The differences between Martha and Mary exemplify the differences between liturgical and evangelical Christianity. While evangelicalism is critiqued for its excessive emotionalism (and some of this critique is justified), one has to wonder how genuine and effective is the faith of liturgical churches, if little emotion follows. While Martha related to Jesus in a rational conversation, she later struggled to sustain faith in the face of “reality.” In contrast, Mary goes beyond the rationality of her sister (still sustaining that rationality—even the same thought). Mary gives herself wholeheartedly to the will of Jesus. In fact, it is her deep emotion that apparently moves Jesus to deep emotion.
So we are left with the following conclusions:
First, strong faith leads to strong emotion.
Second, strong emotion in strong faith moves our Lord to action.
Third, strong emotion in strong faith may be necessary for strong action. This final point is exhibited by Jesus Himself, who in deep agitation over the effects of death is moved to deal death a death-blow.
Therefore, who will dare to say that given the excesses of some, we should stay away from emotional faith? An honest evaluation will show quite clearly which tradition is closer to the picture of Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus.
The periscope starts by mentioning Mary as the one who anointed Jesus (11:2). This is an historical identity, not a literary reference. In the book, Mary has not yet anointed Jesus (ch. 12).
Rather than Lazarus, it may be that Mary is the main supporting character behind Jesus. The example believer?
Why did Mary stay (11:20)? Was this a deliberate choice, perhaps thinking she lacked authorization to come to Jesus until He called for her (v. 28)? Or was this simply the result of ignorance, as implied by Martha’s announced (v. 28 – “is here”)? Probably the latter.
Mary got up quickly to go to Jesus (11:29). So did Peter, when he knew Jesus was near (21:7). In this quick response is the evidence of love (as Peter testified shortly thereafter).
[We should note such links (cf. “night” in chs. 3 and 13). In both contexts, we are told about someone whom Jesus loved (cf. 11:3).]
Mary fell at His feet (11:32). She is always at the feet of Jesus (Lk. 11; Jn. 12 – cf. Jn. 11:2).
The wonder of “Jesus wept” (Jn. 11:35)! Amazing! (Thank You, Lord, for Your genuine compassion.)
The crowds are probably wrong (as they often are). Jesus knew what He was going to do (wake him up!), so He must have been weeping for the living, not mourning the loss of the dead. This is genuine sympathy.
Can we interpret Mary’s silence to be that of complete trust? Or is she simply too exhausted to fight?
Again, “Lazarus, come forth!” (v. 42). Simply amazing! (Yet, do not marvel at this…–John chapter five).
The note of gathering into one the children of God anticipates the coming of the Greeks in the next chapter.
The raising of Lazarus contributed to the size of the crowds for the Triumphal Entry (Jn. 12:8).
“Hate your life” (Jn. 12:25), just as Jesus did not come in His own name nor receive glory from men (Jn. 5:39-44). Mary hated her life, “wasting” 300 denarii; but Judas loved his life—and lost it.
Many things are said and done “for the sake” of others listening in (e.g. Jn. 11:15; 11:42; 12:30).