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A Tale of Two Sisters - Part A

Connect with Skip Heitzig / Skip Heitzig
The Truth Network Radio
December 3, 2023 5:00 am

A Tale of Two Sisters - Part A

Connect with Skip Heitzig / Skip Heitzig

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December 3, 2023 5:00 am

In 1859 Charles Dickens wrote his famous work, A Tale of Two Cities, set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution. The story before us is set in Bethany near Jerusalem and highlights the personal relationship that two sisters had with Jesus Christ. Their broken hearts provide an excellent platform to consider how Christ deals with people in grief and loss. Let's actively probe not only their responses but ours to the incredible promise Jesus makes.


At first Jesus announced His resurrection. He predicted His resurrection. He told His disciples He's going to rise again from the dead the third day. He said that while He was alive, years before it happened. He announced it. Number two, He demonstrated that He had power over death by raising different people to life.

And then third, He will raise Himself from the dead, showing that He is the resurrection and the life. Welcome to Connect with Skip weekend edition. We all have different ways of dealing with the unexpected tragedies of life. Some live in some sort of denial. Some get angry. Some fall beyond grief into severe depression. Some try to stay so busy they don't have time to think about it.

We all have ways of coping. Well today in Connect with Skip weekend edition, Skip Heitzig takes a look at how two sisters cope with the death of their brother and the different approaches they took when confronting Jesus about it. Before we begin our study though, we want to tell you about this month's Connect with Skip resource offer. Over the years, Skip Heitzig has invited a number of notable speakers to come to Albuquerque. For an end of year resource, we want you to hear some of these amazing messages by speakers such as Tim LaHaye.

I travel all over the country and speak on prophecy conferences and it's very it's very seldom that you find churches that really recognize the importance of history written in advance only by God coming true so we can believe what we believe. Also a part of this pulpit package, the familiar voice of Pastor Chuck Smith. I'm overwhelmed when I see what God is doing here.

What a thrill to see the work of God being wrought here in Albuquerque. This package contains 10 full-length messages available on CD or as a download. We will send it to you as a thank you when you make an end of year donation of $100 or more to support this program. Request your pulpit package at or by calling 1-800-922-1888. This resource is available through the month of December and this pulpit package includes a classic teaching by J. Vernon McGee. I counted a privilege to be here to talk to many young people and especially those that are interested in Bible study. This is sure a high pulpit made for a tall fella. Request your pulpit package at or by calling 1-800-922-1888.

That is or call 1-800-922-1888. Today we'll pick up in verse 17 of John chapter 11. So if you'll turn there in your Bibles, Skip Heitzig begins by sharing a little family history. I never had a sister growing up. I was the youngest of four boys, very, very active, competitive boys.

Everybody knew the Heitzig boys. No sisters to balance things out. I felt sorry for my mom sometimes because she was sort of outnumbered with all the testosterone in our family, but she did okay with it. Now my wife, Lenia, on the other hand, grew up with a sister, an older sister by 18 months, Suzanne, and they're very different from each other, but they're very close to each other at the same time and they share a lot of love between themselves. One woman once said, having a sister is like having a little bit of childhood that can ever be lost, but things do change and people do change as we grow older. Our events in life and our circumstances definitely change.

That's true for everyone. It's true also for these two sisters that we consider this morning, Martha and Mary, both sisters, both who lost a brother named Lazarus. I heard a story about three elderly women. One was 96 years old, one was 94 years old, one was 92 years old. They were all living together in their latter years.

They had all lost their husbands. They were all in one house together and one evening the 96-year-old decided to prepare a bath for herself, so she was running the bath water and she put one foot in the tub and then she stopped and she said, now was I getting in the tub or was I getting out of the tub? The 94-year-old sister heard her downstairs and she said, I'm on my way up. I'll help you and I'll let you know, and she was going up the steps. She stopped and she said, now was I going upstairs or was I coming downstairs? Well, the 92-year-old was overhearing that she was in the kitchen having tea and she shook her head and she said, boy, I sure hope I never get that forgetful. And then she knocked on wood, you know, for good measure.

