"I have exalted one chosen out of the people."
Why was Christ chosen out of the people? Speak, my heart, for heart-thoughts are best. Was it not that he might be able to be our brother, in the blest tie of kindred blood? Oh, what relationship there is between Christ and the believer! The believer can say, "I have a Brother in heaven; I may be poor, but I have a Brother who is rich, and is a King, and will he suffer me to want while he is on his throne? Oh, no! He loves me; he is my Brother." Believer, wear this blessed thought, like a necklace of diamonds, around the neck of thy memory; put it, as a golden ring, on the finger of recollection, and use it as the King's own seal, stamping the petitions of thy faith with confidence of success. He is a brother born for adversity, treat him as such.
Christ was also chosen out of the people that he might know our wants and sympathize with us. "He was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin." In all our sorrows we have his sympathy. Temptation, pain, disappointment, weakness, weariness, poverty--he knows them all, for he has felt all. Remember this, Christian, and let it comfort thee. However difficult and painful thy road, it is marked by the footsteps of thy Saviour; and even when thou reachest the dark valley of the shadow of death, and the deep waters of the swelling Jordan, thou wilt find his footprints there. In all places whithersoever we go, he has been our forerunner; each burden we have to carry, has once been laid on the shoulders of Immanuel.
"His way was much rougher and darker than mine
Did Christ, my Lord, suffer, and shall I repine?"
Take courage! Royal feet have left a blood-red track upon the road, and consecrated the thorny path forever.
"We will remember thy love more than wine."
Song of Solomon 1:4
Jesus will not let his people forget his love. If all the love they have enjoyed should be forgotten, he will visit them with fresh love. "Do you forget my cross?" says he, "I will cause you to remember it; for at my table I will manifest myself anew to you. Do you forget what I did for you in the council-chamber of eternity? I will remind you of it, for you shall need a counsellor, and shall find me ready at your call." Mothers do not let their children forget them. If the boy has gone to Australia, and does not write home, his mother writes--"Has John forgotten his mother?" Then there comes back a sweet epistle, which proves that the gentle reminder was not in vain. So is it with Jesus, he says to us, "Remember me," and our response is, "We will remember thy love." We will remember thy love and its matchless history. It is ancient as the glory which thou hadst with the Father before the world was. We remember, O Jesus, thine eternal love when thou didst become our Surety, and espouse us as thy betrothed. We remember the love which suggested the sacrifice of thyself, the love which, until the fulness of time, mused over that sacrifice, and long for the hour whereof in the volume of the book it was written of thee, "Lo, I come." We remember thy love, O Jesus as it was manifest to us in thy holy life, from the manger of Bethlehem to the garden of Gethsemane. We track thee from the cradle to the grave--for every word and deed of thine was love--and we rejoice in thy love, which death did not exhaust; thy love which shone resplendent in thy resurrection. We remember that burning fire of love which will never let thee hold thy peace until thy chosen ones be all safely housed, until Zion be glorified, and Jerusalem settled on her everlasting foundations of light and love in heaven.
Today's reading: Exodus 7-8, Matthew 15:1-20 (NIV)View today's reading on Bible Gateway
1 Then the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet. 2You are to say everything I command you, and your brother Aaron is to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go out of his country. 3 But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in Egypt, 4 he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites.5 And the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it.”
6 Moses and Aaron did just as the LORD commanded them.7 Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three when they spoke to Pharaoh.
Aaron’s Staff Becomes a Snake
8 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, 9 “When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Perform a miracle,’ then say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh,’ and it will become a snake.”
10 So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the LORD commanded. Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a snake. 11 Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts: 12Each one threw down his staff and it became a snake. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. 13 Yet Pharaoh’s heart became hard and he would not listen to them, just as the LORD had said.
The Plague of Blood
14 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is unyielding; he refuses to let the people go. 15 Go to Pharaoh in the morning as he goes out to the river. Confront him on the bank of the Nile, and take in your hand the staff that was changed into a snake. 16 Then say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to say to you: Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the wilderness. But until now you have not listened. 17 This is what the LORD says: By this you will know that I am the LORD: With the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water of the Nile, and it will be changed into blood. 18 The fish in the Nile will die, and the river will stink; the Egyptians will not be able to drink its water.’”
