“When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and those who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus began to weep. So the people said, “See how he loved him! But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” John 11:32-37
My name is Mary. Often Jesus would stay at our home in Bethany with my brother Lazarus and my sister Martha, and me. We were honored by his presence. Once, when Jesus was traveling, my brother Lazarus became very sick. I thought that Jesus would come right away when he heard, but he didn’t. I couldn’t understand why. I knew that he loved us. Meanwhile, Lazarus got sicker and sicker. We prayed that Jesus would get here in time. I kept a lookout for him, expecting to see him walking down the road. While we waited hoped and prayed, Lazarus, my beloved brother, died.
That was the hardest day of my life. Jesus, who had healed others, would not get here in time to save my brother. Then it just kept getting harder. All the time I was waiting. I kept wondering why Jesus hadn’t come to save Lazarus.
I was completely confused. I’d seen his miracles. I’d heard the stories of healing and all the signs and wonders Jesus was performing. Why didn’t he come? Why didn’t he come to save a friend? Jesus had healed perfect strangers, but we . . . We were his friends. When Jesus didn’t come, I was hurt. I felt deserted. I began to wonder if he cared about us at all. Then Lazarus died and my faith in Jesus dimmed.
I cried. I’d find myself waking to my sobs. Even then, I thought if Jesus would just come before we put my brother in his grave, then maybe . . . Well maybe, he could still help my brother. We wrapped Lazarus in cloths and put him in the cave. Some of our neighbors rolled a stone in front of the tomb. There was nothing more we could do, except share our grief.
I wandered between the house and the grave, weeping. Friends came and went. Some brought food, urging us to eat. Still, there was no sign of Jesus. Four days passed before he arrived. It was too late, of course.
Martha spotted him first. She told him that she knew if he had been here, Lazarus would not have died. Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.” He said something to her that went like this, “I am the resurrection and the life, those who believe in me, even though they die, yet will they live and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”
I raced out to greet him. I fell at his feet and I told him, “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.” Through my tears, I saw Jesus begin to weep. All the doubts I had about his love for us fell away. I knew that he didn’t want to be apart from us when we hurt. I knew there had to be a good reason why he didn’t come sooner. Even, if I did not understand.
Not a single one of us could have imagined what happened next. We led Jesus to the tomb. Jesus told the men to roll the stone away. My brother had been dead for four days. What was he thinking? Martha was pretty upset over that. She’s the practical one. You just don’t take a stone away from a tomb four days after a person has died.
In the midst of our protests, Jesus asked us, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God.” He lifted up his eyes to heaven and he prayed. After his prayer, he shouted. “Lazarus, Come Out!” He said it as if he expected Lazarus to come. Then to our shock, our amazement, Lazarus wrapped in burial clothes, walked out of that tomb.
I raced to my brother, tore at the grave clothes and gave him the biggest hug I could. Martha, more practical than me, had hurried to get him a robe. Of course, people believe what they want to believe. Some of our neighbors began to believe in Jesus. The story quickly spread to the Pharisees. Ever since, they are more and more determined to quiet Jesus.
Some speculate that Jesus is about to declare himself king. I just don’t know about that. He tells us to love each other, to give to those who have nothing, and reminds us that loving one another and loving God are the essence of life.
Jesus always surprises me. When I thought he didn’t care about my family, I discovered the depth of his love for us. When I thought my brother was gone forever, he gave him back to us.
I don’t know what this trip to Jerusalem will bring. I’m worried. Jesus will be in Jerusalem for the Passover, a dangerous place for prophets. There are threats on his life.
Last night, Jesus seemed so lonely. It was almost as if he was forcing himself to go. I could see resolution in his face. I think he fears not doing God’s will, more than going to Jerusalem and facing whatever he has to face there.
I worry, but for now, I’m grateful that my brother is alive again. If Jesus can bring my brother back to life, then what else will he do? Meanwhile, I ponder his words to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life, those who believe in me, even though they die, yet will they live and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”
*This is one of a series of monologues I wrote and used in the churches I served, prior to retirement.
Devotions for Ash Wednesday through Easter came be found here.