Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.…
I. THE COURSE THE SISTERS TOOK.
1. We need not doubt that they used all the means in their power for their brother's restoration. But they looked to the Great Physician. This is one of the marks of a believer, that while he uses means he does not depend upon them.
2. They sent to Jesus. Their message was —
(1) Short. This should encourage our applications in sudden emergencies when long prayer cannot be offered. This is frequently the case with the sick and their attendants. It is not the length, but the faith and sincerity of the prayer that makes it effectual. The most powerful prayers have been the shortest. "God be merciful to me a sinner." "Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom." "What wilt Thou have ms to do?"(2) Confident. They did not ask Him to come, or to heal their brother. "All we ask is 'Behold — his languid eye, faltering breath, sufferings; we have confidence in Thy love and wisdom, and leave the matter in Thy hands.
(3) Humble. They send no panegyric, nor mention any quality that might interest Christ. All they remind Him of is His love. This is the only ground on which we can build our faith and shape our prayers.
II. THE GRACIOUS ANSWER. This was sent for present support until a complete answer could be given; and is so worded as to put their faith and patience to a severe test. The way by which Christ leads His people is that of simple confidence in Him. He directs them not to judge Him by the outward appearances of His providence at a dark and unfavourable moment; but by His sure word of promise (Isaiah 50:10). This answer may be viewed as the Lord's general answer to His people — "for the glory of God." The sorrow of the world has a different tendency (Revelation 16:10, 11). How mysterious must it have seemed after this message that their brother should die; but the mystery was afterwards unravelled, and the affliction, instead of terminating in death, was the occasion of giving physical and spiritual life.
(J. Haldane Stewart, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.