Baptists like to trace their history back to New Testament days. The unbroken line of baptistic groups is called “The Trail of Blood.” Recently, as I read my Bible, I discovered the actual origin of Baptists. No, it was not John the Baptist, or the Apostle Paul. I am convinced the roots of Baptist life can be found in Martha, sister of Lazarus and Mary; the Mother of All Baptists.
First, she was more comfortable with working for Him than waiting on Him. While Mary, probably a proto-charismatic, was sitting at the feet of Jesus basking in His presence, Martha was in the kitchen frying the chicken, and getting the Styrofoam plates and plastic forks ready. We have always been an active bunch, we Baptists. We are the worker bees of the Kingdom. Often, like Martha, we are more comfortable working for the Lord than walking with Him. As one denominational leader said, “Get out there and do something for God. Whatever. It doesn’t matter. Just do something.”
But notice something else in John 11:24. Martha’s brother Lazarus was dead and buried four days earlier. Finally, Jesus showed up. Martha thought he was running late, but Jesus was right on time. She gently remonstrated him, “If you had been here, he would not have died.” Then Jesus told her that her brother would rise again. She nodded and said, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
The mother of all Baptists. She believed in Jesus, and in His power to save souls and raise the dead. She just did not believe He would do it today. We believe in the finished work of Christ for the salvation of souls, and in the certainty of heaven, the resurrection, and eternal life. We have charts detailing the end times. We just struggle with believing that God will work His power in our lives today. We are great with the beginning and the ending of the Christian life, but can be a little challenged in between.
But, wonder of wonders, Jesus still loved Martha the Baptist. He told her who He was, and she believed Him. “I believe you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” The Mother of All Baptists knew the Word, and confessed Jesus without shame or doubt.
But she was still the Mother of All Baptists. When they got to the tomb, Jesus told them to roll the stone away. “But, Lord,” Martha said. “That’s not the way we do things.” As the King James says, “Lo, he stinketh.” It is hard for us to step out of the normal and expected, the proper and respectable, to follow Jesus in a walk of faith. Jesus gave them a strange command. Roll away the stone. Sometimes, Jesus calls us to strange and difficult things. There is always that difficult step of obedience. We want God to open the door, then we will walk through. God calls us to walk through the door, trusting Him that it will open before we run into it. God told Israel to walk into the Jordan and then He would stop the river. We stand on the banks saying, “God, if you will stop this thing, I will walk through it.”
But God still worked. He showed His awesome power to the Mother of All Baptists. Is there any miracle greater than the raising of the dead? God raised Lazarus from death, and showed Martha that His power is still real. May we know His awesome power, and His presence.
Like our Mother, Martha.