19 The LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt—over the streams and canals, over the ponds and all the reservoirs—and they will turn to blood.’ Blood will be everywhere in Egypt, even in vessels of wood and stone.”
20 Moses and Aaron did just as the LORD had commanded. He raised his staff in the presence of Pharaoh and his officials and struck the water of the Nile, and all the water was changed into blood. 21 The fish in the Nile died, and the river smelled so bad that the Egyptians could not drink its water. Blood was everywhere in Egypt.
22 But the Egyptian magicians did the same things by their secret arts, and Pharaoh’s heart became hard; he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said. 23Instead, he turned and went into his palace, and did not take even this to heart. 24 And all the Egyptians dug along the Nile to get drinking water, because they could not drink the water of the river.
The Plague of Frogs
25 Seven days passed after the LORD struck the Nile.
Exodus 81 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the LORD says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. 2 If you refuse to let them go, I will send a plague of frogs on your whole country. 3 The Nile will teem with frogs. They will come up into your palace and your bedroom and onto your bed, into the houses of your officials and on your people, and into your ovens and kneading troughs.4 The frogs will come up on you and your people and all your officials.’”
5 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Stretch out your hand with your staff over the streams and canals and ponds, and make frogs come up on the land of Egypt.’”
6 So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land. 7 But the magicians did the same things by their secret arts; they also made frogs come up on the land of Egypt.
8 Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Pray to the LORD to take the frogs away from me and my people, and I will let your people go to offer sacrifices to the LORD.”
9 Moses said to Pharaoh, “I leave to you the honor of setting the time for me to pray for you and your officials and your people that you and your houses may be rid of the frogs, except for those that remain in the Nile.”
10 “Tomorrow,” Pharaoh said.
Moses replied, “It will be as you say, so that you may know there is no one like the LORD our God. 11 The frogs will leave you and your houses, your officials and your people; they will remain only in the Nile.”
12 After Moses and Aaron left Pharaoh, Moses cried out to the LORD about the frogs he had brought on Pharaoh. 13 And the LORD did what Moses asked. The frogs died in the houses, in the courtyards and in the fields. 14 They were piled into heaps, and the land reeked of them. 15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said.
The Plague of Gnats
16 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the ground,’ and throughout the land of Egypt the dust will become gnats.” 17 They did this, and when Aaron stretched out his hand with the staff and struck the dust of the ground, gnats came on people and animals. All the dust throughout the land of Egypt became gnats. 18 But when the magicians tried to produce gnats by their secret arts, they could not.
Since the gnats were on people and animals everywhere, 19the magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not listen, just as the LORD had said.
The Plague of Flies
20 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning and confront Pharaoh as he goes to the river and say to him, ‘This is what the LORD says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. 21 If you do not let my people go, I will send swarms of flies on you and your officials, on your people and into your houses. The houses of the Egyptians will be full of flies; even the ground will be covered with them.
22 “‘But on that day I will deal differently with the land of Goshen, where my people live; no swarms of flies will be there, so that you will know that I, the LORD, am in this land. 23 I will make a distinction between my people and your people. This sign will occur tomorrow.’”
24 And the LORD did this. Dense swarms of flies poured into Pharaoh’s palace and into the houses of his officials; throughout Egypt the land was ruined by the flies.
25 Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Go, sacrifice to your God here in the land.”
26 But Moses said, “That would not be right. The sacrifices we offer the LORD our God would be detestable to the Egyptians. And if we offer sacrifices that are detestable in their eyes, will they not stone us? 27 We must take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the LORD our God, as he commands us.”
28 Pharaoh said, “I will let you go to offer sacrifices to the LORD your God in the wilderness, but you must not go very far. Now pray for me.”
29 Moses answered, “As soon as I leave you, I will pray to the LORD, and tomorrow the flies will leave Pharaoh and his officials and his people. Only let Pharaoh be sure that he does not act deceitfully again by not letting the people go to offer sacrifices to the LORD.”
30 Then Moses left Pharaoh and prayed to the LORD, 31 and the LORD did what Moses asked. The flies left Pharaoh and his officials and his people; not a fly remained. 32 But this time also Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not let the people go.
