Jesus said to her, Said I not to you, that, if you would believe, you should see the glory of God?
Jesus said unto Martha, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? When Lazarus of Bethany fell sick, his sisters sent a messenger beyond Jordan to carry the tidings to Jesus. Our Lord's reply was to the following effect: "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God," etc. We cannot doubt that these words, or the substance of them, was conveyed by the messenger to Martha and Mary, and yet, either before the arrival of the message or shortly after, Lazarus died, and his death was followed by his burial. Four days of mourning passed away, and at last Jesus himself came to Bethany. Martha met him at the outskirts of the village, and he told her that her brother should rise again, and that he himself was the Resurrection and the Life. At last the Savior stood at Lazarus's grave. It was a cave, and its inner recess, which concealed the dead from view, was blocked up by a stone. Before it stood Martha and Mary and a crowd of their weeping friends. But when our Lord bade the bystanders take away the stone, then Martha interfered. She evidently hoped from first to last that Jesus would do something to meet her case, and, though her hopes were vague, they were nourished by his own words; but now her fears prevailed against her hopes. Her faith gave way before the exigencies of sense. She dreaded the removal of the stone and the evidences of corruption. She could not bear to look into the dark and noisome grave. How gently, and yet how solemnly, does Jesus chide her unbelief! "Said I not unto thee," etc.? He reminds her of all that had passed between them before. And could she now mistrust him, whatever he might do? Why doubt that power and wisdom and love, even all that makes up Divine glory, would shine forth in his actions? This was enough for Martha, and now she trusts her Lord. Now she is in a right state of mind and heart for profiting by all that followed. Had it been otherwise, even the raising of her brother from the tomb would not of itself have revealed to her the glory of God. For her it might have been but a temporal mercy, an earthly, perhaps a questionable boon, carrying no spiritual blessing along with it. Miracles, when they were wrought, were extraordinary means of grace, but they might be misunderstood and abused like any other means; nay, we must not forget that there were men who witnessed this miracle as well as Martha, whose hearts were only hardened by what they saw. They went their ways to the Pharisees and helped them to plot against the Prince of life! Our text is this, "If thou wouldest believe," etc. The significance of these words extends far beyond the occasion on which they were uttered. As a master-key opens many locks, so it is with such sayings of Jesus dropped incidentally in the course of conversation. If we could only use them aright they would open many of the secrets of our hearts, and explain to us much of the character and of the ways of God.
I. THESE WORDS CONTAIN A GREAT DOCTRINE, VIZ. THAT THE GLORY OF GOD CAN ONLY BE SEEN BY THE EYE OF FAITH. This is universally true, whether we think of his glory as displayed in nature and in providence, or by his Word and his Son from heaven. The psalmist of Israel exclaims (Psalm 19.), "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handywork." And so it has been from the beginning. But what multitudes have, alas! been deaf and blind to all this teaching - in some ages worshipping the host of heaven instead of him who made them all; and in later times seeing nothing in God's grandest works but a vast and complicated machine without a final purpose, a thickly woven veil of laws and second causes with nothing behind it! Ah! the last word of unbelief is a blank and cheerless materialism. And the same thing must be said of the very highest display of God's glory in the face of Jesus Christ. There, surely, it shines forth in wondrous and yet attractive radiance. "Christ the Power of God, and the Wisdom of God." His life on earth the very image of God's holiness. His cross the meeting-place of righteousness and mercy. His resurrection the triumph of victorious grace. But why is Christ to so many a stumbling-stone and a rock of offence? Why is he still despised and rejected of men, so that they turn from him with indifference or, perhaps, with a far worse feeling? Why do they think naught of his Divine glory, and make so much of the glory of man, which is as the flower of grass? The Apostle Paul replies that "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God... neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." The god of this world, or the spirit of the age, or, it may be, some lust of their own hearts, has blinded their eyes, so that they will not believe. On the other hand, every Christian knows, by a very practical experience, that the glory of God is a spiritual thing, which can only be seen by the eye of the spirit. By whatever way he has been led in providence and grace, he has learned this much, that God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shined in his heart and opened his eyes. And what has been the result? May we not say that, so far as he has walked in this light, life has become a more solemn and blessed thing than it was before, and the Bible a different book to what it was, and the day of rest otherwise hallowed and welcomed, and the means of grace, instead of seemly and well-meaning forms, have become wells of salvation? Not seldom among his fellow-pilgrims in life's journey he recognizes men and women who have the mark of God on their foreheads; and there are times, too, when on the face of nature itself - on the many-colored earth beneath and on the heavens over his head - there seems to him to rest "a light that never was on land or sea," revealing to him a glimpse, as it were, of the glory of the Eternal.
