We are saints being formed by God

How often do we remember to be like Lazarus, healed in ways only possible by a loving God. We find our good fortune simply a pause in the inevitable ending of death to this life. We, like Lazarus, are steeled in our own thoughts. Aware of our healings, but also our impending death, we grow more confident in the love and life of our brother Jesus.

Image by Tep Ro

Slowly, more confident in our brother Jesus

By John Pearring

Exodus 24:3-8
John 11:19-27

At the home of Martha and Mary Luke 10:38-42, the stage is set for Jesus to confirm his upcoming sacrifice of life into death. All those in the scriptural story before us become pivotal players in a theatrical display that reaches into our world.

We’ve read earlier in Luke about Lazarus being raised from the dead; about how important Martha and Mary are to Jesus—He loves them like his own sisters. We know about the apostles and the role Judas plays. We know Jesus is soon to die, then rise from the dead, and will use all these people to establish his body, his Church, for all time. He has told them so, though they’re unclear about what he says.

Jesus clarifies his relationship with us at every level of human activity—at temple, at a well, with the wealthy, at the healing pool, in villages and cities, in court, and soon on the cross. The confluence of the major players in Jesus’ life, gathered around over and over again, offers details important for us to reflect upon.

Martha and Mary - unmarried sisters, they are Jesus’ adopted family

Lazarus - already risen from the dead, he is alive again and sharing a meal with his sisters and close friend, Jesus

Judas the Iscariot - called out as a thief, he is identified as the political, financial, and power-based antagonist in the saga of Jesus’ ministry

Disciples - many are likely at this meal too, since Judas was on hand

Jesus’ constant teaching, admonishing, and nurturing of the apostles taking place confirms that these are saints in the making. Jesus’ curious followers are always seeking him out, and so too here, just outside the house. Who knows how many? They are described as a large crowd.

The viral nature of Jesus’ popularity stemmed from more than charisma and mystique. He performed life-changing miracles. He taught from inside the scriptures, revealing truths hidden from the Jewish people for millennia. The crowds that follow him rush to hear him and touch him, driven by an uncontrollable need to be near Jesus.

Most likely a secret scribe or two has been sent by the Pharisees, peppered among the fawning crowd. We are told some are sent to gather information on how to kill Lazarus, calculating the full range of possibilities that would work out to the Jewish leader’s advantage. This gathering adds to their effort, a new element on how to further plot against Jesus whom they already determined must be eliminated due to his popularity and “revolutionary” impact up on the primary issues at hand for the Jews.

Within the political circus of the Roman/Jewish nations is a burbling Jewish revolution. It’s important to this scene. Jesus, the Messiah, the Christ, speaks about Jewish history. This is his time. Jesus is the Word. He initiates a shift from a physical Torah into the divine presence of God, the very words they know by heart. Though another, warring and violent, revolution is forming, the real revolution is Jesus.

The Word is holiness itself in the presence of the coming King. Jesus takes us further, extending the light of God to the Gentiles, meaning everyone, rattling the parochial nature of Jewish faith. Perhaps our own parochial faith. The Jews are the light to the world, and Jesus has lifted the basket covering the candle. It’s time to shine, and the people are that candle. The full specter of truth and love is in their midst, revealing them to all of creation.

This reveals another set of people in this scene. Us, the readers, the burgeoning cast of believers continually growing in numbers and experiencing each and every interplay of Jesus within the tales of scripture. We are hearing just as the disciples heard. The Holy Spirit prompts and teaches us as if we are there because the Word has also been written on our hearts. We know the Father loves us, and we pay close attention to what Jesus is telling us.

Lazarus stunk badly when he was risen from the dead. Mary anoints Jesus’ feet. The house is filled with the aroma of the perfumed oil. Mary is thanking Jesus for her brother’s renewed life. Jesus’ comments confirm Mary has understood Jesus’ teaching about his upcoming death. She begins the preparation for Jesus’ death. Jesus responds to Judas berating Mary’s wasting the expensive oil.

So Jesus said, "Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me."

Lazarus, risen as a sign of Jesus’ resurrection, sits among all of them. The Jewish leaders have been flummoxed over this amazing act, unable to contain the impact of both the celebrity and homage shown to Jesus. The household of Jesus’ friends and disciples know the crowd outside increases the Pharisee’s desire for assassination. Everyone knows where Jesus and Lazarus are. They can hide no more.

In the midst of this scene sits Judas. That Judas is a thief is confirmed in his false compassion for the poor.

He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief and held the money bag and used to steal the contributions.

Mary identified Jesus as “Lord” when he arrived in Bethany after Lazarus died. She is the one who sat at Jesus’ feet when he taught the disciples. She didn’t ask anyone about anointing Jesus at her home. She just did it. “You do not always have me.”  She knew that.

We, the observers poised in this scene, watch Martha, Judas, Mary, and Lazarus, and can recognize ourselves in any of these roles.

Burdened by the chores and tasks of this world, we often weigh and compare others to ourselves. We start out mission-eager, delighted to contribute, and slowly, we morph into tired, exhausted souls, worn out by dogged work. We imagine others don’t care enough, quit too soon, and have no loyalty. Do not be anxious, God tells us.

Woe are those moments when we are more concerned about our needs, our lives, like Judas? Can you see yourself as the one chastising the frivolity of others, and using random victims as pawns, excuses for our gain? Leave others alone, Jesus reminds us.

How often do we remember to be like Lazarus, healed in ways only possible by a loving God. We find our good fortune simply a pause in the inevitable ending of death to this life. We, like Lazarus, are steeled in our own thoughts. Aware of our healings, but also our impending death, we grow more confident in the love and life of our brother Jesus.

We too, should act like Mary, prescient enough to recognize that Christ is here and is going to change everything for the good. She celebrates his power, obviously in raising his brother from the dead. She is gracious, surely, reaching for the expensive perfume without concern for what anyone else thinks. But she knows this divine Lord will do what he says he will do. He will change everything. She acknowledges who he is, celebrates his presence, and puts herself at Jesus’ feet. She welcomes the revolution of God being made flesh, Jesus as the Word, and the World turned into his Kingdom.

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