That Which Defiles
1 Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”
3 Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ 5 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ 6 they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:
8 “‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
9 They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’”
10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”
12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”
13 He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. 14 Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”
15 Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.”
16 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. 17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”
The Woman Who Was More Practical Than Spiritual
Scripture References—Luke 10:38-41; John 11; 12:1-3
Name Meaning—As a Chaldee or Syriac word, Martha is the feminine of moro or more, meaning “lord,” “master.” We find this in the formmaran in the well-known phrase Maran-atha, “The Lord cometh” (1 Corinthians 16:22). There are those who think that Kyria, translated “lady” in 2 John 1, is a proper name, the Greek equivalent of this word. Carpzov supposes that this Kyria was the same person as Martha of Bethany.
Family Connections—Of the history of Martha, the Bible tells us nothing save that she was the sister of Mary and Lazarus, and lived with them at Bethany. Some early writers have made Martha, the daughter, wife, or widow of Simon the Leper, and that on his death the house became hers, hence the reference to the house when the resurrection of Lazarus was celebrated (Matthew 26:6; Mark 14:3 ). Others think that Martha may have been a near relative of Simon for whom she acted as hostess. But the narrative seems to suggest the home belonged to Martha and being older than Mary and Lazarus, she carried the responsibility of all connected with household affairs in a home where “Jesus found the curse of the sojourner lifted from Him, and, in reversal of His own description of His loneliness and penury, found where to lay His head.” What strikes us forcibly is that after Jesus left His natural home at the age of thirty to enter upon His public ministry we do not read of Him returning to it for rest and relaxation. It was to the warm, hospitable home at Bethany to which He retired, for He loved the three who lived in it, Martha, Mary and Lazarus—in this order—which is something we do not read concerning His own brothers and sisters according to the flesh.
Martha and Mary seem to belong together in God’s portrait gallery, just as Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau do. Expositors also bracket the two sisters together, comparing and contrasting their respective traits. Martha, busy with household chores—Mary, preferring to sit before Jesus for spiritual instruction. Martha, ever active and impulsive—Mary, meditative and reticent. Truly drawn are the characters of these two sisters, Martha usually busy supervising the hospitality of the home, Mary somewhat indifferent to house work, anxious only to seek that which was spiritual. But we have no Scriptural warrant for affirming that the difference between the quiet, pious Mary and her industrious sister is that of the opposite of light to darkness. In the church there are vessels of gold and others of silver, but we are not justified in saying that the character of Mary is worked in gold and that of Martha in silver. These two sisters in that Bethany family had their respective, appropriate talents, and each of them served the Master accordingly.
George Matheson deprecates the effort to always bracket Mary and Martha together. Each figure stands for itself alone. These sisters have “both suffered from being uniformly viewed in combination, and the bracketing has been more injurious to Mary than to Martha. To say that Mary stands in contrast to Martha is true, but it is inadequate.” Too often “Martha has been held up to fine scorn as a worldly-minded and jealous creature, and Mary exalted for an indifference to the duties of hospitality, concerning which, for aught that we know, she may at various times have been quite as zealous as Martha.” Let us, therefore, take these female characters separately, and beginning with Martha note how she nobly fulfilled her mission in life.
The majority of the women of the Bible are revealed to us in passing hints. None of them are as fully pictured as we would like. But when we look at Martha it does seem as if her character is more fully revealed than that of many other females. Luke gives us our first glimpse of her in “a piece of writing which is one of the marvels of literature,” as H. V. Morton expresses it. “There is not one word we could do without, yet the picture is complete, and framed, as it were, by a kitchen door. Luke tells it in ninety-eight words” ( Luke 10:38-42 ). We have scattered evidence as to Martha’s ability to care for Jesus and the saints in the practical ways she did. Her home at Bethany was one of the few of social standing and substance with whom Jesus was on friendly terms. The hospitality afforded Him, the supper of some pretensions Martha provided for invited guests, the number and quality of friends who gathered around the sisters in the hour of their deep grief, and the wealth displayed in the anointing of Jesus, all alike bespeak of affluence. When Bethany is referred to as “the village of Mary and her sister, Martha,” the implication is that they were important figures in the community and that their home was the chief one in the village.
