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The Cloud of Witnesses

Former title Lessons From the People of the Bible


Mary of Bethany

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Lesson 2: Mary of Bethany – Knew Bereavement And Hope


John 11:1-46.

Knew Bereavement And Hope

Just because you are a Christian does not mean you will be exempt from the challenges and pain of life. We need to understand that our life is human whereas God is divine. We are mortal; God is eternally existent. We are finite; God is infinite.

When we become a Christian we receive forgiveness for all we have done wrong – our sin, independence and selfishness – and God gives us eternal life through the power of His Holy Spirit. Our bodies, nevertheless, remain human and mortal.

Sooner or later we will die; our bodies are subject to the normal processes of decay, and unless we receive miraculous protection or healing, we will suffer the physical illnesses that abound in the world.

Our salvation grants us a far better life on earth – free from the effects of sin and guilt, a sure hope for the future and an indescribable joy in the present. However, it does not make us immune from the tragedies of life.

Mary and Martha experienced such a tragedy when their brother, Lazarus, died.

They experienced the same emotional feelings we all do – Why should this happen to one of Jesus’ friends? Why should it happen to us? Why would Jesus allow this to happen? Why didn’t Jesus come as soon as we told him Lazarus was ill? Why didn’t He come and heal him before he died? Didn’t Jesus care? Doesn’t He understand how we feel?

Here we are two single women and now our male protector, breadwinner and ‘head of the house’ has been snatched from us – what are we going to do?

Yes, death is final. We won’t see our brother again until the Great Resurrection takes place.

Yes, Mary and Martha were distraught in the extreme. And all this happened whilst Jesus was still alive on earth.

Oh, the relief when He finally turned up. And yes, Mary and Martha let loose all their pent-up agony and disappointment on Him – after all He was the one who had let them down. He could have prevented all that from happening, and yet He wasn’t there.

I love the fact that John records that both sisters said the same thing – “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” Was it an accusation or a deep cry of frustration and disappointment? I don’t know, possibly both. But it was also a tremendous statement of faith. If You had been here – Lazarus would still be alive. In other words, You have the authority over sickness and health and life and death. Wow, what amazing faith in the face of such a painful experience.

There follows one of the most poignant statements in Scripture – Jesus wept. Sure, Jesus wept. He felt their pain and loss. He had seen the results of our humanity. He had seen what effect mortality has on humans. He also witnessed first hand what The Fall had delivered to His friends.

God created us to live forever – but Satan, Adam and Eve had ruined all that, so consequently we are all under the sentence of decay and death. Oh, how that must have wounded Jesus – the Author of life – who knew what God’s initial intentions were – life forever in harmony with God and His creation.

No doubt He also wept, knowing that He would have to pay the ultimate price to restore God’s perfect order.

Mary of Bethany would say to us today...

It’s not until we are in our deepest distress that we find Jesus is the total answer to all our real and deepest needs. He is the Author of both comfort and hope.


Thank You, Father, for being there for us in the times of our deepest need. Sometimes we don’t understand Your timing or Your ways – please help us, nevertheless, to trust You – that You know what You are doing, that Your way is always the best way and that Your timing is always perfect. Amen.

Additional readings

Joshua 1:1-9; 1 Kings 19:1-18; Isaiah 6:1-8; Luke 22:39-43.


Why is it we seem to sense God more in life’s deepest valley than when life is going well?

How can we encourage ourselves when God seems absent?

What do you need God to do for you today?

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