observable that the Lord's delay seems to have occasioned no surprise to the Disciples, though they were indeed surprised at His afterwards proposing to go. The Lord's answer to their remonstrance is in effect this :-As in the day there are twelve hours of light (for so the Jews always divided that period), twelve hours during which it is safe to walk abroad, and there is no danger of stumbling while the light lasts, so there yet remained some hours of His day, nor need they now be apprehensive for Him. It had not yet declined to that point when He must say to His enemies, “This is your hour, and the power of darkness.” The Lord completes the brief parable (for such it is) by presenting also the other side of the case. The whole is this :—There is no danger to men who walk while
Abp. Trench accounts for the to the brother, but it would have been difference in the original words, which contrary to the fine decorum of lanwe cannot gather from the E. V. in guage to use it, now that the sisters vy. 3, 5. The former “word might are included in His love." well be used in regard of Christ's love
the light lasts; the danger is only after the sun has set, and when darkness has come on.
Then indeed a man may stumble, because he has no light which shall supply the place of that which is departed. But as for me, it is still broad daylight with me. My day is not yet come to its close. And as for you (for doubtless they had hinted also at danger to themselves ?) fear not. Your safety is bound up in mine. There is an obvious application we may make of these words. The fear of danger is not to deter us from
. doing what is plainly our duty. God has given each of us a work to do for Him so long as we continue in this world. Happy he who sets about it resolutely, at once; not shrinking from it, not postponing it till the night of death overtake us wherein we cannot work."
These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth ; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death : but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe ; nevertheless let us go unto him.
Very condescendingly does He speak of him, and call him
But possibly instead of “in him” divers ages, states, and opportunities, (v. 10) we should render “ in it," i.e. as into hours, shorter or longer, as God in the world.
has appointed. The consideration of 2 Vy. 12, 16 below.
this should make us not only very 3 Compare Eccl. iii. 1, 2; Job vii. busy as to the work of life, ... but 1; xiv. 14; Ps. xxxi. 15; St. Luke also very easy as to the perils of life. xiii. 33; St. John viii. 12; ix. 4, 5; Our day shall be lengthened out till xii. 35; 1 St. John ii. 8–11.
our work is done." — Henry. See • “Man's life is a day, divided into Ecol. ix. 10; Jer. xiii. 16.
friend. Very touchingly too and skilfully He associates His Disciples with Himself. He says not“ my friend," but
our friend." Yours as well as mine. He has shown kindness to you also. Observe too the instructive contrast: “ Our friend . . I go.” He is the friend of all of us, and yet I alone am ready to go to him. I to whom the danger, if any, will be the greatest. This is not the first time that death is spoken of under this figure sleep. The idea was not a new one ; 3 though to awaken a man out of that sleep of death, this was indeed a new thing. The Lord's language admitted of two meanings, a literal and a figurative. The Disciples, who might have known better, fasten upon the former. Sleep in some sicknesses is a sign of returning health. Hence their remark. He is in a fair way towards recovery. What necessity then for our going? And why, if sleep be good for him, should he be awoke at all? Thus they sought to dissuade their Master from His purpose, and to prevent that perilous journey. Then He drops all metaphor, and says to them plainly, without a figure, what He had meant from the first. And for their sakes He was glad,
1 “We have the best of things by nature as our joints are by the represented in the greatest of exam- grave-clothes; and unless an Angel ples. In other men we see the excel- of God waken us every morning, we lency, but in Cbrist the divinity, of must confess ourselves as unable to friendship ... This happiness doth converse with men, as we now are Christ vouchsafe to all His, that as a afraid to die and converse with spirits. Saviour He once suffered for them, But, however, death itself is no more ; and that as a friend He always suffers it is but darkness and a shadow, a with them."-South, Ser. xiv. Of the rest and a forgetfulness. What is Love of Christ to His Disciples. there more in death? What is there 2 St. Luke viii. 52-55.
less in sleep? For do we not see by 3 See Cic. Tusc. Disp. i. 38.
experience that nothing of equal loud* Compare St. Matt. xvi. 11.
ness does awaken us sooner than a 5 See the original word.
man's voice, especially if we be called * Jeremy Taylor, as might be ex- by name? And thus also it shall pected, exquisitely illustrates this be in the Resurrection. We shall be subject : “Sleep and Death have but awakened by the voice of a man; and one mother, and they have one name He that called Lazarus by name from in common ... Charnel-houses are his grave, shall also call us . .. We but ... cemeteries or sleeping places; shall be awakened by the voice of and they that die are fallen asleep; man, because we are only fallen asleep and the Resurrection is but an awaken by the decree of God; and when the ing and standing up from sleep. But cock and the lark call us up to prayer in sleep our senses are as fast bound and labour, the first thing we see is VOL. II.