Monday, May 23, 2005


Martha couldn't seem to step out of the heaviness of the last few days and nights. Her brother Lazarus was dead. A message was sent to Jesus when Lazarus became seriously ill, but the Lord failed to arrive.

Lazarus didn't make it. The empty house was full of mourners. A weight like wet wool settled on Martha's chest. Food didn't interest her. Neighbor women arrived and took over her kitchen. What did she care? Ever since her brother Lazarus died, all she could think about was him and the Teacher, and neither were in Bethany. She spent the last few days weeping and exchanging glances with her listless sister Mary.

Day and night, guests, community comforters filled their home. Martha accepted food, hugs and prayers. But Martha had no appetite, no warmth left in her body, no more soaring prayers.

Several days after the burial, Martha's thoughts were interrupted by a buzz of conversation from the household guests. Someone saw Jesus. He was on his way to them. Martha's lethargy left. She knew Jesus loved Lazarus, possibly more than she and her sister Mary.

She grabbed a wrap and left to meet him. When she first saw him, she blurted out, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." Not an accusation, just intimate knowledge of his power and authority. "But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask."

Jesus said, "Your brother will rise again."

Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day."

Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life, He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"

"Yes, Lord. I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world."

She went to get Mary. When Mary saw Jesus, she fell at his feet and said exactly what Martha said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."

Moments later, Jesus called Lazarus from the tomb, and three siblings may have hopped, skipped and jumped home from the cemetery. I can see them. Arms linked. Mary and Martha tiptoeing up to kiss Lazarus' cheek.

After once more reading this account in the Bible, I was struck by the sister's identical confessions. "If you had been here" each sister had said, "my brother would not have died."

This family had entertained God in their home, and they knew it. God had relaxed, laughed and took nourishment at their table. They had taken bread from his table, too. They had listened. They knew. They anchored their hope in him. He had the words to life eternal.

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