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Lesson 6: Two Women Needing Assurance of Love

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“Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when He heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed where He was two more days.” (John 11:5-6)

Pray: Lord Jesus, please teach me through this lesson.

A Little Bit of History

After two years of ministering in Galilee, Jesus returned to Judea and Perea, territories near Jerusalem, to minister there. In Jerusalem, He healed a man by the Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem told a parable about Himself as the Good Shepherd who would give His life for His sheep. Somewhere in Judea, He answered the question, "Who is my neighbor?" with a parable about a good-hearted Samaritan who helped a fellow traveler. After that, He went to Bethany.

Bethany was a small village on the southeastern slopes of the Mount of Olives about two miles east of Jerusalem on the Jericho Road. It still exists today. Martha, Mary, Lazarus and "Simon the leper" lived there. The Mount of Olives, from which Jesus could see Jerusalem, is about 2 miles long and has three peaks. The modern road from Jericho to Jerusalem still passes along its southern slopes. Rising about 100 feet above Jerusalem, it gives an unforgettable view of the city, which is to the west. Upon seeing Jesus and His companions in her village, Martha opened her home to Him (verse 38)—hospitality in action for quite a large group of men.

1. Read Luke 10:38-42. As manager of the home, what might have been Martha's initial emotions and thoughts (verse 38)?

2. Look at Martha’s attitude change as time progresses. What became Martha’s focus, and what does she do (verse 40)? [Consider what is involved in hosting that size of a crowd.]

3. Toward whom was Martha’s anger directed and why (verse 40)?

4. Where was Mary’s focus at this moment (verse 39)?

5. In Jesus’ response to Martha, what was His focus (verses 41-42)?

Martha opened her home to Jesus and His disciples. This was a large group, understandably requiring quite a bit of preparation to feed and house them. Then, Martha gets distracted from her welcoming attitude and literally “stepped up to and burst upon” Jesus in her frustration. In her anger at her sister Mary, she makes a demand of Jesus.

In His love, Jesus confronted Martha with her wrong priorities. His focus was on this opportunity for both she and Mary to learn from Him. She needed to let go what was distracting her (and others) from that.

6. Read John 11:1-6. Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was ill, yet they did not ask Him to come to Bethany though they probably expected it (John 11:21,32). Knowing the need, what did Jesus decide to do (verse 6)?

Two days later, Jesus makes the announcement that they would go to Bethany.

7. Read John 11:17-27. Mary and Martha were both experiencing grief. How did each respond to the news that Jesus was near (verse 20)?

Notice that Mary and Martha both have the same response in verse 21 (Martha) and verse 32 (Mary), except that Martha went a step further and expressed that she knew Jesus could do something about it even now. Both sisters already knew that Jesus had brought two people back from the dead (Mark 5; Luke 7). But, neither of those had been laid in a tomb yet. Both were confident in His power.

8. What does Jesus declare to Martha?

  • Verse 23— 
  • Verses 25-26—

9. How do Martha’s answers reveal that she had also been listening to Jesus’ teaching?

  • Verse 24—
  • Verse 27—

Martha’s confession of faith is similar to Peter’s in Matthew 16:16. In fact, what Martha says is even more amazing because she makes her declaration with her brother dead now for four days, already in the grave! Her response to Jesus’ question, “Do you believe this?” is a firm, “Yes, Lord.” The emphasis in the original language is that this is her firm and settled faith.

10. Read John 11:28-37. When Martha called her sister Mary, what did she do (verses 28 and 32)?

11. When Jesus saw Mary and the people surrounding her weeping, how did He respond (verses 33-35)?

12. What does this reveal about Him?

John 11:35 is the shortest verse in the Bible, yet it conveys to us so much about the love of Jesus. Jesus wept; He shed tears. He identified with us as humans so much that He could express deep human sympathy from His heart with Martha and Mary. Sorrow had touched those close to Him. As you have already read in John 11:4 and 23, Jesus planned from the first hearing of the news to let Lazarus die then to restore his life to him. Their present hurt would soon be healed.

13. Read John 11:38-45.

Because of Palestine’s warm climate, burial usually took place the same day as death. Friends and other family members prepared the body for burial by washing the body and clipping the hair and nails. Strips of linen were then wrapped around the body. Spices (hyssop, rose oil, aloe, and myrrh) were placed between these strips. Placing a linen napkin over the face, the body was laid on an open bier and carried to the tomb—usually a natural cave or a tomb cut into a rock. A large round stone was then rolled across the entrance of the tomb after burial thus sealing it. After the flesh had decayed and only the skeleton remained, the bones were put into a small box called an ossuary, which was then placed on a shelf carved out of the tomb wall. In this way, a whole family could be buried in the same tomb.

