Hello everyone–it’s been awhile! Faith Builders winter term has been excellent so far. New friends, new classes, and new thoughts… God is teaching me a lot. I’m sharing a story I wrote for my Life of Jesus class. I haven’t turned it in yet, since it’s not due for a little while. I hope you enjoy it…
He’s really dead. The thought clanged dully in my head and escaped in the hubbub of the people gathered to mourn with us. I was glad they were there—they drowned out my thoughts a little and distracted me from my darkness.
Why, Yahweh, why? Wasn’t it enough that our parents died only 3 months apart ten years ago? Lazarus was the one who took on himself the role of head of the family. He was the strong one, and Mary and I leaned on him. We built again the semblance of a normal life. We were happy. But now Lazarus is gone…
I glanced past the woman offering me words of consolation. Mary was on the opposite side of the room. She looked young and forlorn. She smiled weakly as she chatted with our motherly neighbor Hannah. God, she’s so young and idealistic. How will this affect her view of the world? Will she ever recover and believe You are good?
I gathered my thoughts back to the present. “Thank you,” I said in response to the distant acquaintance who was offering me the expected words of sympathy. “I appreciate that.” She nodded and sat down in the circle of women to my right. I sat down beside her and listened with one ear to gossip of the neighborhood. It didn’t matter, but it was strangely comforting—this talk of things that didn’t matter.
Why didn’t Jesus come? I wondered not for the first time. He was Lazarus’s friend, but he was more than a friend. He was a man of God, one who could feed hungry people, heal the sick, and speak words that brought a breath of hope into a lonely life… I smiled as I thought of the last time he was at our house. I was wrapped up in the moment, stressed out by the crowd of men waiting for a meal. I was rushing around trying to pull a feast together. I had bustled into the room where the men were sitting to ask Lazarus something when I saw Mary sitting down, listening to Jesus. In the stress of the moment I had snapped to Jesus— “Don’t you care that she’s sitting there while I’m working hard by myself? Tell her to help me!”
Mary, always the sensitive soul, turned to Him, eyes filled with tears. I immediately felt bad, but Jesus just said, “Martha, you are anxious about many things, but few things are really needed, and Mary has chosen the important thing—listening to the words of life—and that won’t be taken from her.” It was a gentle rebuke, and I felt it to my soul. Now in the moments of grief I understood even better what he was saying to me. So many times I had worked so hard to be the perfect housekeeper and maintain my reputation as a good cook. But what did it matter if those things had been pursued at the sacrifice of time spent with my brother? He’s really gone. Why didn’t Jesus come and save him? I believed he was the Messiah and so many times before he has healed people. Why didn’t he come in time to heal Lazarus?
Elizabeth, my cousin, walked up to the circle and bent down to talk to me. “Martha, someone said they saw Jesus and His disciples coming down the road.”
“Finally!” Tears came to my eyes. “I’m going to go meet him.”
I got up and left the house quickly and walked out to the road. Sure enough, in the distance I saw a group of men walking towards me. An overwhelming desire to see Jesus came over me, and I broke into a run.
“Jesus!” I exclaimed as soon as I was within talking distance. “Where were you?”
“Martha.” The grief in my heart was reflected in his eyes.
“If you had been here, he wouldn’t have died!” Tears were running down my face now, and I made no attempt to stop them. Jesus hadn’t come in time, but I still believed in Him with all my heart. He hadn’t come, but He was the only one I could turn to in this dark night of the soul. “I still believe that whatever you ask from God He will give it to you, though.”
“Your brother will rise again.” His compassion spoke to my heart.
“I know He will rise in the resurrection at the end of the world.”
“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live even though he was dead. Whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” Jesus looked at me steadily.
I couldn’t follow the thought—I hadn’t slept well for days and my mind was numb and tired. I only knew one thing, and I said it with conviction. Jesus hadn’t come in time, but I still believed. “Yes, Lord, I believe that You’re the Messiah, the Son of God, the one we were waiting for to come into the world.”
He smiled. “Martha, can you go get Mary?”
I ran back to the house and bent over Mary where she sat with a group of mourners. “Mary,” I whispered so the others couldn’t hear. “Jesus is outside, and He wants to talk to you.”
“Finally!” she gasped and got up and ran out of the house. I saw the group of people who were sitting with her look at each other and get up to follow her. I trailed along behind, watching.