And then she yelled up to her sister, she goes, I'll be right up to help you both as soon as I see who's at the door. Now, what changes for Mary and Martha is not old age, but a sudden, unexpected tragedy in their home, which was the death of their brother Lazarus. Death is an enemy. Death stands in opposition.

It's the great opponent of life. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 said, the last enemy to be destroyed is death. And everyone lives with a death anticipation of one kind or another. We all live with that knowledge that at any moment everything we are and have in this life can be stripped away. And for some people, they live in fear of that. And for some people, they ought to live in fear of that. There's this knowledge that life can vanish away and I can be catapulted into the eternal state. Now, Woody Allen once said, tongue in cheek, he said, it's not that I'm afraid to die, I just don't want to be there when it happens. Well, you have to be there when it happens.

And it happens to everyone. On a more serious note, author Joseph Bailey writes these words, we may postpone it, we may tame its violence, but death is still waiting for us. Death always waits. The door of the hearse is never closed. Dairy farmer and sales executive live in death's shadow with Nobel Prize winner and prostitute, mother, infant, teen, and old man.

The hearse stands waiting for the surgeon who transplants a heart as well as for the hopeful recipient, for the funeral director as well as the corpse he manipulates. Death spares no one. And everybody lives with that knowledge that death is coming for everyone. Every now and then I get a little amazed that some people are actually shocked that people in their family die.

I mean, that should happen to everybody else, but it shouldn't happen to me or to my family. Now, we know deep inside that it's going to happen to all of us. And with that framing what I'm about to say, now I want you to listen to the greatest statement, the greatest piece of news that has ever fallen on your ears, ever fallen on human ears.

You ready for it? Verse 25. Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.

Do you believe this? He's saying those words to Martha, as we'll discover, but around him are his disciples. They've been following him now for three and a half years, or the better part of three years. Jesus' public ministry at this point is over. This is now his private ministry. This is now Jesus training those 12 men for them, preparing them because he knows he's going to leave. He's going to leave them, and he doesn't want to leave them without any power, without any kind of resources. So he's training them, and this is part of their training. And there has been a theme throughout Jesus' ministry that comes up again here. I don't want you to miss this. And that is the theme of resurrection, progressive.

This is what I mean. At first, Jesus announced his resurrection. He predicted his resurrection. He told his disciples, he's going to rise again from the dead the third day. He said that while he was alive, years before it happened.

He announced it. Number two, he demonstrated that he had power over death by raising different people to life. And then third, he will raise himself from the dead, showing that he is the resurrection and the life. So all of that is part of the progression and part of the teaching for these disciples. So they really need this because in a few months, they're going to look up and see their Lord on a cross, and they're going to flip out.

They're going to be tempted to bag it all. And so all of those things tied together are important. First of all, he predicts his resurrection. In John 2, he said, destroy this temple, and in three days, I will raise it up.

And John said he was speaking about his own physical body. Number two, he comes and raises Lazarus from the dead, demonstrating that he has power over death and authenticating what we just read in verse 25, I'm the resurrection and the life. Look, I'll prove it to you, and he raises Lazarus up.

Then third, he himself will rise from the dead. When the disciples are able to connect those dots together, when they really realize it's true, this guy got up from the grave, he's alive, just like he promised and just like he proved with Lazarus, when they connect all of those dots, you know what's going to happen to them? They become unstoppable.

They become bold as a lion. They become martyrs. They don't care what happens to them because they know that Jesus is the resurrection and the life. And that is why you find in the New Testament book of Acts and the gospel messages preached by all the apostles, what is the central theme of their communication? The resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

It's so transformed their life. Now this morning, we're going to begin in John 11 verse 17 and go down to verse 32, verse 33. And there's basically two people that we're looking at and then a third group. The two people are Martha and Mary because the first part, Jesus talks with Martha. The second part, Jesus talks with Mary. There are two personal conversations with them. So this morning, we want to look at Jesus and Martha, Jesus and Mary, and then finally, Jesus and you.