14. After Jesus tells the people to remove the stone, what is Martha’s objection (verse 39)?

15. How does Jesus respond to her in verse 40? Do you think He knows her pretty well by now?

16. Describe the scene in verses 43-44 as though you were there watching it. [It’s okay to picture Jesus smiling as He greets Lazarus.]

Jesus stated His mission for this situation:

“for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it” (John 11:4)

“that they may believe that you sent me” (John 11:41-42).

17. According to verse 45, what were the results?

After the raising of Lazarus, Jesus made His departure. But, after a short stay in Ephraim (15 miles away), He returned to Bethany to stay for His last days. On Sunday, Jesus entered Jerusalem triumphantly, riding on a donkey. On Monday, He pronounced a curse on a barren fig tree and drove out the merchants and moneychangers from the Temple. On Tuesday, He answered a question about paying taxes to Caesar and pointed out a widow giving her small coins in the Temple. That evening, He taught His disciples on the Mount of Olives. Then He went to a dinner with His friends in Bethany, at the home of Simon whose life had also been changed. Four people whose lives are undeniably touched and changed by Jesus gratefully honored Him…

18. Read John 12:1-11. Describe the scene.

19. How did each of the sisters show their gratitude to Jesus for giving life back to their brother (verses 2-3)?

  • Martha—
  • Mary—

20. Do you think Jesus knows Mary pretty well by now?

Not everyone was as pleased with Mary’s gift. But, Jesus recognized it and responded to their pettiness.

21. Read Mark 14:6-9. How did Jesus come to Mary’s rescue?

22. What do you think Jesus meant by saying, “she did what she could” (verse 8, NIV)?

Martha worshiped Jesus through serving Him and His disciples without complaining. Mary worshiped Jesus through giving her most precious possession. Mary perceived with her delicate woman’s intuition what the apostles failed to understand though repeatedly and plainly told to them by Jesus—His impending execution. Jesus accepted Mary’s act of worship and said that Mary did what she as a woman in her culture with her resources could do for Him. He called that “a beautiful thing to Me” (NIV).

23. In what ways could Jesus say, “she did what she could” about you (in your life circumstances) when it comes to showing gratitude to Him?

Satisfied by His Love

When Jesus met Mary and Martha, they needed neither healing nor a cleaned-up reputation. Yet, they still needed assurance of His love for them. His love didn’t allow Martha to stay focused on the wrong things (tasks & choices) so He confronted that and gave new direction. His love defended Mary when she was criticized by His own disciples. His love gave her respect and commendation instead. His love allowed both of them to learn from Him.

When Lazarus died, Jesus assured them of His love by going to be with the sisters and then raising their brother back to life. He accepted their different ways of thanking Him. Mary and Martha could serve Him, love Him, and worship Him in different ways—all equally as valuable.

Jesus understood their different personalities and behavioral tendencies. He understands that about you as well, quirks and all. He knows how to love you and how to lead you. Think about your tendencies to control a situation or not, how quickly you shed tears or not, or how you speak before you think. He knows you well and still loves you dearly. He hurts when you hurt and rejoices when you rejoice. He knows how to respond to your needs, which will be personally applied and different from how He responds to your “sister’s” needs. He knows how to love you well.

24. Are you okay with that? Or, are you still telling Him how He should do things, telling Him how He should be God?

25. Reread John 11:39-40. If Martha insisted on having her own way, what would she have missed? Apply Jesus’ answer to Martha to your own expectations from Him. How will you let Him lead you in the right direction for you?

Jesus Satisfies Your Heart with Assurance of His Love

Jesus and His disciples often stayed in Bethany when they were near Jerusalem, probably with Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. Jesus knew his friends' home was a place of welcome, protection, rest and provision.  Martha and her siblings knew the joy of Jesus' private company and His love.