Mary had run to where Jesus stood on the road with his disciples. I saw her fall at His feet sobbing. I knew how she loved Jesus, and that she had been wondering, possibly even more than I, why He hadn’t come sooner.
At the sight of Mary’s tears, the group behind her started crying too. The tears were running down my own face.
Jesus reached out His hand and lifted Mary to her feet. “Where is his tomb?” He asked.
Hannah, always the leader in the times when a leader was needed, spoke up. “Lord, come see, we’ll show you.”
Jesus, the disciples, and the rest of us trailed after Hannah as she led the way to the tomb. Suddenly I noticed Jesus’ face as he walked in silence up the dusty road. Tears ran down his face and the broken look on his face made me sob in earnest. He obviously cared so deeply that Lazarus was gone. And yet, he hadn’t come, and surely, He was the Messiah and could have healed him had He been here.
I heard Hannah whisper to her husband, “Look, he loved him so much! But he’s healed blind men before, why couldn’t he have healed Lazarus before he died?”
I was annoyed at Hannah’s gossipy tone, and yet I myself wondered the same thing so I could say nothing. We had reached the grave and stood there in a forlorn semi-circle, staring at the stone over the mouth of the cave.
“Take the stone away from the mouth.” Jesus spoke in a controlled tone, the grief only etched on His face.
I stepped forward. “Lord, he’s been dead for four days! I’m sure the smell is terrible in there!” Mary cried harder at my words, but somebody had to speak the obvious.
“Didn’t I tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?” He glanced at me and then looked at the men in the group once again. “Take away the stone.”
They shrugged in disbelief but moved to obey Him. Jesus gave them a hand and then stood back and looked up into the blue sky above us. We watched quietly to see what He would do next.
“Father,” He said, as though Yahweh stood right next to Him. “I thank You that You have heard me. I know that You always hear me, but because of the people listening I have said this so that they believe that You sent me.”
He looked around the circle as we watched Him, tense and waiting for something, though we weren’t sure what. Suddenly he called out with a loud voice, into the cave, “Lazarus, come out!”
I watched with wide-eyes and heard Mary gasp beside me. We heard the sound of shuffling feet and the wrapped form of a man came to the mouth of the cave. He struggled with the graveclothes. We stood as though made of stone.
“Let him loose,” Jesus spoke to us, a gentle nudge that broke the spell that had fallen on us all.
Mary and I simultaneously ran to him and with the help of some of the men, we unwrapped him. There he stood, Lazarus himself, and we hugged him and cried some more. I was in shock.
“Oh, Lazarus, are you really here?”
He had a strange look on his face as he reached out and touched my face. “Yes, it’s me, Martha.”
There were so many things to say, but in the moment, I had no words. Jesus embraced Lazarus. “Welcome back, Lazarus.” He turned to me. “Would it be okay if my disciples and I came to your house for supper tonight?”
“Please do!” I said, “Let’s all go back now.”
We walked together down the road, still in a daze. I kept reaching out to touch Lazarus, and he smiled at me. “I can’t believe you’re here,” I said quietly.
When we got to the house, I walked into the kitchen to see what I could find to feed Jesus and His disciples. The men settled in the other room. I stood there, staring blindly at the wall in front of me. Jesus came! Lazarus is back! Yahweh loves us and sent us Jesus! I felt like rainbows were floating around my head. I burst into tears. I just wanted to go sit with Jesus and Lazarus and never think about food again. What is happening to me?
Suddenly Mary came into the room behind me and touched my shoulder. She looked concerned. “Are you okay, Martha?”
“I’m just so happy!” I sobbed.
“Yes,” she nodded understandingly with a smile on her gentle face. “You know what, this time why don’t you go sit with Jesus and Lazarus, and I’ll make the food.”
“Are you serious?” I looked at her incredulously.
“Unless you don’t trust me.” Doubt creased her forehead.
“Oh, I don’t care as long as there’s something for them to eat!”
“Wow, is this my sister?” Mary laughed.
“Laugh all you want! I’m leaving before you change your mind.” I all but ran out of the kitchen and into the next room. Lazarus and Jesus looked up and smiled as I came in. “Mary’s making the food,” I explained.
“Sit down, Martha. You’ve made a good choice.” Jesus motioned for me to sit.
I sat down and felt I never wanted to leave. Jesus spoke, and I knew His words were forever the words of life…