What, then, are the characteristics of Martha, the only Bible woman to have her name repeated, as Jesus did, when affectionately He said, “Martha! Martha!”?
She Was Most Hospitable
The first glimpse we have of Martha is that of one “given to hospitality,” for we read she “received Jesus into her house”—her house, suggesting she was its owner. Then, when Jesus was sent for to hurry to the aid of her sick brother, Lazarus, we read that when Martha heard that Jesus was coming “she met Him,” and bade Him welcome ( John 11:20, 30). And the provision of that home meant much to Jesus. One day we have Him saying, “The Son of man hath not where to lay his head,” but the next day, “He came to Bethany ... and Martha made him a supper.” His lonely heart found in that loving, hospitable home a woman waiting to minister to His weariness and exhaustion, and from the swift-handed care of gentle womanhood Jesus received the physical refreshment He needed. Even when there was death in the home, the energetic and practical Martha dried her tears and went out to meet the Lord of life, leaving the mystical Mary sitting in the house still weeping. What a superb life-like touch that is! “Martha went and met Him: but Mary sat still in the house.”
Knowing Martha as we do, we can be assured of this fact, that whenever Jesus visited Martha’s home she never had any need to apologize for untidy rooms, a neglected household, or lack of necessary provisions. To her, home responsibilities were never a drudgery. Martha loved her home, was house-proud, kept it “spick and span,” and was ever ready to entertain her divine Guest or others seeking a refuge beneath her hospitable roof. Eugenia Price expresses this aspect of Martha’s character when she says—
The superb hospitality He found in Martha’s home was extremely important to Him. No one enjoyed her cooking more than He enjoyed it. No one found her spacious home more beautiful, more inviting. But always He had the real issues in full view. He could not be distracted from them, even by His tired body and His human need of Martha’s services.
She Was Meditative
We do not read the record of Martha and Mary aright if we think that the former did all the serving, and the latter all the sitting. Too often, we think of Mary as the meditative one, and Martha as the practical one. But the next glimpse we have of Martha shows us that she was found at Jesus' feet—“which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard His word.” So both sisters studied in the College of the Feet. Conversely the phrase, “she has left me to serve alone,” suggests that Mary joined her sister in the reception of Jesus, and worked with her for a while but betook herself to her place at Jesus' feet. We must not for a moment feel that Mary thought serving beneath her, or that Martha had the idea that sitting was beyond her spiritual capacity. Both sat before the Master, but while Mary thought that listening was better, Martha felt that feeding Jesus was just as necessary as waiting upon His word. Martha’s practical service on His behalf was inspired by what she had heard from His lips and came of her love for Him. As George Matheson puts it—
Every article on Martha’s table was constructed out of sympathy, built of the fibres of her heart. The feast which she devised was the fruit of solicitude for Jesus and would have had no existence apart from that solicitude.
She Was Guilty of Complaint
Luke, who must have gone with Jesus to the house, noticed that “Martha was cumbered about much serving.” The word “cumbered” means “distracted.” It is God’s will “that we attend upon the Lord without distraction” (1 Corinthians 7:35 ). But being the one who managed the household and served, Martha found herself drawn hither and thither by conflicting cares. She loved Jesus and wanted all in the house to do their best for Him. So we have her double complaint, with the first part of it directed to Jesus Himself, “Dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone?” The next half of the complaint was a command, “Bid her therefore that she help me.” This means that if Jesus were still speaking to Mary sitting at His feet, her somewhat vehement complaint must have interrupted our Lord’s calm demeanor while conversing with Mary. It irritated Martha to see Mary, cool and idle, while she was busy getting the meal ready for the visitors, and most likely their accommodation for a night or so.
It may have been that Martha was “secretly vexed with herself as much as with Mary, that the latter enjoyed the privilege of hearing Jesus' word seated at His feet, while she could not persuade herself to do the same for fear that a varied enough repast should not be served up to Him.” It was as if Martha had said to Jesus, “Lord, here am I with everything to do, and this sister of mine will not lay her hand to anything; thus I miss something from Thy lips, and Thou from our hands—bid her, therefore, that she help me.”