And I'll show you how we apply that. Verse 17, we read, so when Jesus came, he found that he, Lazarus, had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem about two miles away. You should probably know that in those days, they buried people immediately, immediately. The Jews didn't practice embalming in those days. The climate was relatively warm and so when a person died, they wrapped him up, put spices on the body, and put him in a tomb almost immediately. Then came a period of mourning and the mourning among the Hebrews lasted for 30 days.

The first seven were the most intense. During that period of time, a person would not anoint himself with oil, would not bathe, would not wear shoes, sort of hang around in a disheveled state. It's a symbol of deep and intense mourning. And that was followed by another 20 some days, 30 altogether of mourning for the dead.

Also, the mourning was very demonstrative, very emotional. Typically, as soon as a Jewish person heard that someone they loved died, they would grab their robe or their shirt and they would tear it and often beat the breast. They would put sackcloth on and ashes on their head. In fact, at many funerals, they would hire professional mourners. I know it sounds really weird, but they actually would pay money to people to come in and wail because it was believed that the louder the noise that was made, the more the person was loved and missed. So you'd pay people, so you'd pay people, they'd come in and all the neighbors would hear it and they would know what had happened.

They'd go, boy, somebody really loved that guy. That was typically how it went. Solomon wrote in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes these words, there is a time to weep, there is a time to laugh, there is a time to mourn, and there's a time to dance. And the Jewish people fully believed in that, that they would give themselves 30 days an entire month to go through the grieving process. In fact, did you know the Egyptians did it for 70 days while the Hebrews did it for 30? Now there's a mention in verse 17 of a certain number of days, four days.

You see that? He'd already been in the tomb four days. John isn't just throwing that in as an unnecessary detail, but rather there was a belief 2,000 years ago among some of the superstitious Jewish people, because of what some of their rabbis had written, saying that the spirit of a departed person will hover over the corpse for three days, seeking to reenter. But by the fourth day, when decomposition has already set in physically, it's irreversible and the spirit departs.

And some people live with that superstition in their minds. And so John makes note of it. It is, by the way, the fourth day when everybody thought all bets are off, it is irreversible that Jesus shows up in Bethany. Now look at Martha's sorrow.

It's pretty obvious. In verse 19, many of the Jews had joined the women around Martha and Mary to comfort them concerning their brother. Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him.

But Mary was sitting in the house. And then Martha said to Jesus, Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. Now something I just want you to pick up on as we mosey our way through the story, the action of these two sisters, Martha and Mary, is very much in keeping with what we already know about their personalities from other stories in the Gospels. Mary sat when Jesus was around, sat at Jesus' feet and listened to his word. Martha, on the other hand, was very active on her feet, busy scurrying about, complaining about this, complaining about that. And it was customary during a funeral time, the mourners, the one who had lost someone to death, like Mary and Martha, typically they would sit.

They would sit for the whole process and let others scurry around them and serve them and work for them and comfort them. But Martha, as soon as she hears Jesus is even close to town, shoots up, stomps out and goes to meet him. And that's where we find them meeting in these verses. I have a good friend who, well, he says a lot of things, but one of the things he says is, people change, but not that much. And I would say that is never more true than with Martha and Mary.

I'm sure they changed, encountering Christ as they did, but they were still who they were. Now, here's what I want to say about this. What people say during times of grief, what comes out of their mouth during times of loss, cannot be weighed too heavily.

Don't take it too seriously. That emotional outburst that comes out of their mouth, that comes from deep loss and deep sorrow has to be weighed and tempered with love and understanding. There was a Swiss born psychiatrist named Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, who did a lot of research in death and dying. In fact, she counseled hundreds of patients who died and relatives who watched them die. And she noted that there is a classic stage or process during a time of grief, normal stages of grieving that everyone she saw goes through typically. Stage number one is denial. When you hear that your husband or wife or friend dies, your reaction immediately is no. It must be a mistake.

This couldn't have happened. The second stage, says Ross, is anger. Blaming the doctors, blaming the nurses, blaming a relative. Why me?

Why my child? The third stage of that is bargaining. Sometimes a patient will say, please just give me five more months, just five more months. The fourth stage, which indicates the person's coming to terms with it, is the depression stage. The truth sets in. They know this is inevitable. They know this is irreversible. And so they come to grips with it, but they get very down and depressed.

