In these general observations and questions on Lazarus I am aiming at trying to understand the dynamics of the story, who the people were and what is being said about Jesus. This is part two. Part one is here. The ‘key’ to my comments can be seen in this footnote ((H: History, I: Interpretation, il: illustration, O: Observation, OI: Observation and interpretation, Q: Question, QI: Question and Interpretation.))
20 Martha therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went to meet Him, but Mary stayed at the house.
Q.: Why did she seek a private meeting? Was it because she the Jewish leadership was already at the house and she wanted to protect Jesus? Was it because she could not wait for Him to arrive but had to go to Him with her anger and her faith…I assume she was angry because of what seems to be an accusation in verse 21 and faith because of verse 22.
Q.: Did the sisters decide that Mary would stay at home with the family, guests and mourners while Martha went first to talk with Jesus? Verses 28 and 29 imply that Mary did not know but that Martha had found out first and secretly went to Jesus without letting Mary know…Is this true? If so, what does this say about the dynamic of Martha and Mary’s relationship? Was Martha the older sister trying now to protect and provide for the family?
Q.I.: We do not hear of husbands for the women. Were they still too young, divorced or were their husbands irrelevant to the story? Did they have suiters or planned husbands in the Jewish leadership? The New Bible Dictionary says: “it has been supposed that Martha was the wife (or even the widow) of Simon [The Leper]. The lead she takes on both occasions suggests that she was the elder sister.” (Wood 736) Was Mary then an unmarried woman? Had she been divorced by her husband or was she too young for marriage? The two Bible Dictionaries I checked (“New Bible” ((see Mary: Wood, D. R. W. New Bible dictionary. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press 3rd ed., 1996.)) and “Jesus and the Gospels” ((see Women, Women specifically mentioned: Green, Joel B., and Scot McKnight. Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1992. )) ) did not say.
21 Martha then said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.
22 “Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.”
I.: I assume that verse 21 means she was angry that Jesus had not come when she sent a messenger for Him but that she also did so out of faith in Him. Others had been healed and she believed that Jesus could indeed heal even when Lazarus was dead. Amazing faith mixed with disappointment, anger and pleading.
O.I.: She believed that Jesus could still do something in the situation. This is foreshadowing in the story line even though from verse 24 makes it unclear what she meant by “Even now….”.