Scripture John 11:17-27
Mary has always been the one of us who truly gets it, who understands what ultimately matters. It makes me envy her actually, in the way the siblings always envy the parts of their brothers and sisters they wish they had. I’ve always been the responsible big sister, the one who would take care of all the practical things. Mary is always in the present moment, she’s thoughtful and smart, but maybe a little too willing to go wherever the Spirit leads her, though this means she is truly led by the Spirit, who guides her to sit at the feet of our Savior.
I’m Martha, by the way. It’s wonderful to be here with all of you, to tell you about the experiences, challenging, tragic, and wonderful, that Mary and our brother Lazarus and I had with Jesus. You probably know us best from the story that Luke told, the story of Mary and Martha. We had been following Jesus and his teachings as best we could, when one day we received word that he was soon to be arriving in town! We figured that of course we should invite him to our house. Now, we tended to keep things in order, but you know, there is always work to be down to keep things picked up. And this wasn’t just any guest we were about to host. I mean, what were we going to feed him? And not just Jesus, but his disciples as well. “Was there enough food in the house?” I wondered. I got to work straight away, but before I knew it, he arrived, and there was still so much to be done, plus they brought in a whole new wave of dust with them. Mary had been helping, don’t get me wrong, but as soon as Jesus arrived, she just went and sat by him, listening. This was quite bold of her, I thought, sitting in a place normally only a man would sit in. I kept right on working, the work had to get done right? And I was listening to the conversation as much as I could. But after awhile, I started getting frustrated, here I was doing all the work while Mary acted just like the guests. But when I mentioned this to Jesus, who spent so much time teaching us how to live, he responded that Mary had the better way figured out! He gently asked why I was distracted and worried by so many things, while my sister had the one most important thing figured out.
I tried to change, to be less worried about the daily tasks of life and pay more attention to my faith and trying to just learn from Jesus. Some of the time we were able to follow him, and watch and listen to what he did and said. I tried to trust him and what he taught us. We got to know him pretty well, he came by our house when possible, and we enjoyed the fellowship and laughter that we shared. A year or so after that first dinner, our brother Lazarus, who is between Mary and I age-wise, took seriously ill. We had seen Jesus heal others, and Jesus and Lazarus were close, so Mary and I sent Jesus a message telling him that the one whom he loved was sick. One of the disciples later told me that when Jesus heard the message, he said something that at the time seemed fairly cryptic, something about this illness not leading to death but to the glory of God. You see, at the time it did not make sense because Lazarus died. Jesus had stayed where he was for a couple days more, and by the time we received word he was coming, our brother had died four days earlier. We had even performed the ritual of opening the tomb on the third day to confirm that he was dead. Family and friends were at the house with us, mourning. When they were close enough, I left to go meet Jesus, but Mary did not want to go with me – I think part of her was hurt that Jesus had not come more quickly. I felt that too, but I also felt that a miracle was still possible, and so I told Jesus this. Jesus told me he is the resurrection and the life, and asked if I believed this. I did, with all of my being. I went and told Mary that Jesus wanted to see her, and she came, tears still streaming down her face. As she approached Jesus, she once again sat at Jesus feet, this time saying had Jesus come, Lazarus would not have died. Jesus began to cry, too, and asked where he had been buried. Then he asked that the stone be rolled back. Now, I told you I’m working on the whole trust thing, because while I trust Jesus, I couldn’t help but exclaim that our brother had been dead for four days, and if they rolled back the stone, the stench would be horrible! Jesus reminded me of what he had said, that he is the resurrection and the life, and he raised our brother from the dead. Even now it’s hard to believe!
Unfortunately, you don’t raise somebody from the dead without making some people suspicious of you, people who were already looking for a way to get rid of Jesus. They feared that the way people were now following Jesus might upset the Romans, and there were rumors spreading that they were going to try to have him killed. Jesus and his disciples went to Ephraim, and then, six days before Passover, came to our house one last time for dinner. We all sensed it would be the last time, felt it in our gut. But we also wanted to make the most of it, and so, as had happened in times before, I prepared a meal and served the dinner, though this time I was not stressed or anxious, but present to the moment. Lazarus sat at the table with them, and Mary, once again, fell at Jesus’ feet. This time was different though, this time was about what she could give to Jesus. After Jesus had raised Lazarus, we felt we wanted to do something to express our gratitude and sheer amazement, so we had bought some nard, a very expensive perfume. Mary now took the nard, and poured it over Jesus’ feet, and then wiped them with he hair. I could see in his face that evening that Jesus knew what lay before him, and this act of love, which Jesus said was for the day of his burial, gave him a brief moment of being cared for, of being ministered to. Yes, it upset some of those there, who saw it as a waste of money, but it was an offering, an offering for someone who had given us so much and was about to give us so much more. And it was an anointing, of a man who was prophet, priest, and king, the man who was our savior. It was an incredible moment, one that I’ll forever remember, but it also was just that, a moment, one I could have so easily missed had I been more concerned about the evening’s chores as I once would have been.
When Jesus left, he was headed toward Jerusalem. But as we stood watching them go, Mary and I standing with out brother who had so recently been dead and was now alive, we knew that whatever might happen, with Jesus, death would not have the final word.
So I urge you to be present, present to the moment and to those you are with and who are around you. Be present when Jesus calls, and know that Jesus is with us always. Learn to serve Jesus, to love Jesus, to listen to Jesus, for in doing so, you’ll find yourself fully alive. Be present to this table, where God’s love in shared with us, but where we also celebrate our Savior, who laughed with us and cried with us. Be present to the this season of Lent that we are in, to the next days that lead to the cross, and be present to the one who is the resurrection and the Life, and the season of resurrection that will follow. Mary always got it, she has the gift of being present. I had to learn, but I learned that it makes life so much richer.