Today is Lazarus Saturday, the day that the "Church universal" traditionally
commemorates Jesus' resurrection of Lazarus. Lazarus was one of Jesus' three documented death-to-life miracles, but is the most dramatic and significant.
The reason for this can be found in the words of Martha, Lazarus' sister. First...the story, which is found in the Gospel of John, chapter 11, verses 1 to 45.
Jesus is out of town, a messenger comes to tell him that his best friend Lazarus is deathly ill. Because it has taken the messenger days to reach Jesus and his group, any reasonable person of that time and place would have assumed that the man spoken of would be dead. Jesus did, and in the practical and pragmatic way of the Ancients, stayed put. This seems a little off to us, after all, we know what's happening in real time and it's in our cultural DNA to respond swiftly and effectively to issues. Not so in the Ancient Near East. They responded to a different rhythm and lived at a different pace. When Jesus does finally make his way back, Lazarus who has been dead a number of days, embalmed, buried and placed in a tomb is eventually raised to life again by Jesus' prayer to his Abba father God.
But the story-within-the-story is really the juiciest part... Bookended between verses 27 and 39 we see the mini story of Martha's conversion. We see her tell Jesus in verse 27 that she believes in him, and she declares he is the Christ. Then, she runs and calls her sister to come to Jesus and the two of them spend some seriously formative and emotionally intimate time with Jesus communally processing all kinds of raw feelings and being vulnerable and present to each other. Then Jesus gets ready to move beyond the emotion to action, and Martha... confused by the facts... says: "But Lord...he stinks...he's putrefying!" Seriously...she went there: Buzz kill. MAJOR buzz kill.
In those mere twelve verses, the writer takes us through all the major steps of conversion (wrestling, belief, joy, desire to draw others in, shared intimacy, and tada: disbelief). And that's the beauty of it. I don't know about you, but this story bolsters me and comforts me immensely. Why? Because Jesus doesn't let the story end in a buzz kill. He doesn't let Martha's temporary insane disbelief be the last word. He doesn't let her speak her reality into his plans to showcase a new reality...one in which death has no power, and the impossible is possible; one in which putrefaction can be purified and repurposed.
So, dear friends:
Let's not let our "this stinks beyond redemption" moments be the last word. Let us allow Jesus' redeeming, healing, repurposing-of-putrefaction-power have the Final Say in the midst of our messy lives!
May You Be Blessed on this gloomy Lazarus Saturday, in the hopeful knowledge that Resurrection Sunday is coming!