John 11:1-45 – The 5th Sunday of Lent – for Sunday, April 6, 2014
“Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’” (John 11:39)
Jesus had left for Ephraim with his disciples.
Mary was tending to Lazarus, by his bed while he slept. (And ate and slept and ate a little more.)
The crowds had dispersed. So many of our neighbors, along with the curious and suspicious, had traveled from the tomb to our home. They’d asked questions, whispered and schemed. There were those that loudly boasted they’d now follow Jesus to heaven or hell or Jerusalem or wherever he led. There were those already exaggerating my brother’s rebirth, telling of Jesus’ casting magical spells or seeing bolts of lightning before the rock at the tomb was removed or hearing angelic mutterings. And there were those who silently watched, never joining in the backslapping and cheering. They skulked away after they’d witnessed Lazarus emerging from the darkness. I knew they despised my brother and resented Jesus. I knew where this last group would go. They may have been close-mouthed here in Bethany, but a few hours later—mark my words—they’d conspire with the priests in the Temple or the Roman soldiers . . . and more likely both.
There was no safe place. Not in Bethany. Not anywhere.
But there was one place where I could be alone. I needed to think. Needed to pray. Needed to ask for forgiveness.
And so I’d returned to my brother’s tomb. Now empty, the hordes gone, and with this long, disturbing, divine day coming to a close. I reassured Mary I’d return before dark. Tonight, I’d stay by Lazarus’ side and give my sister a chance to rest.
In the cool shadow of the tomb’s threshold, its wide opening like a mouth forming a shout, I recalled the last days.
I told everyone, especially when the night of the third day came, that the stench from the tomb was a dead animal. A rat. A mole. A bird dragged inside by a feral cat. The stench was not my brother Lazarus. Continue reading →