When Leslie sends out this little reflection, we will be in the last two weeks, plus a day or two, of Lent. What was Jesus doing in these final days of his life on earth? Our four Gospels each give their specific account, and all agree that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem and the cross. On that way Jesus was teaching, healing, and revealing himself to be exactly and fully who he was. The one sent by God. The son of God. The Messiah.
I’m in the Gospel of John these days, and John has Jesus coming to his friends in Bethany when it is certain that Lazarus has died. You know the story. John records that Jesus left the safer terrain on the northwestern side of the Jordan to be with Martha and Mary. Jesus and his disciples, who had cautioned him to stay as far away from Jerusalem as he could, head straight to the region that gets him closer to his betrayals, his arrest, and his cross.
Let’s remind ourselves of a few facts. Jesus loved this quirky family of grown, unmarried siblings who did not fit the mold of a conventional Jewish household at all. Jesus loved each of them. He stayed with them when he was in their village. Both Luke and John make a point of how Jesus loved these people.
Jesus, momentarily in a safer region, knew Lazarus was ill and his sisters were asking for him to come to them. Jesus knew that Lazarus’ illness would lead to his death. Jesus knew heading east to Bethany was on the way to his crucifixion. And Jesus waited for Lazarus to die before he traveled to the family he loved. He had said, “It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (John 11: 4)
Martha runs first to meet Jesus on his way to Lazarus’ tomb. Jesus tells her he is the resurrection and the life. Next Mary gets her own exchange with Jesus, and Jesus has the same revelation for her. I find this so very tender. Here is The Life and The Resurrection, and he stands beside each of these sisters in separate exchanges facing their brother’s tomb. The tomb Lazarus has been in for four days. Jesus weeps for them.
Jesus cannot abide death. While he walked the earth, no one in his presence stayed dead. Think about it. He was here to conquer death, and on the cross he did. He raised Lazarus, the man we are told he loved. Lazarus, the man who never is recorded saying a word. The man of the three siblings we know the least about. He’s the one Jesus raised from the dead about two weeks or so before Jesus would die so Lazarus and the rest of us would never be defeated by death again.
I will never mine all the gold in this true and miraculous story. I do know this: We die little deaths during this time on earth, and certainly big ones, too. We lose relationships, we lose the people we love, we lose our youth, and we lose some very intoxicating idols that will fail us when we find ourselves in front of a tomb. It is Jesus who stands beside us. We cannot lose him.
May we remember daily in these final two weeks of Lent that Jesus comes to us when we ask him. Jesus may delay his response so that God’s glory can be revealed, but he hears us, and he does come. Jesus is the answer to all the death in our lives. Jesus has defeated death, he is defeating death, and he will defeat it for eternity when he comes to us again.