Luke 11:1-45 — That we might believe

This is one of the most famous miracles Jesus performed, and I’ve spoken on it at church more than once.  But as I read it through this time, these words strike me:

So that you may believe.   (15)

We see this theme again and again throughout the passage, and it was the whole purpose for everything that Jesus did in it.

Later he challenged Martha,

Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?  (40)

Again, when he prayed at Lazarus’ tomb, he said to his Father,

I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.  (42)

And at Lazarus’ resurrection, John tells us,

Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him.  (45)

If there is one thing that Jesus wants us to learn, it’s to trust him.  And all that we go through in life, with all the the struggles and pain we endure, is directed toward that end.

Sometimes we ask God, “I love you.  Why is this happening to me?  Do you really love me?”

That’s what I see in the first part of this passage.  It talks about Mary’s great love for Jesus.  That she was the one who would later pour perfume on him and wipe his feet with her hair.  And because she loved Jesus and thought he loved her, she immediately called for Jesus when her brother Lazarus got sick.  She had no doubt that he would come.

And indeed, it said, Jesus loved her, her sister Martha, and Lazarus.  So…he stayed where he was another two days.  The NIV says, “but he stayed.”  But it is probably more accurately translated, “So he stayed,” and most literal translations (KJV, NASB, ESV among others) do translate it that way.

Why did he stay?  Because he wanted all those involved to learn to trust him.   By waiting and letting Lazarus die, everyone’s faith was taken to a higher level when Jesus raised him from the dead.

Sometimes we wonder why God remains silent.  Why our prayers seem to go unanswered.  Mary and Martha probably felt that way.

“Why isn’t Jesus coming?”

Yet Jesus wanted to challenge them to trust him even more than they already did.

I look at Martha’s words.  I’ve always thought that her words were a bit bitter that Jesus had waited.  Now I’m not so sure.  Could it not be that her words were of pure faith?  That she was saying, “Jesus, I know that you could have healed my brother had you been here sooner.  But I still trust in you.  Even now, I believe God is with you and will do anything you ask.”  (21-22)

Was she saying that she believed Jesus would raise Lazarus?  No.  Her later words (verse 39) prove otherwise.  But I think she was saying, “Even though you didn’t do what I had hoped this time, I will still come to you with my needs in the future.  I haven’t lost faith in you, Jesus.”

But Jesus challenged her, basically saying, “Have you already given up on this situation?  Don’t.  Your brother will rise again.  I am the giver of life, and have power to give it to anyone I please.  He who believes in me, though he may die, will live.  And whoever believes in me will never truly die.  Do you believe this?”  (23-26)

Martha answered yes, but I don’t think she had a clue as to what Jesus meant.  Even so, she said, “I believe in you.  I believe you are God’s Son.”  (27)

What do we call that kind of faith?  The faith of a child.  We will not always understand Jesus’ words.  We may not always understand his actions (or lack of them).  But will we still say, in the face of our confusion, in the face of our disappointments, “I still believe in you?”

Martha had to come to grips with that question at Lazarus’ grave.  “Do I trust Jesus enough, despite all that happened, to do what he asks.”  But when she did, when she decided to put her trust in him, she saw God’s glory.

And so will we.  The same question Jesus asked Martha, he asks us.

Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?  (40)

How will you respond?


About bkshiroma

I'm from Hawaii, but have been in Japan as a missionary/English teacher since 1995. I'm currently going to a church called Crossroad Nishinomiya, an international church in Nishinomiya, a city right between Kobe and Osaka. Check out their website: 私がハワイから来ましたけど1995年に宣教師と英会話の教師として日本に引っ越しました。 今西宮にあるクロスロード西宮という国際の教会に行っています。どうぞ、そのホムページを見てください:
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