Having a close friend is priceless. It is even better when there is a friendly family where you can rest, relax, and enjoy times of laughter, or counsel together about the problems and difficulties that always seem to come into our lives. The Lord Jesus had such a family. It was in the home of Lazarus, His dear and well-loved friend.
We do not know much about Lazarus apart from the fact that he believed in the Lord Jesus, trusted Him implicitly, and opened his home to Him as an honored guest at any time, showing a real appreciation for who Jesus was. This was a normal family who not only deeply loved each other, but did things together, and even argued at times as we shall see.
The Lazarus family lived in the village of Bethany, less than two miles from Jerusalem. The parents of these folk are not mentioned and so we might presume they were no longer living and that the family of three were older and not married. In one of the accounts about this family, it is stated that Martha opened their home to the Lord (Luke 10:38-42). It is not even clear if this was the first time the Lord visited the home, or something the Lord did regularly when He had any travel in that area. What we do know is that a very strong friendship had developed which the Lord truly enjoyed.
On the visit to which Luke 10 refers, it states that Jesus was in the home of Martha and Mary; Lazarus was not mentioned and what transpired opens to us a glimpse of life in that home with Jesus as the guest. Martha had invited the Lord to visit and then went on to prepare a meal. We get to see her as the elder sister, well organized, and wanting to have everything done in a right and proper way. She busied herself with the preparations for the meal and no doubt other household duties. Do not forget, the twelve disciples were probably also staying for lunch, so it was not just a snack, but rather a complete meal for all those hungry men. Busy as she was, and frustrated because her sister Mary was not helping in any way, Martha went directly to the Lord to complain about her sister, and she urged Him to ask Mary to stop sitting around and go and help. “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself. Tell her to help me!” (Luke 10:40) The Lord’s answer in verse 41, “Mary has chosen the good portion which will not be taken from her.” This was a surprise for Martha and has gone down in Christian history as one of the hallmarks of energetic diligent service on the one hand and the basis for devotion and worship on the other.
We sometimes condemn Martha for her busyness and concern, but we should not be too critical, as the work had to be done by someone. The attitude of her heart and her criticism of her sister was the problem. Martha needed to stop being anxious about her service and keep her focus on the Lord who would benefit from her activity. It says she was distracted. In other words, the purpose of what she was doing and why she was doing it had been lost in the hustle and bustle of the moment. Having the meal, a little later would not have been a concern for the Lord and perhaps Martha could have stopped spinning her wheels for a few minutes, to just enjoy the visit, and listen to the Master.
We often get into the same mind-set as Martha. We love the Lord; we want to serve Him. So, we busy ourselves in different ministries and become so absorbed by what we are doing and anxious about all the ministry that needs to be done and is not being done, that we can only complain that others are not doing their jobs. We lose our focus and forget that the work is the Lord’s, and we are doing it for Him. When this happens, we will find ourselves busily involved in our service for the Lord, and missing out on what is most important. Our times of real fellowship at the Lord’s feet will become just a routine exercise as we hurriedly go through the motions of a devotional time each day. We end up not really enjoying the Lord or getting much out of our Bible reading and prayer time. The result will be a fruitless self-oriented service. We need to use the energy and diligence of Martha, but at the same time keep a close working relationship with the Lord so that what we do will be in His power and for His glory. Some may think that Mary perhaps was indifferent to the physical needs of her visitors. Mary needed to be at the Lord’s feet, to hear His words and to be occupied with Him.
The Lord Jesus said that Mary had chosen what was better, to just spend time at the Lord’s feet, listening to His words and enjoying His presence. Do we take sufficient time each day to be in the Lord’s presence? If we never read the Word for ourselves, we will never really get to know the Lord in a personal and intimate way. The Lord Jesus Himself told his countrymen that as they studied the Scriptures of the Old Testament, those same Scriptures testify about him (John 5:39). As we are continually reading and studying Scripture our worship and devotion to the Lord will be strengthened, so that when we come together in the local church, our worship will be more meaningful, and the fragrance of that perfume of praise and adoration will not only fill our own hearts but will ascend to the very throne room pleasing the heart of God (Rev. 5:8-9). Worship and praise are like a fragrant perfume to God.
Two important lessons we can learn from all that transpired at that time in the house of Lazarus:
1. Jesus loves to receive our worship and appreciates our desire to sit at His feet and enjoy His presence.
2. Jesus, as our Great High Priest, is as interested in us and concerned about the many and diverse circumstances in our lives, just as He was in the family of Lazarus, (John 17:14-20).
Obviously, there is much we can learn from the Lazarus family. They formed what could be called a “very normal, ordinary family,” much like yours and mine. Because of this, we can find hope and comfort as we have a sense of the Lord’s presence in our homes, and as we seek to live each day for Him.