Christ asked Martha, “Believest thou this?” Charles Spurgeon titled his discourse with these three words, “The Believer Catechized.” He wrote that “Faith cannot believe what it does not know, and, therefore, you have missed fat things full of marrow and wines on the lees well refined, which might have been your strength and your joy. We should all of us grow in comfort if we grew in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and had a more intelligent appreciation of the preciousness of the truths which he has revealed.”
Faith or belief is strengthened as it is nourished through a strong meditation upon the written Word of God. Then we can say that our faith is truly defined as convinced in whom Christ is as He is revealed in Scripture. We hear Christ say, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), and we respond: We believe this! We are convinced of the truth of this doctrine or teaching because of the promise of our Savior, who said, “when the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth; …He shall glorify (reveal his nature, etc.) me; for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you” (John 16:13–14). Faith teaches us that we are able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Thus, to catechize the believer, is to strengthen him or her in faith and practice.
The glory of God is seen in our history as He providentially reveals Himself as Creator and Savior, working out all things together for His glory and our good. The historical narrative of Lazarus is given to us that we may understand who Christ is, to see His glory. Yea! More than that, to see that Lazarus lived, died, and was risen by counsel of the Triune God, that those who witnessed this miracle would see the glory of God in Christ Jesus.
Lazarus of Bethany was sick. His sisters, Martha and Mary (who had anointed Jesus with ointment, “and wiped his feet with her hair”), came to Jesus. They said to Him, “Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.” The word for love in this case is ‘phileo,’ directing us to that friendship love which Jesus had for Lazarus. Jesus had befriended Lazarus before. Would he now do so again? Jesus turns our eyes upon the real reason for the sickness of Lazarus. Lazarus will die. But his sickness “is not unto death”—but “for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.” The Father and the Son will be recognized as the Spirit reveals them by divine revelation.
Scripture teaches us that “Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.” Martha had used the word for friendship love. Christ uses the word for willful compassion. Christ directs His unconditional love toward those whom He calls His friends. Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. …I have called you friends; for all things I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you” (John 15:13–15). For those whom He has directed His compassion, He has given His life that we might have life. He catechizes us, giving us His teaching that we might grow in this life. Therefore our prayers should be encouraged in Him who first loved us. Calvin’s words embolden us, “this is the invariable rule of praying aright; for, where the love of God is, there deliverance is certain and at hand, because God cannot forsake him whom he loveth.”
Marthad returned home. She heard that Jesus was coming and went to meet Him, while Mary stayed in the house. Martha confronted Jesus with these words, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.” Her faith was lacking in knowledge. She still believed that Jesus could have healed her brother. She had a lesson to learn about Him whom she called, Lord. Her faith was not lacking of hope. Martha continued speaking, “But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it to thee.” It is as if Martha was grasping for something to hold on to, even if it was a piece of straw. We do not see a reason for God not answering our request, and so we say, “His will be done,” to appease our disappointment. But it is not God who disappoints. It is our expectation, based upon a lack of knowledge or understanding of the glory or person of God and His works. Thus, when our prayers lack an answer, we must drive ourselves to His Word for understanding. We must be quiet to hear Him speak to us.
God will not chasten us for lack of understanding. He will direct us to the truth that will set us free to know and understand Him and His works. He will be kind to us in our faith as He was with Martha. He answers Martha’s understanding of His work with this truth, “Thy brother shall rise again.” He is going to catechize Martha in the truth of His coming as the resurrection and the life. Martha responds according to her understanding, “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus directs her to look upon Him as the source of truth, saying, “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.”
Christ is the resurrection because, by the work of the Spirit, He regenerates those called to be children of the Father in heaven. He is the life because, without Him, there is not spiritual growth. “They who believe in Christ, though they were formerly dead, begin to live, because faith is a spiritual resurrection of the soul, and—so to speak—animates the soul itself that it may live to God” (Calvin). The Spirit nourishes the faith of Martha in teaching her the truth about the Savior before her. Her response comes from that faith as she testifies, “Yea, Lord, I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.” Christ is glorified! His reason for being sent of the Father is manifested in these words of faith.
Jesus comes to the tomb of Lazarus. He commands that they take away the stone from the entrance of the tomb. Martha says to Jesus, “Lord, by this time he stinketh; for he hath been dead four days.” Jesus reminds Martha, “Said I not unto thee, that if thou wouldst believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?” Our faith rests solely upon our Savior as He is revealed in the Divine Scriptures. When we try to define our faith by experiences or poor knowledge of His revelation, then we become foolish in our testimony. Through the teaching of the Holy Spirit, our hearts are catechized in the truth; then “our faith prepares the way for the power, mercy, and goodness of God, that they may be displayed towards us” (Calvin). When we place our faith in Christ, convinced of who He is, we see His glory. When we testify to others of our faith in Him as He is revealed in Scripture, we manifest His glory.
God’s Messiah, the Son of God, speaks to the Father, saying, “I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always; but because of the people which stand by, I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.” His voice then cried out, “Lazarus, come forth.” It was the glory of God the Father that was manifested as the one who had sent His beloved Son as Savior that whosoever believes, will be saved and have eternal life. Have you seen His glory, as of the only Beloved Son? Have you understood that He is your Savior who shed His blood for the forgiveness of sins, according to the Scriptures? Do your faith and testimony of so great a salvation declare His glory, revealing who Christ truly is? The more you are taught about Christ, the better is your faith and testimony. Do not rest upon your experience, but upon truth. Glorify God, therefore, in your faith and practice by declaring the truth of Jesus as He is revealed to you.
Discussion: How can you glorify God in your faith and testimony?
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