John 11: 1 – 7
“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.”
When he heard this, Jesus 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.”
We’re going to spend a few days with this familiar story of the sickness, death, and raising of Lazarus. This story comes as the heat on Jesus from the religious leaders is intensifying. They have already tried to stone him. The time of his passion is near.
Let’s notice the way that love finds its way into the story. First, the sisters send word to Jesus that the “one that he loves is sick”. At first blush this might sound rather passive aggressive. “Remember Jesus – you love our brother – so we need you to show up!” But given the closeness of the relationship between Jesus and the siblings, it is more likely that in their worry and concern, they want to invite Jesus into the intimacy of their need.
Next, the narrator of the text intentionally informs us that Jesus loved the siblings. Love weaves the characters together. And lest we wonder if Jesus has callously chosen to stay two days after hearing the news, emphasis is put on the love shared. Sometimes loving another is painful. And Jesus must have carried the weight of waiting and its impact on the siblings heavy on his heart.
I have always appreciated how Martha is named as being loved by Jesus. So often Martha gets a bad rap for being the one who was busy serving and asking Jesus to tell Mary to help her. But Martha shows up in this story as named and given special affirmation.
This story – one of waiting, loss, confusion is none-the-less marked by love and care.
In the inevitable times when we question where God is when we hurt, when we grieve, when we need divine intervention, let us remember how intentionally love marks such times.
Do you remember the first time you heard this story of Lazarus? What struck you about the story?
Think of a time when you longed to sense God’s presence, protection, or provision – and wondered where God was. Looking back, how do you see that time now?
We confess that it is easy for us to assume a lack of love when it seems you are absent or silent God. Stir up in us the faith to know that your love is always with us – even when it feels like it isn’t. Keep us in your grace. Amen.