And the fifth stage, says Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, is the acceptance stage. After the depression, you see light at the end of the tunnel. I'm going to make it through this.

We're going to marshal through this. And she says, I can follow that as a typical pattern in almost everyone who grieves a time of loss. So what you can expect is things like outbursts, wailing tears, isolation, removal. Deep sorrow and loss is both profound as well as unpredictable. And hear me, it's normal.

It's normal. One great Bible scholar and pastor through years of experience writes these words. Let grief do its work. Tramp every inch of the sorrowful way.

Drink every drop of the bitter cup. For those who truly love will say that they have found in sorrow a new joy, a joy which only the brokenhearted can know. You know, one of the more amazing characteristics of God is how He's able to handle all of our disappointments, our bad attitudes, our criticisms. We can express it all to Him, and He doesn't mind. When we feel let down or disappointed by God, we can share all of those frustrations with Him, and we'll likely discover that He had a better plan all along.

We'll continue with this study next time, but for now, let's go in studio with Skip and Lenya for a final thought today. We were in one of my favorite stories in the Bible today, Mary and Martha, and Lazarus come forth, and they're in the midst of their grief and their mourning. And it's the contrast of how different people mourn differently.

And, you know, the doubts or maybe anger, frustration. And it seems like, you know, in the times of Jesus and in biblical times, people really mourned. You know, there was weeping and sackcloth and ashes, and it seems like our culture has become more and more detached. And we don't even spend any time reflecting almost. And if we experience great loss, is it okay to mourn?

I mean, is that, you know, allowable? Or how do we manage our grief and our mourning? Yeah, you know, this is a whole study in the last several years, even at the college level, about grief and mourning and death, loss. It's certainly okay to mourn.

God put lacrimal glands, tear glands in our eyes for that purpose. So He intended us to emote. I do agree that in biblical times, they were more emotional, and we're a little bit more detached. But I think that partly our culture was reacting—see, nobody likes mourning. So I think our culture is reacting, trying to soften the blow a little bit by having the institutions and the funeral homes, and you don't see anything. Whereas in the old days, people would die in your house, and you would bathe them, et cetera, and get them ready. When my mother died, that was something we did. You know, she died in her house in front of her sons, and we were part of that process. And we wanted to be there.

And I think it's healthy and helpful for us to do it. But I love the fact, in the story we're talking about, that Jesus wept. They were mourning, and Jesus wept. And you think, why did He need to weep?

He's the guy that's drying up the tears. But I think it's as simple as, He loved them, because the crowd said, see how He loved Him? Speaking of Lazarus, I think He loved them. He was entering into their sorrow. So I think the fact that Jesus wept is an indication that it's not only okay to mourn, it's pretty biblical to mourn.

And I hear people, and I know this is well-intentioned, they'll say things like, well, we know where they are. They're in heaven. Why are you crying? Because this isn't bad.

This is a good thing. They're in heaven. It's good for them, but not for us.

We miss them. We're the one that's suffering. We're not crying for them unless they don't know the Lord. If they do know the Lord, I'm not crying for them. I'm crying for me. Yes.

And so I would say that that's an okay thing to do. You mourn with those who mourn, weep with those who weep. And Ecclesiastes said there's a time to weep. So I would encourage that if you're in that season, allow yourself the season to weep. And if you know somebody who's mourning, please walk softly around a broken heart.

And sentences like, why are you crying? Because you know where they are. They don't go very far.

They don't help. And that's why a lot of people, when they hear that kind of stuff, walk away and find those who will mourn with them. Well, thanks, Skip and Lenya. And if you'd like a copy of today's study to either share with someone you know, or to review again later, you can find it at, or you can call us and order one at 1-800-922-1888. There's a little bit of Mary and Martha in all of us, and we'll continue to examine why that is next time. So be sure to join us right here in Connect with Skip weekend edition, a presentation of Connection Communications. Connecting you to God's never changing truth in ever-changing times.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-03 04:18:07 / 2023-12-03 04:27:08 / 9

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