Martha would not presume to call her sister away from Jesus to help. In her vexed state of mind she included Jesus in her rebuke, and asked Him to release Mary from the season of meditation to help out with practical duties.
She Was Rebuked by Jesus
In our Lord’s answer to Martha’s complaint there was no condemnation of her activity, for He must have appreciated her warmhearted, practical management of the household. He knew that she was seeking to entertain Him with her best, and so lovingly warned her of the danger of forgetting amid her many cares the one thing needful. In the repetition of her name, Martha! Martha! there is an affectionate reproof. The only other example of a twofold utterance of a name during our Lord’s ministry was when He said, Simon! Simon! (Luke 22:31). From glory He said Saul! Saul! ( Acts 9:4). Following His repetition in which there was a gracious blending of kindness, sadness and surprise Jesus went on to remind Martha that she was careful and troubled about many things but that one thing was needful—the good part Mary had chosen and which He would not take away from her.
Jesus did not tell Martha that she had neither part nor lot in Him, or that she was allowing the cares of this life to choke the seed. He recognized that she was working for Him, but reminded her that she was permitting her outward activities to hinder her spiritually. Because of wrong emphasis regarding her necessary labor, her inner communion with her Lord was being hindered. In her restless activity Martha felt that her sister carried “her quiet, peaceful, faith-engendered mysticism” too far. H. V. Morton says that in our Lord’s reply to Martha’s complaint there can be traced a play of ideas, and that His words can be interpreted—
Martha, Martha, you are busy with many courses when one dish would be quite sufficient. Mary has chosen the best dish, which shall not be taken away from her.
The term “careful” refers to inward worrying anxiety. Martha was mentally solicitous, anxious with a divided mind which is forbidden (Matthew 6:22-31; 1 Corinthians 7:32). “Troubled,” means disturbed, distracted outwardly about many things or dishes. Fausset comments that “Much serving has its right place and time (1 Thessalonians 4:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:12; 1 Timothy 5:14), but ought to give place to hearing when Jesus speaks, for faith whereby the good and abiding portion is gained, cometh by hearing” (Romans 10:17). The “good part” Mary chose was bias in the direction of that which is spiritual.
She Was Loved of the Lord
In a marvelous way John takes up where Luke leaves off, and with his skillful brush fills in the details of the character study of Martha the “practical.” First of all, the “apostle of love” tells us that “Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus.” How different were their personalities and temperaments, yet Jesus loved each of them with an equal love! He had a human heart enabling Him to love those who loved and cared for Him. So all three in that Bethany home had a place in His heart, and were embraced in His holy kindness. Such a love must have knit those sisters and their brother more closely and tenderly together than did even the bond of natural affection. Knowing all about Martha, Jesus loved her, and she in turn ardently loved Him and shared His confidence and became the recipient of a sublime revelation of her Lord.
She Was a Woman of Deep Sorrow
Sickness and death shadowed that loving, hospitable Bethany home. Lazarus fell sick, and his sister sent word to Jesus, “Behold, he whom Thou lovest is sick.” Jesus did not hurry to Bethany but abode where He was, and by the time He reached Bethany Lazarus had been in his grave four days. Was He indifferent to the call and grief of Martha and Mary? Loving them, how could He be? He wanted them to learn that His delays are not denials; that He knows the exact moment to display His power. He knew that this was a death that would result in Him being glorified as the Son of Man (John 11:4).
While many of the Jewish friends came to comfort grief-stricken Martha and Mary, they eagerly awaited the coming of the divine Comforter Himself and as soon as they heard He was on the way, Martha dried her tears and went out to meet Him, leaving Mary sitting disconsolate in the house. As soon as Martha met Jesus she uttered a rebuke in her usual blunt fashion, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.” Then uncovering the real depths of her soul she hurried on to say, “But I know, that even now [with my dear brother in the grave] whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.”
What unbounded faith and confidence in her Lord’s omnipotence she had! A most remarkable conversation on the Resurrection followed between the Master and Martha. Immediately Jesus healed her broken heart by assuring her that her brother would rise again. No explanation of His delayed arrival was given. Jesus began right away to unfold the truth He meant both His delay and the death of Lazarus to convey.
