Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Jesus/Lazarus/Martha & Mary

Chapter 11 verses 1-45 of the Gospel of St. John is all about the great miracle of "The Raising of Lazarus". This great miracle foreshadowed the Resurrection of Christ but there was a lot going on at the time on purely the human level. That is what I would like to explore.

This family of two sisters and a brother were great friends of Jesus. Mary was the one who bathed Jesus' feet with expensive oil and wiped them dry with her own hair. Jesus not only let her do this but risked quiet rebuke from those present and far away. At the time it was unseemly for a woman to publicly display such affection and for a man, especially a holy man, to accept such display of emotion. This was the beginning of a great bond between them and Jesus. Apparently Jesus visited their home many times and feasted there. He was very comfortable with them and they with him. The fact is that he showed up without announcement at least once and who knows how many more times with his whole retinue and they prepared a feast for them all. One time he gently admonished Martha for asking him to tell Mary to get off her butt and help prepare the feast. I bet Martha blushed with a little ire whenever she thought of that incident. But then I guess Jesus was a little partial towards Mary, especially because of the washing of his feet. Stuff like that goes a long way in cementing a human bond.

So you can imagine the reaction of his Disciples when he got notice from the sisters that they needed him because their brother was gravely ill and he was the only one who could save him, yet instead of immediately leaving as they were more than a few days away in travel time Jesus hung around for two more days. With all due respect his disciples weren't very bright lights in those days and they must of wondered what the hell was going on with him. Is he afraid since Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem it would be dangerous for him to go there as they had tried to stone him when he was last there. Others could of thought that he was sort of heartless. Three of his closest friends were in dire need of his presence and he's still hanging around here across the Jordan seemingly unconcerned. Finally, after two days he says to his disciples lets go back to Judea to help Lazarus. His friend's fear, ask him if he is in his right mind considering the dangers that await him to which he responded that living in fear is not the way to go. He said this in different terms but that is what he meant. He could of said put some starch in your spines for what is going to happen to all of us, instead he gently told them that Lazarus was dead metaphorically which they couldn't grasp then he just said it in plain terms. Finally Thomas, yeah that's right the doubter but in this case the courageous one, tells them he is ready to die with Jesus and so should they be. Not wanting to be cowards, especially Peter, agree to go. I bet Peter made sure his sword, the one that cut off the centurion's ear at Gethsemane, was by his side just in case.

Jesus finally gets there and Lazarus is dead, entombed four days which of course he knew since this was to be the time to show God's power in Jesus. His divine nature I am sure was calm but his human nature must of been boiling over with anticipation with how he was going to be greeted by his friends. Martha ran out to meet him. She told him that if he was here her brother wouldn't have died but rather than being accusatory she came right back with "But even now I know that whatever you ask of  god, God will give you." He then asked her if she believed in him and she affirmed that she did. He must of breathed a deep sigh of relief seeing his beloved friend accepting all of this without question. Then Mary came to him with a whole bunch of people behind her, professional weepers and all. She said the same thing , "..if you would have been here my brother would not have died."  This wasn't followed with the statement of faith like Martha, more like, "Where were you when we needed you?", or "If you were here then we wouldn't have this tragedy we now have.". My old translation said Jesus was deeply troubled, signifying a deep emotion like anger or indignation. He heard the mummers of the crowd, 'He cured the blind man. Couldn't he have done something?". So groaning in spirit Jesus wept. This is a true human emotion. What caused him to weep. Certainly, he saw the great anguish all about him which he knew he caused. He could have just willed Lazarus to be well yet it wouldn't have had the powerful effect leading people to his father. Yet? On top of all that except for Martha, he saw a lack of faith and distrust in him which had to hurt purely on a human level, especially the way Mary was affected by all this.
I am not sure if this is the only recorded time Jesus wept, perhaps when he moaned over Jerusalem's impending destruction and he said he would have cuddled her like a mother hen if only she would have listened to him. He loved Jerusalem. He loved Lazarus, Martha and Mary and in a sense he was causing them this hurt yet they hadn't listened to him, except Martha, that he was the light and the resurrection. So they came to the tomb amidst all this confusion, weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then he commanded that they remove the stone over the objections of the sisters who reminded him that after being dead for four days the stench of decay would be terrible. Suddenly, there was quiet. All eyes shifting back from Jesus towards the tomb's opening. Then Jesus prayed glorifying God for the crowds edification and then he called forth Lazarus. There must of been some time passing until finally Lazarus came out all bound up. The crowd must of been awe struck. The sisters now crying tears of happiness. Jesus said, "Untie him and let him go.". The Gospel goes on to what transpires at the Sanhedrin but I wonder what must of gone at Bethany. I could envision the sisters untieing Lazarus weeping with laughter and Jesus crying tears of happiness also. Then knowing Jesus and what always seemed to follow something great, the sisters had a great feast with good wine and meat and deserts. Plenty of laughter with Lazarus being questioned on what he remembers of the last days when he was dead or was he really asleep? Some I bet even believed it was all a set-up, a conspiracy. Mary was again at Jesus' feet. Martha was again serving but this time she had plenty of help from those who were true friends and the celebration went on for hours, maybe days. After all the bridegroom was still with them.

There is no more mention of this family in the Bible. I am sure they were followers of "The Way" and lived under the sign of the fish after Christ's resurrection. They eventually died as we all must. But their lives were changed from the moment they met Jesus and knew him not only as divine but truly human. They knew his smell, his laugh, his tears his hopes and aspirations. Of course they were his followers but first and foremost they were his friends.
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