Mary and Martha were not suffering from illness, demonic possession, or sinful reputation when Jesus first met them. They apparently were not destitute, needing Him to provide for them. But, believing that Jesus could be the promised Messiah, they still needed and wanted a relationship with Him. Remember this…

“Even people with incredible character are not born again until they meet and trust in Jesus.” (Vivian Mabuni, IF:Gathering 2017)

Jesus’ love in action

Over time, Martha and Mary received assurance of His love for them. His love didn’t allow Martha to stay focused on the wrong things so He stopped her bad thinking and redirected her toward what was truly important. His love protected Mary from unwarranted accusation from her sister and from His own disciples. When their brother died, Jesus’ love compelled Him to travel to be with them and to cry with them. His love promised them hope, then fulfilled that promise. Jesus, as fully God and fully man, truly loved them.

The Bible teaches that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so anyone could believe in Him and receive eternal life (John 3:16). You are part of the world that God loves. And, once you accept His gift of eternal life through your faith in His Son, you get even more of God’s love for you.

Jesus said in John 16,

“the Father God Himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” (John 16:27)

He loves you!

Paul wrote in Romans 5 that God pours out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

“God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” (Romans 5:5)

As a believer in Jesus, you will have the assurance that your God loves you. He pours out His love into your heart so you can experience that love. You can count on this truth— God loves you.

But, love isn’t soft. Love doesn’t always make it easy on the one loved. Jesus didn’t make it easy on Martha and Mary and Lazarus. In John 11:3, Martha informed Jesus that Lazarus, “the one you love is sick.” John 11:5 says that, “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” That is plainly stated. They knew He loved them. All 3 of them.

Jesus knew what was going on in their lives. Lazarus was deathly ill and soon died (verses 6, 11, 14). And, Jesus let it happen. Jesus could have done something about it. Martha was confident in His love for them and in His power to heal. Jesus could have healed Lazarus from a distance the moment He received the news as He had done several times before this (for example, Mark 7:24-30 and John 4:46-53). Yet, He didn’t.

Jesus chose to do something different, even better than what anyone could imagine though it caused pain and suffering to those He loved and a lot of waiting, too (John 11:14-15). Instead, He allowed these friends whom He loved dearly to endure pain and suffering for several days because there was a greater good they could not see at the time. Jesus loved them and hurt right along with them.

After 4 days of being dead, Lazarus was brought back to life, and good things happened. God’s goodness showed up—Lazarus had his life restored, his sisters saw their now healthy brother returned to them, the disciples witnessed an amazing work of God, and many people now believed in Jesus who had not yet believed in Him. Martha could now say to herself with assurance, “Jesus loves me. Jesus knows what is going on in my life. Jesus can do something about it. I can trust His goodness in whatever He chooses to do.” And so can you.

Assurance of His love in your life

How confident are you that Jesus loves you? Do you need assurance that He loves you?

You are loved by your God. Love is good because God is good. And, God’s love for you is unending. I am convinced of this. God wants you to know this:

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a]neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

Nothing. Not you, not anyone or anything, can separate you from God’s love for you because you have believed in Jesus. Jesus loves you consistently, constantly, and completely. Be assured of this.

If you think that you are suffering because you’ve done something wrong to make God stop loving you—that’s a lie! Erase it from the “auto-fill” workings of your mind. Replace it with these four truths you can count on:

Truth 1. Jesus loves you.

Truth 2. Jesus knows what is going on in your life.

Truth 3. Jesus can do something about it.

Truth 4. You can trust His goodness in whatever He chooses to do.

He may not bring back your dead loved one or heal your sickness or make everything right. But, His goodness will choose to do whatever is best for you, for others, and for God’s glory.

Our God created us with a spiritual thirst for a relationship with Him. A relationship with another human cannot satisfy that thirst. Only God can satisfy the thirsty heart. As the Bible promises,

“for He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.” (Psalm 107:9)

A satisfied heart can go forward with complete assurance that your God knows how to love you well! Let Jesus satisfy your heart with the goodness of His love!

26. On a card or in your journal, write those four truths from above to etch them in your mind. Make them personal, “Jesus loves me…

Response in prayer and praise:

Ask Jesus to satisfy your heart through knowing Him. Trust Him to work in your life to bring you healing, hope, and freedom. Thank Him for His grace toward you and His unending love for you.

Discover more about Jesus:

Christianity is Christ so spend a few minutes each day reading the verses and reflecting on Jesus—His life, His relationships, and His teaching. Get to know Him well—this One who loves you dearly.

  • Read Luke 23. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read Luke 24. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read Luke 25. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read Luke 26. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read Luke 27. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read Luke 28. Reflect on what you read.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Women, Women's Articles

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