A desolate heart now, in the presence of the Prince of Life, expressed its faith in a resurrection of the dead in “the jubilee of the ages,” as Martha knew the ancient Hebrew Scriptures taught. What she was not prepared for was the revelation that the One before her was the Resurrection and the Life. Jesus sought to lead the thoughts of Martha away from her dead brother to Himself, the One in whom the yonder becomes the here. Martha thought of the resurrection of her much-loved brother as a far-off event, but Jesus asserts His claim to be in Himself the power by which the dead are raised. Martha’s reply provided the Master an occasion to present one of the most outstanding statements in the Bible as to His deity, power and authority—“I am the resurrection and the life.” How astounded Martha must have been as she listened in awe to the tremendous truths flowing from the lips of Jesus. When He challenged her with “Believest thou this?” she uttered a remarkable confession of faith which some professed Christians today, alas, cannot subscribe to—
“Yea, Lord: I believe that Thou art
The Son of God,
which should come into the world.”
Although Martha could not fathom the depths of the Master’s revelation of Himself, she believed and implied three well-known titles to Him who loved her—
The Christ—The One of whom glorious things had been predicted as the anointed prophet, priest and king.
The Son of God—A confession of His deity, for this is a title pertaining not to His office or position, but to His nature and Person as the Only Begotten of the Father.
He that should come into the world—This was a common description among the Jews of Him who was at once the heart of prophecy, the object of the aspirations of all illuminated and reborn souls, and the desire of all nations ( Haggai 2:7;Matthew 11:3).
With her heart stilled by the mighty and mysterious message of the Master, and yet more by the calm majesty of His presence, Martha confessed her faith, and while she did not fully understand the depth of her own words, the Lord’s Resurrection from the dead enabled her to understand in some measure why He came into the world. Leaving Him after such an overwhelming experience, Martha went back to the home and called her sister “secretly,” perhaps for fear of the Jews. This precious touch reveals how concerned Martha was for the safety and cause of Him who had done so much for her. Mary was told that the Master asked for her, and rose up “hastily” and went to Him.
'Tis love that makes our willing feet
In swift obedience move.
Meeting Jesus, she fell down at the feet she had loved to sit at, and between her sobs repeated the complaint of Martha, “Lord, if thou hadst been here my brother had not died.” Mary was in no way behind her sister in her love for her departed brother (John 11:19), her faith in the Lord Jesus (11:21 ), and in her belief in the final resurrection. The tears of Mary and of the mourning Jews moved the sympathetic spirit of Jesus, and affected by such sorrow He groaned in His spirit (11:33, 38 ). The groaning here was possibly an innner indignant feeling over the mockery of sorrow of the Jews whom He knew would try to kill Lazarus after his resurrection (11:47; 12:10), as well as kill Jesus also (11:53 ). It was this hypocrisy that stirred His spirit to anger so intense that it caused nerve and muscle and limb to tremble beneath its force. Then came the spectacle of “A God in Tears,” for we come to the shortest verse in the Bible, “Jesus wept!”
How true it is that in every pang that rends the heart, the Man of Sorrows shares a part! Here was the evidence of His humanity.
At the grave Martha gives vent to her feelings again, and implied by her statement that as her dead brother’s body had passed to corruption, it would be terrible to see him thus. But the miracle happened and the glory of God was manifested. Jesus uttered the all-commanding word, and Lazarus came forth, with a body fresher than it had been for years. Thus Jesus justified His claim to Martha of being “The Resurrection,” not merely able to raise the dead, but also the Life-Power conquering the death-power in its own domain. The great I Amis the Resurrection for in Himself He has the keys of death. Then when He spoke of Himself as “The Life,” He gave utterance to one of the most profound expressions in the Gospel (John 14:6). He is Life—the primal, all-originating, all-comprehending, everlasting life. It is in Him we live.
