What were Mary's and Martha's thoughts during Lazarus' illness and dying? Those who have nursed a loved one during such time may know.
On one side, there is the growing realization that the dreaded moment creeps closer and closer. On the other side, nursed by shreds of prayer and stories of miracles, there is childlike hope. Maybe, maybe, God will hear our pleas and those eyes that are closing will open, healthy and joyful. All will be well again. Maybe.
It must have been much harder for Mary and Martha, the friends of living Man-God.
'I am going to open your graves and bring you up from your graves, O my people.'
Jesus, Messiah and Son of God, shared their simple meals and roof with them, talked with them, smiled and laughed. They saw him pray and had full knowledge of his divine powers.
The disciples shared what they witnessed: the blind regained sight, the paralyzed walked, demons were cast out and the greatest miracle of all – sins were forgiven.
Mary nursed in her heart memories of the day when she washed Jesus' feet with her tears and poured costly oil on his head, and the sweetest memory of all – how she was forgiven her sins, all her sins. Only a true sinner can understand the wild joy and freedom of being forgiven by God.
The two sisters and their brother probably never asked Jesus for anything. You do not "use" such friendship, you treasure it. You wear it like an armour and like a royal cloak. You sing of it to the sky, wind and flowers; you dance such friendship as David danced before the Ark.
It is easy to believe and love God when all is well.
Lazarus became desperately ill suddenly. Against their better judgment, knowing Jesus was in danger and that they lived only three kms from the seat of his enemies, the two sisters sent for him. Days passed and Jesus was not coming.
How many times did Martha run out of the house at the sound of voices? How many times did she come back, resigned? Did they succumb to the growing suspicion that he did not care enough? Or that he was afraid to come to Bethany, so close to Jerusalem?
How did they take their neighbours' comments? "Some friend! He healed hundreds of people, but he would not come to lift his friend from this terrible illness. And you all loved him so much."
Then came Lazarus' death and his burial, as cruelly real and tangible as all funerals are. There was the wrapping of his inert body, carrying it to the cave, the rolling of the stone. Four days and four nights of mourning pass.
Then, Jesus comes.
We all know the happy ending to this story, and we all know the words which offer hope in the face of the final loss. We usually hear them at the darkest hour and often we miss their real meaning of deepest hope.
"I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
To this question, difficult as it is, there is only one answer, no matter how hard it may be to utter it, especially at the time of suffering: "I trust in the Lord; my soul trusts in his word." The key to God's heart is trust.