Tomorrow we celebrate a Resurrection.
“Resurrection”: The act of restoring a dead person; the condition of having been restored to life.
As I’ve been studying Mary of Bethany – and her role in the Passion Week – there is another resurrection story I’ve heard time and time again, but for the first time I understood the significance of it as I tried to view it through the eyes of Mary.
Mary lived with her brother Lazarus and her sister Martha. Jesus was a close personal friend. Biblical scholars believe that Jesus stayed at their home when he was in Bethany.
I imagine that Mary knew that when Jesus was in Jerusalem for Hanukkah, his Jewish opponents picked up stones to kill him, but He escaped when they tried to capture him and left the area.
A few months later Mary’s brother Lazarus was very sick.
What it would have been like to be a fly on the wall in that home, watching these three siblings who loved Jesus, deal with a tragic situation.
I can imagine Mary and Martha, in hushed tones, debating what to do:
– People in town want to kill Jesus
– But we need Jesus to come here to save Lazarus
– But what if Jesus comes to save Lazarus and the people who want to kill him find him?
Finally they sent word to Jesus “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
Did the sisters ever doubt that Jesus would come? Did they doubt He could save their brother? Or that He would?
Mary knew what is felt like to watch someone she loved dying. She knew what it was like to call out to Jesus for healing. She knew what it was like to wait for Jesus.
When Jesus heard about Lazarus’s sickness He said: “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?” (John 11: 4 – 8)
Jesus knew that a visit to Bethany would ultimately lead to His death. But He went anyways, because He loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus. He also knew said that the sickness would not END in death. It didn’t end in Lazarus’s death and it didn’t end in Jesus’s death. It ended in God’s glory and our resurrection.
Imagine Mary, sitting in mourning with her friends and family and experiencing the heart-wrenching loss of her beloved brother. When Jesus arrived she left her friends and ran to Jesus and fell to His feet, sobbing. She cried out to him, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
What emotions might Mary have been experiencing at that moment?
– Fear for Jesus?
And then when Mary lifted her eyes from Jesus’s feet to His face, she saw His eyes glistening with tears.
Mary watched as Jesus wept.
And then she watched Jesus raise her brother from the dead. She watched her beloved brother, whose flesh had already begun to rot, walk out of the tomb.
And just like Jesus’s disciples had suspected, there were people who watched the miracle of the resurrection of Lazarus and instead of believing in Jesus, they went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done and they began to plot to kill Jesus.
When Jesus was on the road to Bethany and saw Mary running to him and crying at His feet He already knew that He would raise Lazarus from the dead. He knew that in resurrecting Lazarus the plot for His crucifixion would begin. He knew that after His crucifixion, God would raise Him from the dead. And He knew that through His resurrection, all humankind would have the opportunity for resurrection: the act of restoring a dead person; the condition of having been restored to life.
Jesus knew that the one He loved was sick and even though it would lead to His death, Jesus made the journey to Bethany to save him.
And He made the journey for Martha, because He loved her.
And He made the journey for Mary, because He loved her.
And He made the journey to the cross for you. And He made the journey to the cross for me. Because He loves us.