She Was a Joyful Woman
What tears of joy both Martha and Mary must have shed as they embraced their brother risen from the dead! That physical miracle resulted in spiritual miracles, for many believed on Jesus. The last mention of Martha was at the supper in her home to celebrate the resurrection of Lazarus, and as usual she was active and served. While the guests were seated at her hospitable table, Mary anointed the feet of Jesus with costly spikenard, but Martha raised no objection. She acquiesced in her sister’s preparatory act associated with Christ’s own burial. For all that we know Martha may have had a large share in the purchase of the precious ointment, which Judas Iscariot thought was being wasted. While the service of Martha was the same, her spirit was blessedly changed. She was no longer “distracted” over her tasks, nor mentally anxious and outwardly bustling, but calm, trustful and in full agreement with her sister’s act of love and devotion to the Master. At last Martha, too, has chosen that good part which could not be taken from her. It is more than likely that Martha was present with the two Marys and other devout women at the cross and then at the empty tomb of the Saviour, and joined them as a herald to the disciples that Christ was risen indeed (Matthew 28:1-11 ).
What are some of the lessons to glean as we think of the life and character of Martha? One of her noblest acts was to open her home to Jesus and entertain Him. She little knew at the beginning of His visits that He was the Son of God with power, and when we receive Him into our hearts as Saviour we do not know all there is to know of His majesty and power. Eternity alone will bring us the full revelation of why and what He is.
Further, Martha represents those dear religious women who allow themselves to be distracted overmuch with their home cares and obligations. Some are all Martha, and no Mary. Others are all Mary and no Martha. The happy combination is that of Martha and Mary, the practical and the spiritual making possible the glory of the commonplace. The church requires both the Marys and the Marthas for both are necessary to complete the Christian character ( 1 Timothy 4:13-16; James 1:25-27). From the records we have considered we surely learn, do we not?—
1. To sit at the feet of Jesus and learn of Him.
2. To keep so-called secular service in its right place, conscious that both serving and learning are duties, and in both we should honor God.
3. To trust the Lord with our cares, responsibilities and sorrows knowing that He is able to undertake for us. If His help appears to be delayed we must remember that He is never before His time, and that He never lags behind.
4. To offer our best to Him who broke the alabaster box of His own body that heavenly forgiveness and fragrance might be ours.
Herod [Hûr'od]—son of the hero orthe glory of the skin. Space forbids a detailed account of the genealogical table of the family of Herod. From Antipater, Governor of Idumaea, there were many branches. Elaborating on the history of the Herods, Henry S. Nash in his Hastings Dictionaryarticle says that they brought into history a considerable amount of vigor and ability, and that the main interest attaching to the Herods is not concerned with their characters as individual rulers.
“They acquire dignity when they are viewed as parts of a supremely dramatic situation in universal history. The fundamental elements in the situation are two.
“The course of world-power in antiquity, and the relation between it and the political principle in the constitution of the Chosen People.
“The religious genius of Judaism, and its relation to the political elements in the experience of the Jews.”
Among the many of the Herodian house, mention can be made of three, prominent in New Testament history.
- Herod the Great. This son of Antipater had shown himself before his father’s death both masterful and merciless. Because of his rule he earned the tile “Herod the Great.” He is remembered for his massacre of the innocents, the murder of several of his sons and for his own appalling death. Stewart Perowne in his recent monumental study, The Life and Times of Herod the Great, tells us that Herod’s life was as “eventful as his buildings were magnificent... His charm made him a close personal friend, first of Mark Antony, later of Augustus and Agrippa . . . Herod’s greatest achievement was the building of the Temple in Jerusalem” ( Matt. 2:1-22; Luke 1:5).
- Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great by his Samaritan wife, Matthaec. He became tetrarch of Galilee and Pernea. A man of craft, his cunning served him well. “The corroding immorality of his race shows itself in his marriage with Herodias, his brother’s wife.” His lust proved his undoing and also cost John the Baptist his head. Ultimately he was banished ( Matt. 14:1-6; Mark 6:14-22; 8:15; Luke 3:1, 19; 8:3; 9:7, 9; 13:31; 23:7-15;Acts 4:27; 13:1).
- The grandson of Herod the Great, and the son of Aristobulus and Bernice. He became Herod Agrippa I. Caligula gave him the governments of the tetrarchs Philip and Lysanias with other marks of royal favor. Parading as a little tin god, he was smitten with a foul disease and died in great agony ( Acts 12; 23:35).