Wednesday, January 18, 2012

It's all pretty simple

I've been thinking about this post all day today. Actually, when I think about the seven amazing things Jesus tells that HE IS in John's gospel, this is the one I get high-centered on, linger on like it's a skipping record repeating itself over and over and over. And the story in which these words are lodged is full of some of the most miraculous interactions we get of Incarnate God.  It's not only where Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead but where He delays His going--after hearing that his close friend Lazarus is ill-- and says, "This sickness is not unto death but unto the glory of God." [You have to forgive me for the way my scripture quotations sound...they pour from my memory from  whatever translation I learned the verse. I think that was NASB].  But it isn't the raising of Lazarus that has so long appealed to me (though seriously, pretty profound stuff--His calling a man in his moldy grave clothes straight out of a cave as an image of what He'd be doing Himself once and for all). It's the conversation that Jesus has with Martha and Mary that I love.

Take Martha.  Martha gets a bum rap most of the time. She's the 'worker-bee', the one who has chosen the lesser way. But there are some amazing moments in Jesus' relationship with Martha that speak to me, that should speak to every single one of us, and have incredible application for our lives.  We meet Martha and her siblings first in Luke 10, when Jesus and His band of disciples (and many others, including women 'who were helping support them' as it says in Luke 8: 1-2) when they came to Martha's home. It was Martha's home, we know, because Luke tells us so: "Martha (rather than Lazarus or Mary) opened her home to Jesus."  And when Jesus came, it wasn't just one man for one meal, but a whole stinking pack of men. And I do mean stinking because it isn't as if they'd been staying in Holiday Inns every night and showering every morning. What Martha had to do was an all-out feast prep, and who knows how much warning she'd had for it.

So she was stressed.  Lots of people, beds to prepare (yes, they'd be sleeping there), menus planned,  food to buy (no refrigeration in those days, so everything was bought on the spot!), tables set. Not to mention the whole cooking thing. Let me be completely honest--I get stressed when I have two people I don't know really well staying in my house. I can't imagine 30 or whatever number she was facing.

And I know--because I know me!--that if my sister was just sitting out there listening like a besotted school girl while I was a sweaty mess doing all the work, I'd be really, really frustrated. Unfortunately, because I know me really well, I will also admit that in my case, I'm far more likely to be the one sitting out there listening to the conversation while my sister did all the work. And both my sisters would agree. So my reaction would be jealousy.

Martha's was not. She just wanted help. And here's the first interesting thing about Martha's relationship with Jesus: she goes to HIM, rather than her sister, with her frustration. She is completely comfortable with Jesus, so much so that she's willing to tell him the truth about how she feels. There's no spiritual jargon, no couching of her words behind what she should feel or thing, just a bald statement, "Tell her to help." And Jesus responds to her just that directly. He sees straight into her heart. In that heart isn't jealousy but anger, and that's the attitude that had to change. It wasn't her activity that was the problem, but how she was doing the activity. "Whatever you do in word or deed, do all to the glory of God." Colossians 3:17 says. Go back to your work, but give it to God. Be glad to do it.  Maybe even be as attentive to Jesus in that work as Mary is in her non-working, if that's what she's meant to do.  People are made of different things, after all.

The next time we see Martha, she's just about as upset as our first glimpse of her. This leads us to the conclusion that Martha isn't someone we'd want to know or be like. However, again, putting ourselves in her place, it's a bit easier to understand and appreciate her.  Her beloved brother has died. And Jesus wasn't there in time to help.  When Martha gets word that Jesus is approaching, she throws off her apron and goes running down the road to meet Him. And when she does, the most amazing, intimate encounter in the gospel occurs. It's something akin to Peter's great confession, really. She's out of breath, but still has the presence of mind to speak these phenomenal words.

1. If you'd been here he wouldn't have died.
2.I know even now God will give you whatever you ask.
3.I believe he (Lazarus) will rise again on the last day.
4. I believe you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.
Stop with me a moment and think about these four things as she said them. Right there on that road outside her home while all the mourners sat inside with her brother already in the tomb, with people all over unsure about who this Jesus was. AND we think that it was only Mary who'd been listening to Jesus. There is absolutely no possible way Martha could have spoken these words without having paid attention. Without faith. Real faith.

And it's because of the faith that Jesus sees in her/hears in her that He speaks this most powerful I AM. "I AM The Resurrection and the Life, whoever believes in me will lives though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
And Martha doesn't hesitate. "YES, LORD!"


This is the moment that every single one of us must get to. Eternal life begins today. Sure, physical death will come, but eternal life starts at the point when we say YES, Lord! to this I AM.

Jesus says exactly the same sentence to Mary.  And it's a beautiful thing that He knows these sisters so well that His words, though exactly the same, are different when spoken to each one. Martha, I think, was a person who thought more with her head, and Jesus spoke to her thusly. Mary was a feeler, so when He saw her, He responded with very human emotion.  To her, even in speaking these words of comfort and truth, He was also willing to be in her present. Her unknowing, mourning present. This used to strike me as very odd--when I was younger and more foolish. I mean, He was a mere moment away from calling Lazarus forth. It's clearly what He'd delayed in coming so that He could do. But He took the time out of His agenda (an agenda which would bring joy to Mary and Martha!!) to mourn with Mary.

But that's how the Lord is.  Even if He speaks the same words to you that He does to me, they are spoken knowing each of us intimately, knowing who we are and how we need to hear them.  There are some unalterable truths that we each MUST hear. "I AM the Resurrection and the Life" is surely one of them. And we must say YES, when He asks if we believe it.  However, the other promise of this moment is that He will be present in our present. If we mourn, He mourns with us--even if that mourning is but for a moment. If we feel hope, He is the hope. Whatever is our reality, He lives it with us. He may be Sovereign and live above time, knowing all things, but He walks through our time with us.

I feel great hope in this "I AM" today. I need to on a personal level.
This morning, our beloved Grampie had a stroke. Beve is spending the night with him as I write this, and we don't know how many more tomorrows on this earth he will have. This afternoon when we were talking, Grampie said, "It's amazing how simple it all is, when you come right down to it."
 "What?" I asked him.
"Everything," He answered.
And I think that's the truth.
It's all pretty simple.
"I AM the Resurrection and the Life.  Whoever believes in me will live..."
Do you believe this?

No comments: