Impacting Cities & Communities thru Prayer
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Theos was tired and footsore when he came to the little fishing village on the coast of Asia. He had been sent by Timothy, the bishop of the church in Ephesus, to find Mary, who was with a group ministering somewhere along the road to the north. He doubted if he would find a place to eat and spend the night in this village, but he might find the evangelistic team here. In keeping with his assignment, he approached a stooped old man on the road from town.
“Pardon me, I am looking for a group who are teaching about Jesus. Do you know if they have been here?”
“Oh,” the man grinned through missing teeth and tapped his cane on the road. “You mean Mary and the others with her. She is here. The whole town has gone down to the shore to hear her.”
“The whole town? Is that dangerous?”
“Not for our Mary,” he said. “The daughter of a fisherman had a demon and none of us knew what to do. We couldn't afford an exorcist. But Mary took her in her arms and prayed to Jesus, who seems to be a god. The demon left the girl and Mary restored her to her family. Now the whole town has gathered to hear Mary teach about this Jesus.”
Theos said, “I have news for her. Can you direct me to where they are?”
“I can do better than that. I will take you to them.” With that he turned and led Theos into the village. Passing through they came out on the beach. At least a hundred people were gathered around a fishing boat set up on blocks with Mary standing on the boat’s pulpit teaching. Theos saw several of the others on the team sent out from the church. One of them, a young lady named Diana, came to meet him.
“Theos! Have you come to help us? We have been asked to go and pray for everyone with any illness in the whole town.”
“Timothy sent me to find Mary. I need to speak to her as soon as I can.”
Diana looked at Mary and then at one of the others on the team and said, “We will have to wait for her to finish. Lucian will take her place.” After a few minutes Mary motioned for Lucian, the leader of their team, to come up.
“Wait here,” Diana told Theos and ran to meet Mary as she climbed down from the boat. She brought Mary to him.
“Mary,” Theos called to her before the ladies reached him. “Timothy sent me to bring you back as quickly as possible. We have had a letter with news from Syria.”
“Oh my,” she said. “Has something happened to my sister?”
“Timothy sent me without any explanation, except that I needed to hurry. I suppose it would be dangerous to travel this road by night. But we need to leave early tomorrow morning.”
Mary said, “The rest of the team will need to stay here for a few more days. The town is going to feed us all on the beach tonight. They can put you up with some of the men on the team.”
Theos and Mary left early the next day and made good time back to Ephesus. It was shortly after noon when they came to the home of Timothy. One of the young men Timothy was training answered the door. He had been instructed to bring Mary to his teacher immediately. Several church members were talking with Timothy in his sitting room. Knowing what was happening, they excused themselves. Timothy explained that Susanna, one of the women who had followed Jesus from Galilee had written to tell them that Martha, Mary’s sister, was seriously ill.
When Mary had read the letter she said, “I have to go to my sister if it is at all possible!”
Timothy said, “We need to pray, Mary.” He prayed fervently for her sister Martha and for Mary’s own peace and for the comfort of the Holy Spirit. Mary prayed as well. Then Timothy said, I have sent word through the whole church. Everyone will be praying. Several men have said they will donate money that I expect will be enough for your passage. I will arrange for Epaphras and his wife, or possibly young Theos, to travel with you.
Arrangements were made and they were able to leave in less than a week. They found Martha near death when they arrived in Judea. For days Mary sat at the bedside of her sister, who remained unconscious or delirious. Mary talked to Martha as if she could understand. She told about many things she had seen in her travels and in service to their Lord. In all that time she received no indication that Martha heard anything she said. Late one night Mary woke to the clear sound of Martha’s voice. “Mary. Mary, are you awake?”
“Yes, Martha, I’m awake—I think.”
“I am so glad you are here with me tonight. How long have you been here.”
Mary took Martha’s hand. “I have been home for several weeks. I am so relieved to hear you talking to me like in the old days. You have been very sick.”
Martha squeezed Mary’s hand in return and said, “I thought I heard your voice, but you seemed to be too far away for me to speak to you. I guess I thought you were still in Asia or wherever.”
Mary said, “I knew I needed to be by your side. And our Lord has arranged for me to come. Is there anything I can do for you?”
“Yes, I want you to talk with me.”
Mary said, “There will be plenty of time to talk now that you seem to be reviving. But tonight you need your rest.”
“No, Mary. I want to talk right now. I think Jesus has arranged this time for us to talk.”
Mary stretched to relieve her stiff muscles, shook the sleep from her eyes and asked, “What shall we talk about?”
“Tell me again about discovering Jesus at the empty tomb after His crucifixion.”
Mary began, “I was so heartbroken as we all were. Nothing made any sense in the days following His death. I had gone to His tomb with several other women. His tomb was empty, so I wandered out into the garden belonging to the rich man named Joseph. Falling down on a large stone I wept there. I sensed someone behind me but I did not want to talk to anyone. He asked me why I was crying. I thought He was the gardener. I said, ‘Sir, If you have moved Him, please tell me where, and I will take His body away.’
“Tenderly He spoke my name, ‘Mary.’ And I knew it was Jesus. I turned and fell to His feet worshipping in the joy that He was truly alive!” Martha smiled, sharing the thrill of Mary’s experience. “Martha,” Mary said, “I was the first to see Jesus alive again!”
They told several more stories of their experiences with Jesus, then Martha said, “Tell me about the day Jesus raised our brother from the tomb?”
Mary said, “That also came about in a terrible time, as you know too well. We had sent for Jesus, but He didn’t come in time, and Lazarus died. When Jesus finally came, I worshipped Him and said, ‘Lord, if you had only been here, my brother would not have died.”
“What did He say to you, Mary?”
Mary frowned in thought. “I don’t remember that He said anything. He just wept with me. After a while He asked where we had laid Lazarus. You were with me when we led Him to the burial place.
“At the command of Jesus they rolled the stone away, and He cried, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ And our brother came out of the tomb stumbling over the grave clothes wrapped around his body.” Both ladies chuckled at the memory.
Martha said, “I remember that day so well. I was out in the street before our house. I think I was going to buy more food for the people who had come to comfort us. A boy came running up with the news that Jesus was coming. I forgot everything else and ran to meet Him. I also said if He had been there He would have kept our brother from dying.”
He said, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ It was hard for me to believe anything on that day, but I still knew. I said, ‘I know that he will rise again at the resurrection on the last day.’
“Jesus said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me shall live even if he dies. And everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.’ He asked if I believed this.
“I said, ‘Yes, Lord. I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God who is coming into the world.’
“I still believe that, Mary. I know He is with me right now. Somehow I sense His presence more than I have at any time since He ascended into the clouds. You may be among those who are alive when Jesus returns. That will be so wonderful! But Mary, I am going to be with Him tonight. You need not worry about me. You can know, as surely as He raised Lazarus, that I will return with Him.” Mary held Martha’s hand even more tightly. Martha spoke no more through the night. Unable to speak herself, Mary wept as she sensed that her beloved sister was passing into the presence of her Lord.
This story was composed from memories Mary and Martha must have had from events recorded in John 11:38-44.
Lord, we trust you with life and death.
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