It’s Easter week. And shortly after Easter, a date will roll around on the calendar that will mark the 2 year anniversary of this place of death I have been living in. In two years’ time, I have seen more of the heart of Jesus than I have in the past few decades combined, but I am still in the tomb. He still has not resurrected me.
Easter, being difficult for me anyways (see last year’s post: “Easter Shadows”), has me searching this week. I know that if healing is to come, He will use His word to bring it. But most days, I don’t have the will to read. I don’t have the faith to believe I will be healed, and besides, I wonder what difference reading the word is going to make.
However, being Easter week, I also decided that at least I didn’t have to figure out what to read. I would just read the Easter “story”. So I flipped to John and found the very last event that led up to Passover:
The death and raising of Lazarus.
Hmmm. Never noticed the timing of that. Just before Jesus’ own death and resurrection, the last miracle He did….was raise a dead man. How appropriate.
So I began reading this morning, and unlike every other time I have opened my Bible in the past several months, it was as if perspective was written in between every line of this story! I could literally see and feel the story through the eyes of almost every single person mentioned. I want to share these perspectives with you, and the lessons I am taking from them over this week as we journey to Easter.
Even though I am not really sure what the total yield will be, I am hoping for a resurrection of my heart in this story, and hoping the same for you, if you need it.
I hesitate to publish this, because tomorrow I might be speechless, without a voice again. The pages might be dark again. And perspective may vanish. If that happens, then it happens. All I have heard today in my head over and over since reading this story is ONE line from the song “Loved” by JJ Heller: “Freedom comes in letting go.”
So, today, I am letting go of my heart here. Afraid that I won’t be able to finish this. Afraid that it won’t make sense to anyone else. Afraid that in the end, it won’t even make sense to me. Or that any hope gained will die, yet again. And yet, here it is……
“Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on The Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. So the sisters, sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” (John 11:1-3)
Let’s set this stage up properly to begin with. Notice, the text makes mention of this Mary being “the one” that had history with Jesus. She wasn’t just any Mary. She was one of his most devoted followers, and was known for her abandoned, extravagant love for The Lord.
I’m pretty sure this is emphasized for a reason. The sisters don’t just send the message that “Lazarus, our brother, is sick.” No, they emphasize their personal relationship with Jesus, even in the message: “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
These sisters are confident that their Lord knows them and their brother intimately, and that he will act quickly on their behalf because of their intimate relationship with him. They are not just people Jesus knows. They are His beloved, and they even remind Him of this with their sent words.
There is an expectation on their part – an unspoken one, that surely Jesus will save their brother before he dies.
Jesus responds to the messenger, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” (v.4)
I imagine that this messenger, most likely confused as to why Jesus did not come with him right away, still went back and reported to Mary and Martha, and even Lazarus, exactly what their beloved Lord had said, word for word, and then some: “Great news! Jesus says that this sickness will not end in death! He’s going to be ok! Lazarus, buddy, take heart! Jesus said you’re going to be fine!!!
But as Lazarus passed further and further into sickness, finally slipping into death, I wonder what they were thinking about the words of their Lord the messenger had relayed. I can imagine the sisters went back to that messenger, more than once, asking again, “What exactly did The Lord say? Because HE IS DYING HERE?!?”
And what was Lazarus himself thinking, as he lay there, knowing that Jesus had said that his sickness would not end in death?? What were his last thoughts about Jesus as he slipped into death? Did he doubt that Jesus was the Christ? Did he doubt his position as one of Jesus’ beloveds?
I can very much relate with Lazarus, the “one Jesus loved.” When I was thrust into this current season of sickness, pain, and darkness, I did not have the strength to get up from my place of pain and brokenness and go seek an answer from Jesus myself.
Instead, my husband went on my behalf, as a messenger. Distressed at watching me slip into hopelessness and the terror of my past, he went straight to Jesus, with a plea for my life: “Jesus, she is hurting and in deep, deep pain in every way. Come quickly and save her! After all, she is the one that you love!”
And Jesus’ answer to my husband, over and over, has always been the same: “I will heal her.”
And yet, like Lazarus, I have continued to slip further and further away from what Jesus said, and further and further into the darkness of my physical circumstance of severe, chronic pain, and, worse, the post traumatic response to that pain that has generously dumped more than a lifetime of painful memories upon me.
Pain is a blinding thing. It hangs like a thick, dark cloud over every minute of every day. And the fact that this pain is a reminder of ALL of the years of pain I have endured, it seems to me that all my life has ever been – or ever will be – is suffering. This perspective makes me question the messenger, and the heart of Jesus every single day.
I know how it feels to think that Jesus must not have really loved me the way I thought He did. I know what it is to keep slipping further and further toward the edge of losing this battle, much as Lazarus must have felt, desperately wondering if Jesus is really coming for me.
I can imagine every question, every doubt, every pain Lazarus must have felt as He lay there, getting sicker and sicker by the moment….not understanding where Jesus was, and why Jesus had not come to heal him yet.
Maybe Lazarus wondered if Jesus had forgotten, or gotten too busy, or maybe just simply decided he wasn’t worth the time or the risk. Maybe he wondered if Jesus had lied, or if the messenger had lied, just to give him hope.
Whatever he was thinking, he eventually slipped into the sleep of death. I can relate, as though not a physical death, everything else in me has died on this sickbed. Every promise. Every hope. Every dream. The healing I thought I had – all gone. My strength, my ability to even put two thoughts together most days…..It is a dark, dark tomb where I lay, displaying to myself and the world the apparent failure of the One who promised to come…but hasn’t.
I get Lazarus.
And so does Jesus.
Because even though we are left to guess, Jesus knows exactly what Lazarus was thinking in those hours before his death.
And Jesus still came for him anyways.
This lifts my heart today. He knows my weakness. He knows my pain. He knows my thoughts and my brokenness and all that has died within me.
And yet nothing is going to stop Him from coming for me.
I don’t know if this story means anything to you, or if you can relate with Lazarus in any way. At some point, Lazarus closed his eyes and drifted into death.
No matter how close we may come to that point, we can know that He IS coming for us.
And today, I will find comfort in just that.
What about Martha and Mary? What were they thinking? And what about the bystanders? Those Jews who came to pay their respects and offer condolences to the family….what were they thinking when Jesus showed up?
Until tomorrow….or so.