Lenten Meditation for the Fifth Sunday – 6 April 2014
The Raising of Lazarus from Martha’s Perspective – John 11: 1-45
On this fifth Sunday of Lent, I invite us to hear the familiar story of the raising of Lazarus from Martha’s perspective. What follows is what I imagine Martha would have said about what happened that day:
Oh, hello. Just tidying up a bit. You know, I have a reputation for that. You remember that story, don’t you? Jesus had come to our house for dinner — the house that my sister Mary and my brother Lazarus and I lived in — we were his family of choice, and he was always hanging out at our house. Well, I was flying around in the kitchen clanging pots and pans trying to get everything ready. I was pretty stressed out about having Jesus over for dinner, so I really flew off the handle when I noticed my sister Mary was just sitting around chatting with Jesus instead of helping me out. So I said, “Jesus, don’t you care that I am in here doing all this by myself? Tell Mary to get in here and help me.” He replied, “Martha, Martha, Martha, you worry too much. Mary has chosen the better part.”
Well, I have sort of gotten a bad rap from that story ever since, but my brother wouldn’t have come back from the dead if I didn’t have chutzpah to march down the road and meet Jesus that day.
I have to say, I was a little miffed with Jesus for not showing up sooner. Mary and I had sent word to him several days earlier that Lazarus was ill. So when I heard that Jesus was on the road just outside of town four days after we had buried Lazarus, I went out to meet him. With my hand on my hip, I said, “If you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.” And no sooner had those words come out of my mouth, I said in the same breath, “But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.”
Have you ever had that happen to you? You know, it’s like you make a complaint and a statement of trust all in one sentence. I pointed out to Jesus that because he was late, Lazarus was dead, then turned around and implied that he could do something about it. Conversations with Jesus are often like that. He is just as interested in our complaints as he is in our trust and faith.
So they rolled away the stone, and after Jesus had prayed a very simple prayer, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” We had never heard Jesus raise his voice. I mean, it was really loud. I think that is where you get the phrase, ‘loud enough to wake the dead.’ And sure enough, a few seconds later, we saw this mummy-like figure stumble out of the tomb, squirming, trying to stay upright, trying to walk, but Lazarus’ hands and feet were still bound in his grave clothes and his face still wrapped in a shroud. We all just stood there speechless, and finally Jesus said, “Unbind him. Let him go.”
You could say this is a coming out story. Jesus is always calling us to come out. To come out of the places that are killing us — maybe it is a job, or a relationship, or an addiction, or an attitude. Jesus says ‘come out.’ Jesus is asking us to consider the things in our lives that keep us bound and stumbling — half alive: fear, hatred, resentment. Jesus says those have no hold on us as his disciples.