In the Waiting: Martha’s Story, Part 1 (Love Leads Us Home {following Christ to calvary}, Day 21)

Jesus was – I believed with my whole heart – the One sent from God. He was a teacher, a man with power that could only be from above. He knew more than anyone else had ever known. He spent day in and day out caring for our people – I saw it with my own eyes, how He gave second chances to the sick of heart and unimaginable healing to bodies thought to be forever broken.

I saw the compassion He had for everyone who came to Him – how even if He was tired, He still listened and gave. I saw how He disregarded His own needs for the needs of those around Him.

So I offered what I could to Him – an open door, a clean house, simple but good food. He came and He rested with us. Conversations were filled with laughter, with stories from the always-talkative Peter. It didn’t matter how many were in the room – peaceful silence reigned when He spoke, everyone giving full attention to His wisdom. Lazarus always abandoned whatever he had been doing to sit with Jesus – my sister did, too. At first, I would work myself into a frenzy to make sure everyone was perfectly taken care of (how I resented Mary for so quickly leaving her work!) – but He helped me to see that  while I worried over the number of olives left in the bowls and whether or not the floors were clean enough, I was missing what was right in front of me: the flickering of oil lamps, the scent of the warm bread broken and passed from hand to hand, the easy smiles on faces – and, most importantly, Him. I was anxiously trying to satisfy everyone’s appetites, but His words were already nourishing every heart in the place.

So much I would have missed if not for His gentle reproach on that day.

Yes, somehow Jesus – mystery and miracle-maker was also our friend.

So why, when we needed Him most – did He not answer?

For Lazarus – strong and loud, always ready for some new adventure, forever obliviously tracking dirt through our house …my brother whose tender-heart sent him sneaking out of the house with any extra food for those in need…my brother whose open arms made him a friend to all – fell sick.

I had never seen him like this – pale and gasping for breath, unable to even sit up.

His eyes, unfocused and red-rimmed, scared me more than anything else.

Of course – we knew what to do. We sent word to Jesus. Lord, the one You love is sick.

After we sent the messenger, I hovered between the door to watch for Him on the path and the place by my brother’s side — for I knew He could have spoken a word from where He was to make my brother well.

So I watched for the fever to suddenly break, his eyes to focus on me. I waited for him to sit up and say Martha, I’m hungry…can’t you make your lentil stew?

But days passed. He didn’t sit up. He didn’t see us there. And he did not speak. Lazarus did not get better.

My brother died.

We sat there, Mary and I, looking at his still body in disbelief.

Her eyes wide and filled with unshed tears, she looked at me. “Why?”

I could not answer her, for I did not understand.

Why did Jesus not come to us? Why, when He had healed so many others, did He not heal our brother – His own friend?

“We will see him again,” I said to her, the words barely loud enough to carry through the room. “On the day of resurrection, we will see our Lazarus again.”

With a wail erupting from her lips, she ran to me. We held each other and cried.

********************

It felt like my insides had been hollowed out, but there were things that had to be done. One last time, I took care of my brother. We anointed his body with oil. We washed him and wrapped him in the finest linen shrouds I could find. Carefully, Mary and I added spices to the shrouds. While the house filled with friends and neighbors who came to grieve with us, we did all we could do for him.

Still – Jesus did not come.

The walk from our home to the outside of town, Lazarus’ body carried behind us, was – at the same time – the longest and shortest walk I could ever have imagined. Each step felt heavier than the last. Mary was looking all around us – thinking, I know, of the day Jesus stopped a line just like this one in Nain and raised a young man back to life.

But there was the tomb and there was Lazarus, still wrapped in his shrouds, and no Jesus in sight.

We watched as they lifted Lazarus and laid him in the cave. Mary’s hands held tightly to mine as the stone was put into place.

It was over.

Despite the crowd of people around us, we had never felt so alone as when we walked back into our house and knew that Lazarus would never again be waiting for us there.

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Four days. Four days our house had been full of those who had loved Lazarus. So many faces, so many men and women who came to comfort us. I was kept busy tending to the visitors and dreaded the day they would no longer sit with us – I dreaded the silence and the reality of his absence. Mary was nearly silent those days – she withdrew into the corners and the shadows, only speaking when necessary. I worried for her health – I worried for her spirit.

My comfort was the promise of the prophet – one day, God would swallow up death. Our dead would live, their bodies would rise – but one day seemed so far away.

And then – at last – word came. Jesus was drawing near.

Mary shook her head when I beckoned for her. She would not come with me to meet Him – so I left her in the company of neighbors and ran to find Him.

He was just the same as He always was – eyes kindly looking down at me – and my words were honest, because He already knew how I felt. “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” I didn’t understand His ways – even so, He was still the One from God. “But I know that even now God will give You whatever You ask.”

“Your brother,” Jesus said to me, “will rise again.”

I nodded and held my shoulders back, even while new tears formed and fell from my eyes. “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

And then He looked at me and said this – “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”

I thought of Lazarus’ silent heart, the stone in front of the tomb – and looking up into the eyes of Jesus, the knowledge of resurrection moved from my head into my heart. For the first time since we walked away from the tomb, hope fluttered in my soul. Perhaps the day of resurrection would come sooner than I had imagined. Perhaps God would soon establish His kingdom among us, calling forth the dead. Perhaps I would see it with my own eyes.

“Yes, Lord. I believe that You are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

design (4)

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{This post is based on Scriptures in Luke 10 and John 11. I hope you join me for part 2 of Martha’s story!} 

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