Holy Week opens tonight with John’s story of Jesus’ final meal with the Bethany siblings, and we’re going to trace Mary’s story.
She was the sister of Lazarus and Martha, and she knew grief.
Mary’s first grief was the death of her brother.
Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were probably the closest thing Jesus had to personal friends.
If the twelve apostles were his chosen students and fellow ministers, the Bethany siblings were the ones he went to when he needed some downtime.
They spent many an evening together in the little house in Bethany, laughing, talking, eating, and sharing their lives.
We know how close they are from a thousand small details in the text, not the least of which is the sisters’ message to Jesus begging him for help: “Lord, he whom you love is ill.”
But Jesus doesn’t come. He doesn’t arrive.
For some greater purpose, Jesus does not come to the rescue, and the worst happens. Lazarus dies.
Mary loved Jesus as a friend, as a teacher, as a companion of her heart.
She loved him, and she believed in him. Moreover, she trusted him.
But now Lazarus is dead, and Mary and Martha blame Jesus. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died,” they both say.
Mary’s grief for her brother is mixed and mingled with an equally deep grief she can barely bring herself to acknowledge: she is grieving the death of the Jesus she thought she knew. Continue reading