Bible Study, Faith, Spiritual Encouragement, Stories from Scripture
Comment 1

Mary of Bethany: Broken, Flagrant Faith

Every day since Lazarus walked, alive and whole, out of that tomb seemed like a new gift to unwrap. Everyone speaks of second chances, but when you really get one, the air around you is electric with possibility and hope.

I learned something on that awful, wonderful day when Jesus came walking up our lane and we knew we’d have to tell him he was too late: Lazarus had succumbed to the sickness that had wasted his body. We’d washed his spare, slack limbs and rubbed the oils into his skin, wound the cloth around him and set him to rest in the family tomb.

I’d fallen at Jesus’ feet, just crumpled with despair. I had so many questions but I just blurted out, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” We knew Jesus could have healed Lazarus. So lost I was. What would Martha and I do now? What were we supposed to even believe?

And Jesus’ tears matched my own and his shoulders shook from the sobbing and our tears streamed from our noses. Death is a cruel master.

I’m not so good with words, like Martha. I know my heart, but she can stand strong and keep on with work and life. She is a rock, my sister. But I tell you, we both were overcome with grief, for the loss of our brother and the indescribable disappointment that Jesus, the same who healed so many other sick people, didn’t save our brother.

Jesus placed his hand on my head, then stood and turned toward the tomb. I heard his voice speak through the tears, low and gravelly, “Take away the stone.”

I heard my sister protest. Her confusion matched my own. If Lazarus was to be dead, so be it. Did he doubt us? Did he think we were making this up?

“Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

I sat up from the dirt and saw Jesus earnestly looking at Martha, into her eyes. Did she believe? Did I? No man has seen the glory of God and lived. What was he even saying?

Then Jesus prayed, took a deep breath and then shouted, “Lazarus! Come out!”

I sat still as a stone in the dirt and watched the unbelievable.

Lazarus walked out of that tomb.

Oh the laughter! The praise! The amazed gasps and the tears of joy washing away those tears of sadness. I thought I’d been cried out, but all day and the next, I wept happy tears.

Who could not believe in Jesus? Who, after all we’ve seen and heard could deny he was the Messiah? Who could call him a charlatan, a trickster—or worse?

What I learned on that day was this: I could trust in every word Jesus said.

I may not understand, I may not be able to see the reason or the method or tease apart the parables I heard the disciples discussing, but I knew without even a shadow of doubt that Jesus’ words held all truth and all power. I never would despair again. Even death would not be our master!

Lazarus and Martha and I knew that from that point on, we were in danger. The teachers of the law were angry and threatened, their politics compromised. They had power. And although we have connections and influence, or rather Lazarus does, we were targets. We were watched.

So we decided that since they’re watching our every move, the best thing to do is throw a party! Passover and the feast of Unleavened Bread were coming soon and we’d have to clean the whole house anyway, rid the place of any yeast, empty the cupboards and jars. So, why not invite them all, Jesus, the twelve, all our friends and family, to come here and celebrate before they continue on into Jerusalem for the Passover?

Besides, I am not afraid anymore. I had heard that Jesus said: My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.

I know his voice. I am safe.

That night, after Lazarus returned from death, I heard Jesus’ followers, some of the twelve, talking in low voices about something Jesus had said. They were trying to decide if it was really safe for them to go on into Jerusalem for Passover. It seemed that Jesus was determined to return to the city of David, even though there were rumors of plots to kill him. And John said, “Remember the words of Jesus: We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.”

I heard them making plans to try and persuade Jesus to not go to Jerusalem during Passover, that with Lazarus returned to living, the chief priests would grow enraged and Peter said they’d stop at nothing. No, they agreed, they could not return to Jerusalem, not yet. The atmosphere would be too charged. Besides, they reckoned that Jesus wasn’t speaking literally, but in a parable, as he’s so apt to do. The conversation they had about his death must have symbolized something else.

But I knew that every word Jesus spoke was true. I didn’t know what it meant entirely, but I could trust him, even with my very life –and I do!

So the night of the dinner party, the house and courtyard bulged with people. All of our friends and relations were there, and people from all around wanted to have a look at Lazarus, alive and well and strong again. They left gifts all around the place for Jesus, pledged their lives and loyalty to him. The air vibrated with the word, “Messiah.”

I, overwhelmed with gratitude, fetched my gift, felt the cool alabaster in my hands and waited for the opportunity to give it to him. And I remembered the quiet conversation I’d overheard before and then I heard Jesus say to his neighbor at the table, “I will be going to Jerusalem tomorrow, first thing in the morning.”

I knew in that moment that I would not see Jesus alive again. He would be killed and I may not have the opportunity to prepare him for burial as I did Lazarus. Besides, he said he would rise again, didn’t he?

He would rise again!

I jumped to my feet and in one swift movement knelt before him and broke the seal on my jar. I poured the pure nard over his feet. Every drop. It was intensely strong, the fragrance of it, a scent my mind had associated with death before.

But death is life with Jesus! This scented oil is the oil of life.

And I cried and laughed and silently praised Jehovah for this Son of God, this good shepherd, this friend who gave our brother life again….but I didn’t say a word. I let the perfume speak as it filled the nostrils and corners of the room.

Believe him! I pleaded silently. Trust him, I begged without words. He will not fail you. He would rise again!

He’d left before dawn and I was still sleeping. The house lingered yet with the scent of the oil and the freshness of dew, but Jesus was gone. The next time I saw Jesus, he was the same, but different. Every word he’d spoken had come true.

He did die. A horrible death that I could not watch. But I counted, three days and three nights, and waited for the news.

I knew that Jesus would return, and that he would come visit us again. We were friends after all. And I knew I could trust him.

///

 

Friends,

Sometimes I read the scriptures and I want to imagine being there, do you? Mary and Martha’s story, and the resurrection of Lazarus and the anointing of Jesus’ feet can be found in John’s gospel. Mary was not a person of influence, but she remains an example of extravagant faith. Most accounts of her in Scripture reveal that she was often on the ground, at the feet of Jesus. She offered her faith wholeheartedly. And, although the disciples failed to see the truth in Jesus’ words, his prediction of his death and resurrection, Mary believed him. The nard that she used to anoint his feet was costly stuff—worth a full years’ wages. And she didn’t think twice. Jesus was worth every drop.

Is Jesus worth every drop to me? Do I kneel in trust and faith? Do I take him at his word? Do I flagrantly worship him?

Mary is an example of a true believer. Absolutely sold out. She was not merely a fan of Jesus, but a friend. I have so much to learn from her.

Alyssa

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