Looking ahead to Sunday’s Gospel, Martha’s remark makes perfect sense. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” How many times are we saying that to God? God, if you’re really there, my parents wouldn’t be fighting all the time. If you were really there God, my brother wouldn’t have gotten in that car accident. If you were really, really there God, I wouldn’t feel so alone. I wouldn’t feel like I have to do any of that awful stuff I hate doing just to make people like me. If you were just there God, everything would be just how I want it.
But that’s not the Jesus we meet in the Gospel today. We meet a Jesus who finds out that “the one he loves” is sick and dying, and he stays right where he is for two days. Jesus lets Lazarus die! His disciples say, aren’t we gonna go to Lazarus so you can heal him? And then Martha says what she says. And then her sister Mary says it to: Lord, where have you been? Don’t you care about us! You could have saved my brother!
But Jesus says it’s for the glory of God.
This was not an easy thing for Jesus. He had to play a hard game, if you will, with Lazarus and his sisters. And trust me, it’s not something he was happy doing. The shortest verse in the whole Bible makes this pretty clear. John 11:35 simply says: And Jesus wept. So few words, but almost the whole story of God coming into our world, the whole story of Lent, the whole story of Easter, crashing into our lives and changing history forever. And Jesus wept.
The Lord of lords, the King of kings, the God of gods has made himself one of us, even to the point of laughing with us, dancing with us, working with us by the sweat of his brow, struggling with success and failure like the rest of…and crying with us.
Now that’s Lent for us, if you ask me, especially with how close we’re getting to Easter. I’ve got to say, may Lenten promises have not been easy. The little (or big) sacrifices that come with Lent are not supposed to be painful. Sure, we want to give something up, especially if it won’t be easy, but it’s not about making it hurt. It’s about being face to face with the God who weeps with us when we’re suffering, when he knows he has to let us hurt a little bit so that we might see his glory. It’s about letting go of something that might get in the way of loving him, and being loved by him. I gave up meat this Lent, something I’ve done before. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I knew I could do it. So it’s not so much the change in diet, as the way it’s affecting my very active life. Getting on the bike is not so easy when I’m not getting the kind of food I’m need. So not only is my sacrifice the meat I’d like to eat, so much as dealing with the fact that cycling is not my life. My sacrifice is bringing God back to the center and focus of my Lent, and of my life.
I know that’s a pretty simply example. It’s no where near what Martha and Mary went through watching their brother die. It’s not even close to any of those going hungry around the world not out of some pious devotion, but because they simply have no food. But it’s not all about you. It’s not all about me. Our sacrifices are always pointing to something much greater than ourselves. So if you start hearing those voices, telling you to give up, to give in, you might have to be patient that much more.
Perhaps Jesus was tempted to go and save Lazarus before he died. But he waited, he let God be the center and the focus.
And yes, he wept because of it.
But then he also brought Lazarus back from the dead.