Martha said to Jesus, “Rabbi, if you had been here, my brother would never have died.
Death is all around this Easter story. If we recall the whole of it (John 11:1-45), we will remember how complicated things are. Jesus hears the news of his beloved Lazarus’ illness and sees the writing on the wall. He will not survive it. Yet, inextricably, he waits two days before making his way back to Bethany and to Lazarus and Mary and Martha.
It turns out Jesus’ life is also threatened. The disciples are certain a return to Bethany could mean the death of Jesus, and, indeed, the story ends with this death knell written as well on said wall: the plot to kill Jesus is formalized.
Death surrounds this Easter story. But what a story! It turns out it is all about life, resilient, brimming, hopeful, clear-eyed. Remarkable faith rises up amidst it all, indistinguishable from an abiding love. Our short section alights on faith spoken into what seems not just dead, but dead dead: “If you had been here, my brother would never have died.”
What does this mean? Is it true? Or better: how is it true? How is it true for Lazarus who will breathe again in just a few moments, only to eventually die again? How is it true for Mary, and perhaps even more poignantly for Martha? And how is it true for us and for this world that seems to be hurtling apart from one another?
“…everyone who believes in me, even though they die, they will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”
Sunday Readings: 6th Sunday of Easter: Acts 17:1–4, 10–12 † Psalm 145:8–19 † Romans 6:5–11 † John 11:17–27
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