Have you ever lost someone close to you, someone so dear that you just wanted to cry out in anger and pain and say “NO?” I know I have.
The Gospel reading for today is from John 11:17-27, and gives some of the events surrounding the death of Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary.
The story tells us Martha and Mary sent for their friend, Jesus when Lazarus became seriously ill. They were reaching out to their friend, to be with them, to do what he had done for so many others, yet, Jesus delays, he does not come immediately. Martha goes to meet Jesus when she hears he is coming.
Martha says, “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.” I wonder about the tone of Martha’s voice at this point in her encounter. Was there anger, accusation, pain, grief? It seems reasonable to me that all of those feelings would be present. Her comment seems to indicate both her disappointment and her hope.
Martha was the outspoken sister, the one who said what she meant. Why not, the scriptures tell us, they were friends. The sisters had every expectation Jesus would come quickly and heal their brother. Friends do what they have the power to do to help each other, to ease pain, to heal!
To the practical Martha, it was reasonable to ask Jesus to heal her brother. She says, “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” Martha is clear and direct with Jesus. She puts it all on the line. Martha is hurting and she is making it clear what she wants from Jesus.
Jesus, however, takes the conversation to a new level and challenges Martha’s faith and her faith is real. It isn’t tied to what she so desperately wants. Her faith is very deep even in the midst of her pain, disappointment, anger. Martha recognizes who Jesus is and states, “You are the Christ, the Son of God.”
Her belief is not about signs and wonders, getting what she wants, easing her pain. Her belief runs to the very core of her being.
Martha’s faith astounds me and invites me to question the depth of my belief. Can I can genuinely say I believe in the midst of deep pain and sorry? Can I let go of my way, my dream, my hope? Can I believe when the chips are down and nothing seems to be working out or making sense? Can I step back, take a breath and believe in the God who is with me, loving me in all the places in my life? Can you?
Martha’s story reminds, challenges, and invites us to do just that. “Lord, we believe.”