Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’ But when Jesus heard it, he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’ Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judea again.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?’ Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.’ After saying this, he told them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.’ Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’ Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow-disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’
Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus, "he whom you love is sick." Later in the gospel, the phrase "the disciple whom Jesus loved" is used six times:
I have always considered this one whom Jesus loved to be an archetype - one that could be me or you. What if we are the one whom Jesus loves?
And what if we are sick? And what if those who love us here on earth have sent word to Jesus, "the one whom you love is sick?" And then what if Jesus lingers in coming to help us? And then we, like Lazarus, die. Illness wins. Our family grieves. The mourning commences. Spices and arrangements. Flowers and prayers. Crying and despair. Questions of why are kicked around while our friends and family mingle around tables set with finger food, cheese, crackers, brownie bites, hummus and carrots.
Jesus didn't even make it to the funeral. Where is he? What could be more important than coming to our funeral? After all, he loved us. Everyone knew we had a special bond. Where was he? Why did we have to die? Life... liife is pain-filled, unpredictable, unsafe, fragile.
Friends of our parents who had come to the party begin to say their goodbyes and the crowd begins to thin. Our immediate family starts clearing the table. The conversation moves from small intimate discussions in the family room to silence in the kitchen while one sibling washes the dishes and the other dries the dishes.
There is a new silence that has entered the room. It is the silence that has replaced your voice, my voice - in our absence. And our family can hear the silence, feel the silence as if it is our presence but they know it is not our presence. Our presence is gone. We are gone. We died.
And Jesus didn't make it to the funeral.
One sister says to another, "go check to see if we missed any dishes." And the other sister turns around, crosses the threshold of the door between the kitchen and the dining room. She hears the screen door open and shut around the corner in the living room. She takes a few more steps and sees Jesus. They lock eyes and she begins to cry all over again, saying "why weren't you here?" Why didn't you help? We needed you. We asked; we sent word. Where were you? Where have you been? This wouldn't have happened had you come earlier.
She turns to get the other sister, still in the kitchen. Jesus has arrived. "Where?" In the living room. And with much more force, she asks the same questions... why? you loved him. if only...
Does Jesus hug them? Does he console them? Does he try to offer a reason? It seems he says things we are taught not to say to the grieving like, "It'll be alright." "He's with God now." "He will be resurrected."
Together they go to visit our grave site, newly covered with dirt. There is no headstone yet. It does not say here lies me or you, or Lazarus or the disciple whom Jesus loved. They stand around this buried friend and Jesus weeps.
And then Jesus calls him out of the grave, wrapped in burial cloths and... we, Lazarus, the disciple whom Jesus loved resurrects.
A lot happens between death and resurrection. In the same way I wish folks didn't miss the happenings of holy week, jumping from Palm Sunday to Easter, I don't want to rush in this story. I want to linger with the characters and sit with their feelings, their thoughts around death. I want to linger long enough to hear if Jesus has anything to say about the need for death. I want to imagine me as beloved, just like Lazarus, just like you. I want someone to send word to Jesus telling him that I am sick, that you are sick and I want to realize that Jesus would rather my sickness die than heal it in the now. Why would he rather that? Why does he prefer resurrection than healing? Because if he loves us, he certainly knows that we prefer healing.
Search this blog for a specific text or story:
I am grateful for