II. THESE WORDS CONTAIN A GREAT PROMISE, TREASURED UP HERE FOR THE ENCOURAGEMENT OF EACH DISCIPLE OF CHRIST. "Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe," etc.? For this vision of faith of which we have been speaking does not perpetuate itself. I do not mean that it passes away like a dream in the night, leaving no traces behind it. The Christian who has seen ought of the Divine glory must desire to see it still, or he would be no Christian at all; but how many things tend to veil it from his view! Sometimes, from the inevitable cares and engagements of life, often from causes which cannot be traced, he finds himself in perplexity and gloom. But, weak and changeful as he is, God's promises do not depend on his varying moods of mind; and in view of such a promise as this, faith bursts into prayer, and evermore the prayer of faith shall live. "I beseech thee, show me thy glory;" "Open thou mine eyes, that I may see wondrous things out of thy Law; " Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief." But it is in the greater trials of life that the soul feels most its own intrinsic weakness, and that the promise in the text is "exceeding great and precious." When, for example, health is suddenly shattered; or when fair earthly prospects are dashed to the ground; or when the family circle is broken in upon, and a tenderly loved member is taken away; - then nature's darkness and nature's sorrow compass us in on every side. The heart whispers, "Vanity of vanities." Oar common life loses its interest - "like a dream when one awaketh." And perhaps unbelief, no longer like a silent, lifeless weight, but rather like a mocking demon, assails the very foundations of the faith, or tells us that our interest in them has been all a delusion. Thus it was with the Psalmist Asaph, when in an hour of infirmity he exclaimed (Psalm 77.), "Will the Lord cast off forever? Both his promise fail forevermore? Hath God forgotten to be gracious?" Poor and cold is the comfort that the world can give in such a case - perhaps telling the sufferer that things might have been worse; or that misfortune is the common lot of man; or that time will in the long run blunt the edge of his feelings; and that "wild flowers may yet grow among the ruins of his happiness," and that meanwhile "to bear is to conquer his fate." Ah! surely if these are the only lessons that trial has to each us, we must often come to look upon providence as a necessary evil. How different are the Master's words, "If thou wouldest believe," etc.! This is indeed the sum and substance of many an ancient oracle. In all ages the Spirit of Christ, which breathed in the prophets, had spoken in the same tones. God's children were ever taught to look within the veil and walk by faith. "Who is among you that feareth the Lord,... that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the Name of the Lord, let him stay himself on his God" (Isaiah 1:10). But here Christ himself adds his "Yea and Amen" to all the promises given by his forerunners; and not only when he raised Lazarus from the grave, but above all when he burst forever the chains of death in his own resurrection, he gave assurance unto all men that his words are faithful and true. What, then, is the perpetual message of these words of his to his disciples? Believe that your secret trials are not the shafts of a blind fate, but the decrees of a reconciled Father's will. They are not designed to crush you, inscrutable as they now appear. They bid you "be still, and know that he is God;" but they are never lightly inflicted, never inconsistent with his wisdom and love. Trust him, then, in the dark. Trust him when your heart is aching. Trust him when human sympathy falls short of your need, and your faith shall not be in vain. He has many ways in providence and grace of showing you his glory; tempering your trials with mercy; perhaps giving them an unexpected issue; raising you above them, and, as it were, above yourselves; giving you new discoveries of his love, a deeper assurance than you ever had before that he is your God. Thus those who walk by faith and not by sight have this promise of Christ fulfilled to them even here below. Through the checkered experiences of life, whether those be joyous or grievous, God is ever drawing near to them and manifesting himself to them. They shall never, indeed, take the measure of his perfections, and they adore him for this; but whilst their knowledge of him cannot be full, it may be most real; whilst it cannot be comprehensive, it may yet be sufficient for their life-journey. They may see enough of his glory to make them habitually humble and thankful and hopeful, to strengthen them for daily work, and support them under daily trial. How often may two persons be met with whose lives have been visited with much the same trials and enriched with much the same outward blessings, and yet as they approach the evening of their days you hear the one complaining that he was born under an unlucky star, that his steps have been dogged by an unkind fate, and that all is vanity and vexation of spirit; while the other is saying that goodness and mercy have followed him all the days of his life, and asking what he shall render to the Lord for all his benefits towards him! Whence the difference between the two? Is it not from this - that the one has lived without God in the world, whilst the other has sought for grace to walk in the light of his countenance? So much for the life that now is. But there is a larger fulfillment of this promise that belongs to the life to come. Here the glory of God can only be seen amidst the clouds and darkness of this storm-tossed world. The faith of his children, too, is not only tried by the long conflict between good and evil which rages around them, but by the unbelief of their own hearts and the weakness of their bodies of humiliation. "Now they see through a glass darkly." But this is not to last forever. This vision is only for an appointed time. And when the mystery of God has been finished, and the children of the resurrection open their eyes on the new heavens and the new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness, then shall each one of them learn the fullness of these words of Christ, "Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? " - G.B.
Parallel VersesKJV: Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?