The Lazarus Project

My brother is a great guy, always has it together.
I’m normally a bit of a mess…

Ryan was the sort of kid who could roll underground and process things in a controlled manner so that what came out seemed reasonable. I was the other sort of kid whose “process” was verbal and outward and… NOW.

I would say his childhood was in many regards easier than mine. I’m not saying it was easy and I’m not saying I’m in any way superior to the man he has become, I may in fact be extremely jealous, but my existence has been a somewhat terrifying one for this reason: I can’t seem to escape the immediate pain of the NOW or process some things in a way you would look at and admire. I don’t admire it, it just IS.

The main character in the death and resurrection of Lazarus, surprisingly, is not Lazarus. You could say it’s Jesus (the Sunday school answer to every question), but this week I read it in a different light.

Lazarus had two sisters. One had it together and the other did not. One was responsible and controlled and the other was a hot mess.

Jesus and Lazarus were friends, which we don’t really see much of in the New Testament. Lazarus gets deathly ill in the Gospel of John chapter 11 and his sisters send for Jesus, who waits until Lazarus is good and dead before beginning his journey to resurrect him.

This fascinates me. Did Jesus have to travel anywhere to heal or resurrect anyone? What is he doing here then?

He arrives while the mourning process is well under way four days after his friend dies and Martha comes out to meet him. She says all the right things and believes all the right things. She’ll mourn when she can, but she has a funeral to host!

Mary doesn’t come out of the house. “We sent for YOU and you didn’t come! I ain’t comin out! I don’t want to talk to you right now! I don’t want to see you! I’m hurt and spiralling out of control and it’s YOUR fault! You let this thing happen to us! You didn’t stop it and you could have!”

I totally get that way…
Oh, don’t look down your cultured, proper nose at me! I wish I didn’t get it. I wish I could go into lockdown and deal with it behind closed doors, it’s just not something I can do.

“If you were mature like me you would!”
Mature eh?

I feel in the exchange between Jesus and Martha that he is trying to change how she is processing this whole thing, but she is so busy believing the right things that she is not engaged with the right one HERE AND NOW. Jesus speaks and her response is “I know exactly what you’re talking about! It’s this ______!” But Martha was lacking a piece that Mary had and she didn’t know it.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the DESIRE comes it is a tree of life” Proverbs 13:12

Mary hears that Jesus wants to see her and she immediately comes out. Most people wouldn’t do this. Most people don’t want anyone to see them in the middle of a messed up state where they don’t know what they believe anymore, hurt, disappointed, angry. She doesn’t want to see him, but what changes her mind in a moment is that she heard he wanted to see her. Like this?

Something happens when Jesus sees her weeping and… wailing.

He got angry. Like really angry.

He goes to the tomb, summons Lazarus and the rest is history.

Something about Mary’s sickness of heart and deeply expressed pain changes the mood of the Son of God.

Have you ever heard a grown adult wail? I mean lose-their-mind wail? I have. The most terrifying thing I’ve ever heard. I wish I could forget it but I can recall the raw, horrific sound welling up from deep inside the heart of someone whose mind had just shattered. People in war-torn countries have seen the hollow eyes of those victims who won’t recover whatever normality they had before.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick..”

This word deferred could also be translated “drawn back as a bow”.

Martha’s hope had been calculated. She only drew back the bow so far. Keep this much gas in the tank at all times, feel only this much, control yourself, measure out what you think you can give.

Mary drew back the bow all the way. With frail arms and a broken heart the pain pushes her mind and heart to the point that it must all fall to pieces.

Jesus enters in that moment and she let’s it all go and falls at his feet.

It evokes a response in him that results not only in her dead brother coming to life, but in the resurrection of her dead heart.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick…”

Lazarus was healed of his sickness.

So was Mary.

I’m still not sure if Martha was…


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