The title of this piece makes people pay attention when I say it. Can you imagine me standing in front of a congregation and saying to them, this morning’s message is entitled, “Martha had a BIG BUT”? You definitely get folks attention with that one! But that is exactly what this is called and now that I have your attention there is a deep spiritual lesson we will learn from, Martha’s big…but.
Let me set the scene for you. Jesus and the disciples are out and about ministering when Jesus gets word that one his best friends is very sick. The sisters of the sick man have sent Jesus a message that he needs to come very quickly because the man is near death, very ill. Yet Jesus indicates to the disciples, that all is well and that his friend is sleeping, but he is going to go wake him up. What Jesus was saying which went right over their heads is that Jesus already knew that his friend had succumbed to the sickness, he was dead. But the disciples didn’t get what he was saying as they answered him, “oh that’s nice, the rest will do him good, and he needs to sleep if he is going to get better”.
To me this is comical scene. Jesus has just told the disciples that his friend Lazarus is dead but the disciples nevertheless misunderstand and think Jesus is referring to natural sleep. I find this humorous and amazing. Who would actually think that Jesus was talking about Lazarus’s simply falling asleep, and that is exactly what they were thinking. Why did they think that Jesus would have to go on a four-day journey just to wake him up?
So it seems the disciples are thinking that Jesus had some supernatural knowledge that Lazarus had fallen asleep, and that he was going to go wake him up! There was not a dull moment with these guys. The disciples were sometimes very confused and didn’t have a clue, which should be of some encouragement to us when sometimes we feel the same way. I know sometimes the Lord says something to me and it goes right over my head, I don’t get it. Jesus’ patience with them is a manifestation of God’s Grace for which we ourselves can be thankful, as many times we find ourselves in the same place as the disciples when the Lord tells us something and we say; Yes, Yes, I know what you mean Lord, and like the disciples we don’t have a clue. Our Lord’s kindness in putting up with such folly both in His disciples and in us is remarkable and truly a blessing.
So Jesus and his disciples set out for Bethany to go see His friend Lazarus. The trip there takes them four days. As Jesus is arriving he is informed that His friend Lazarus has been dead for four days. Martha the older sister of Lazarus goes out to meet Him. She had been informed that Jesus was coming.
As she is walking up to engage Jesus in conversation, is where the title of this piece comes into play.
John 11:21-22 21“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
The first thing she says to Jesus is, Lord if you had only been here, my bother would not have died. She believed that Jesus physically being there would have made a difference. We need to realize that He is always with us, ever-present ever ready to work a miracle in our lives. Even when you can’t feel Him, He is there.
Then Martha has a her big but, when she says, “BUT”, “I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” The fact is she was saying literally….. But, “I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you”. She knew her brother was dead, she had watched him die. She had wrapped him in his grave-clothes. She had buried Him. She told Jesus that she knew Lazarus would not have died had Jesus been there. And then she throws in the bombshell, the BIG BUT. What Martha was plainly saying to Jesus was, Lazarus is dead, BUT all you have to do is just ask and God will give you your request, even restoring my dead brother back to life,” That’s it plain and simple. Now that is faith. That is revelation of the power of Christ. We need that kind of faith and revelation in our lives that Martha had. We need big BUTS….Lord, I have lost my job, BUT, You can…..Lord my wife has left me, BUT, You can….Lord, I have cancer, BUT, You can……Lord it’s all over, I have lost everything, BUT, You can. You can, You can, You can…. Are you starting to get the picture? Nothing is final in the hands of the living God, not even death, there is always a BUT.
We need not be tormented in our lives by a lie of the enemy …” if we could have reached a doctor, if only the roads had been dry, if we had only stayed at home, if she had only left the window open, instead of saying if, if, if, we can say BUT. She needed a doctor, But Jesus made her whole. We were going to crash, BUT Jesus took control of the wheel. Our son was lost, BUT Jesus brought him home. We were broke and homeless, BUT Jesus rescued us. I was out of work, But Jesus found me employment. My family was gone and I was divorced, BUT Jesus brought us back together.
There are MANY more lessons to be learned from the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Lessons such as; Martha was the first person in scripture with a flash of intuition to call him something extraordinary, she called Him the Messiah, the Son of God. Yes a woman was the first to recognize that Jesus was the Messiah, after Jesus told her, “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?” There is enough for another whole story on this passage, but I will do that another time.
At the end of the day, Jesus called out to Lazarus and out he came. The Bible says, Lazarus came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to those standing around, who were probably in awe, gawking, with their eyes bulging out of their heads, “Get those grave-clothes off of him”. Being covered with strips of linen and with a hood over his head he was probably was hopping around and could not see where he was going. I think it would have been more humorous that way anyhow as seeing a dead man rising from the grave would seem to spook a lot of people, but if he came out hopping around, and blind-folded; well that’s a whole different story.
The lesson I want you to take from this is to learn a new use and definition for the word BUT… a divine definition that means, God can, and God will! We have been taught the word but is usually used in a negative connotation, and it is. BUT, when BUT comes to God, it opens a door for victory and restoration.