Mary, Martha, and their brother, Lazarus, lived together in Bethany, a small town in Judaea, near Jerusalem. They were faithful followers of Jesus, and Jesus loved them very much.
One day while Jesus was visiting them, Martha was busy cleaning the house and preparing food. She wanted to be sure that Jesus was well cared for. Instead of helping Martha, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him. The harder Martha worked, the more upset she became with Mary. Finally, Martha complained, “Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.”
Jesus understood Martha’s feelings, and He answered tenderly, “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
“But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part.”
Jesus wanted Martha to know that it was important for her to care for her home and that He appreciated all she had done for Him. But it was even more important to learn about God and to grow spiritually.
Some time later Lazarus became seriously ill, and Mary and Martha were worried. They knew that Jesus could make Lazarus well, but He was with His disciples in Peraea. They immediately sent Jesus a message: “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.”
Jesus stayed in Peraea two more days. Then he said to his disciples, “Let us go into Judaea again.”
The last time Jesus had been in Judaea, the people had threatened to stone Him. They were angry with Him because He said He was the Son of God. Jesus’ disciples were worried about His returning to Judaea, and they tried to persuade Him not to go. But Jesus said, “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.”
His disciples did not understand what Jesus meant; they thought Lazarus was just resting. Then Jesus said plainly, “Lazarus is dead.”
When Jesus and his disciples neared Bethany, they discovered that Lazarus had lain in his tomb for four days. Many of Mary and Martha’s friends were visiting the sisters to comfort them.
Hearing the news of Jesus’ arrival, Martha ran to meet Him, crying, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.” Then Martha showed her great faith by adding, “But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.”
Tenderly Jesus said, “Thy brother shall rise again.”
Martha replied, “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection.”
Then Jesus taught her an important lesson. He said, “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. Believest thou this?”
Martha answered, “Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God.”
Martha then returned home and told Mary, “The Master is come, and calleth for thee.”
Mary left quickly, followed by her friends. When she reached Jesus, she fell down at his feet, and she, too, said, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.”
Seeing Mary and her friends weeping, Jesus felt sad and troubled. He asked them where the body of Lazarus was.
While they walked to Lazarus’s tomb, Jesus wept, and the people said, “Behold how [Jesus] loved him!”
Many of the people had seen and heard of the miracles Jesus had performed, and they wondered why He had not saved His dear friend from death. They did not know that Jesus had a reason for letting Lazarus die.
A big stone covered the entrance to the tomb. Jesus said, “Take ye away the stone.”
Martha hesitated, saying, “Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.”
Jesus turned and said to Martha, “Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?
“Then they took away the stone … And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.” Then “he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.”
And Lazarus, still wrapped in his grave clothes, came forth.
Jesus asked the people to unwind the cloth that covered Lazarus’s face and arms and legs. Lazarus was alive! He could see and feel and walk and talk. The people were amazed. Never had they seen such a demonstration of power over death.