In John 11 we read the famous text where Mary and Martha face the death of their brother Lazarus. While he is ill and dying, the first thing they’re reported doing is sending for Jesus. In this passage, they trust Jesus completely–they are sure even after their brother’s passing, that if Christ had been there, he would have saved Lazarus from dying. Some may be tempted to fault Christ for not being there, and accuse him of waiting on purpose until he had created an opportunity for an even flashier miracle. However, reading the text, a lot of people in this family’s area were bent on killing Jesus. He had a legit cause to decline to go. From the disciples’ reaction, it still wasn’t safe for him to be there when he did risk going down there for the funeral. How many of us today wait until the funeral to show up when we have far less at risk than our lives?
Now, depending on who is preaching this text, and what point they’re trying to make, often, Martha either has total trust in Jesus or expresses continual doubt. In reality, she has total trust in Jesus and is struggling to believe he’ll do the impossible for her. For real, how many Christians today would have cremated their brother Lazarus by day four? How many of us, knowing Christ is with us always, so much as ask him to raise the dead? Don’t we have faith? So does Martha. It’s not her faith that is limiting her, it’s her expectations. I.E. we have faith that God can. But we still struggle to believe he will.
What Christ offers her–a brother risen again not in a distant future, but right now–it’s everything she hopes and longs for and her grieving heart is instinctively guarded against disappointment. Since reason tells us even today the dead don’t normally get up again after the doctors have given up on reviving them. Does it happen? Yes, but it’s rare.
The remarkable thing here is nowhere does Christ chide them for their battle between faith and fear and doubt. At the height of it, in fact, seeing their need to grieve, he weeps with them. Knowing what he is going to do, he takes time to emphasize with them and feel with them the painful loss they’re already enduring. Just in case we all think he is instead throwing himself a sinful pity party about their “sinful” grief, the Jews’ reaction to his expression makes it clear he is stopping in the middle of his plans to resurrect Lazarus to grieve the death of his friend.
In doing so, he gives a precious gift to all of us, especially anyone exposed to the false teachings that condemn grief. Christ, who knew no sin, who had absolute faith in the Father and knew what he was himself going to do beyond all doubt, took time to process his grief at the loss of his friend to the grave before calling him out of it. He knows your need to process your pain, grieving heart, he has experienced it, too, and he was without sin.
And Martha, despite her hostess concerns about exposing her guests to the stench of a corpse, did believe in what the Lord could do enough to go along with opening the tomb. So, yes, Martha and her sister Mary trusted in and had faith in Christ even in the dark turmoil of their grief, and no less so for their grief or their battles with fear and doubt.
One last note on trust. According to the Bible, who should we trust? Answer: God alone. While we often believe it is wrong to distrust humans, we have good company in it. During his earthly ministry, Jesus didn’t entrust himself to humans. And John means what he says, that was Christ obeying scripture. (See John 2:23-25) I did a keyword search for “trust and man” on Biblegateway, it pulled up seventeen verses, and the general gist of virtually all of them is to command us to NOT trust humans, especially not yourself, the proud, strong men, military leaders, and politicians, and especially not for salvation.
Now, we should still love them, respect them, pray for them, etc. But not trust them. Our trust is to be in God alone. This can be of great comfort, looked at rightly. Can I trust this person? The Bible says no, they are fallen, they will let you down sooner or later. But God never will. He is with you, he loves you, and he will help you. Go forth in what God has called you to do, not because you can count on the people around you to always be there for you, but because God is always there for you.