« PreviousContinue »
his other unspeakable benefits, he had restored her dear and only brother, and had lighted up her desolated home with unbounded rejoicing.
The anointing succeeds in the house of Simon, as Jesus was sitting at his table in company with Lazarus and others. The ointment was of great price, and as Mary poured it upon the sacred person of the Messiah, he testified of her that she did it for his burial. Whether she had received directly from his lips or otherwise the impression that he was soon to die, is not revealed, though highly probable. She would perform this last kind office for him, and as her ministries must so shortly cease, she would spare no expense in whatever service might be proper or agreeable. Injurious reproaches fall upon her for her apparent profusion and waste; yet the greatest of advocates pleads in her behalf, and promises that her deed should be told for a memorial of her as far and as long as his blessed Gospel should be preached.
“Now Jesus loved Martha." She, as well as her sister Mary, had a select place in the heart of Him who knew all men; and hence, we may safely infer for Martha a pure and excellent character. One of her prominent features appears to have been that of hospitality. Her house at Bethany was, as we have seen, one of the special resting-places of Christ and the apostles. Like the woman of Shunem, she prepared the place of lodging, in order that holy ones, at their pleasure, might turn in thither. A thousand families, and a thousand sunny houses there were, where Jesus and his companions never entered. They “knew him not." He came to his own, but his own received him not-neither into their hearts, nor into their circles. But blessed were those doors that opened as he approached, and the roofs that often sheltered the one who had not where to lay his head. Such was the house of Martha. To the “ Man of sorrows" that was one of his dearest homes amid his earthly sojournings. There he was ever wel
Smiles of friendship always greeted him as he entered. Holy sympathy burned there, while coldness and hostility full often met him elsewhere. None arose with more alacrity than Martha to provide for the refreshment of the Saviour. None was more careful than she that every arrangement for his entertainment and comfort should be correspondent with her views of his lofty dignity and transcendent worth. Too much could not be done—too many hands could not be employed-viands too many, or too delicious, could not be provided for Him who came to save the lost. True, we once hear from his lips a gentle reproof of her exuberant preparations, and her excessive solicitude, cautioning her to remember that her care about transient comforts should not be allowed to interfere with that higher and eternal festival which he came to provide.
A deeply interesting passage in Martha's history is her interview with Christ on his tardy arrival after the death and burial of her brother. Martha, with her sister, had communicated the tidings of his illness,--and their message, on this occasion, was as affecting as it was modest and beautiful,
Lord, behold he whom thou lovest is sick,” were the words of their brief epistle-brief, for all attention was requisite for the help of their dying brother; dutiful, that brother was greatly beloved by the Saviour; unassuming, they would not venture to invite his attendance, though their wishes are deeply and strongly intimated. “Whom thou lovest;"-may not his special affection possibly induce him to be present with his healing mercy ? Yet he hastens not to come, and Lazarus sleeps and is buried. At length Jesus arrives in the vicinity, and Martha, with her characteristic ardor, goes forth to meet him. Many visitors from Jerusalem were there to sympathize with the sorrowful sisters; yet vain, in that dark hour, was all human consolation; while, that from Jesus she still looked for some relief, there can be but little doubt. At all events, she will hasten, and pour out her sorrows before him. She believed him to be good beyond all otherswho knows but he may help and relieve though in ways unknown?
Something like this may be supposed to have
been Martha's mind, as she met the Saviour, and, in her deep agony, exclaimed: “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.” Blessed was her confidence, so far as it went, in the power of the Messiah. Yet it should have reached further. Christ could heal, whether near or far away. But pity thou her distress, and forget the confusion it may have induced, and overlook also the seemingly implied reproach upon the Lord for the delay that looked so fatal ! Courage and faith are in the ascendant, as she adds, " But I know that even now, whatever thou wilt ask of God, he will give it thee,” Martha is evidently venturing her eye upon the restoration of her lost brother. A broad and startling hint is here thrown out, of a secret hope which she does not plainly utter. A prayer of his would prevail greatly, if it could be that he should be disposed to “ ask of God.” Martha's faith here was mighty, not perfect. The Son had “life in himself,” as well as the Father; and he will lead her higher. “ Thy brother shall rise again,” he answered ; and as he spoke, it was with the authority of omnipotence, and he meant that the rising would be immediate. Martha is still confused, as well as sad, and falling back upon the long-admitted fact of a final resurrection,-"I know," she saith, "that he shall rise again at the resurrection at the last day.” There the Saviour meets her—the finisher of her faith : “I am the resurrection and the life!" Full conviction flashed now upon Martha.
She saw that the raising of the dead was the prerogative of Christ-whether at the final day, or at present a new hope kindled within her heart, and, at the intimation of Jesus, she hastened to call her sister.
Christ is near the tomb, and orders the stone, closing up the entrance, to be removed. At this moment of overwhelming excitement, Martha's courage fails, and her eye transiently reverts from life to death, and sight instead of faith, for a moment, predominates. A gentle reproof meets her from the voice that is about to call the dead to life,--and then the great crisis occurs, and Lazarus lives again on earth.
Martha and Aarg. Having glanced separately at Martha and Mary, it may
not be amiss to view them briefly together, and as they stand related to each other. The Bible student who carefully ponders these two "elect ladies," will not fail to become more and more interested in the contemplation. He will see them possessing common features of character, and such a kind of similarity as might be expected to exist in two sisters reared up together, and coming constantly in contact with like associations and influences. He will, at the same time, discern a distinction-a distinction so permanent and marked as to entitle them to be con