Today's passage: John 11
The days preceding Lazarus' death must have been torturous for his sisters, Mary and Martha. They had already sent word to Jesus, they expected His arrival at any moment. I can imagine, managerial Martha instructing Mary to get the beds ready for Jesus and his disciples. She most likely had a menu planned for the days He would be there. Mary would have been sitting by Lazarus' side, recalling their childhood days, holding his hand, soothing his forehead, while Martha kept busy changing wash basins and providing clean linens to ward off any more disease in the house. We don't know what Lazarus died from, we just know he had been sick. Then the unthinkable happens. Lazarus dies. I imagine even Martha stopped her busyness for the last few hours of Lazarus' life. I imagine that even she sat with Mary by his side, as they watched him take his last breath. They would have cried together. They would have tried to comfort one another. They may have wondered what would have happened to Jesus, to keep Him from coming.
Shortly after, Martha would have gotten to work on the arrangements. She would have hired mourners (that would be an interesting job description--professional mourner), she would have selected a burial tomb, she would have told friends and neighbors to put out word that her brother had died, and would have made arrangements for the memorial service. She would have had a reception afterward and would knead the bread herself. Martha would hide her grief beneath the work that needed to be done. When Jesus does arrive, it is Martha that goes out to meet him. She seems to have the greater faith this time, because she tells Him that even now He could heal her brother.
Mary is noticeably missing. She has stayed behind at the house. Melancholy Mary, the emotionally sensitive sister, the one who in the next chapter will break her box of precious ointment and pour it on Jesus' feet does not come out to meet Jesus right away. Her brother's death has challenged her faith. She seems to have lost some of it. Was this the same Jesus who had healed so many? Was this the One who had eaten at their table, with their living brother, time after time? Maybe Mary was feeling foolish. She had believed that this was God's Son. Had she been mistaken? I can't claim to know what was going on in Mary's mind and heart, but I would have doubted, wouldn't she? She finally leaves the house and goes out to meet Jesus, but out of grief, just falls at his feet. I would not have known how to talk to Jesus after this event. I would have averted my eyes lest He should see my disappointment. My shoulders would have shook with weeping as I kneeled at His feet, eyes cast down, wishing for an explanation. I would have trembled when I spoke, trying to restrain the hint of bitterness creeping into my tone. I don't know at all, if this is what Mary's reaction was, from her words it was evident she felt God had let her down--"...Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died." I may be reading too much into these words, but it certainly sounds as if Mary's heart is breaking not just because her brother was dead, but because the only One who could have saved him, had not.
Is this why, in verse 35, "Jesus wept"? He knew that Mary would not understand all this. He knew that not understanding would cause her additional pain. He knew that not understanding would lead her to feel deserted by Him. I wonder if Jesus still weeps for us when we don't understand what He's doing? I wonder, if when we are going through the emotional wringer, Jesus is emotionally wrung as well, because He knows we can't see what's coming next? He knows we are clueless that He is about to do the miraculous. Jesus is about to raise Lazarus from the grave, but until He does, Mary is in pain. As His children, this must bring Him pain too.
When I face a Lazarus time in my life, I need to not forget that Lazarus didn't stay dead. He was brought back to life. Though the four days he was dead seemed infinite, I need to patiently endure what God is working in my life and know that it is painful for Him to watch me go through it.