John 11:1-44 GNT (edited for ENews – please read the whole narrative)
Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was …
… When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”
When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And when Mary heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus,
come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth.
Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
A classic gathered community of relatives and friends, grieving together, illuminates the humanity that binds us all. Grieving and sorrowing also disturbs our perspective – brokenness and blame, belief and benevolence. Jesus knowingly enters into the middle of this scene. Martha rushes out of the gathered community, to meet Jesus, with both admonishment and certain faith. Ever practical and purposeful, she even alerts Jesus later of the smell of death in the tomb. Mary, caught in her grief, came when knowingly secure of a welcome. She falls at Jesus’ feet again, having once washed them with respect and gentle love, an intuitive offering from heart and soul. Her faith mixes with raw grief, blame and belief. The crowd follows, conversing through their weeping, in both wonder and criticism.
Jesus understood the human pain and anguish, spoke with gentle directness, and was himself immersed in his very real sorrow. He wept, releasing more than silent tears. Weeping releases the complicated anguish where sorrow for self and other meet, a physical expression of the aching soul. Even in the midst of this rawness, Jesus’ prayer reminded all who listened, that they were known and heard by God. In both their grieving and their questioning, they were held and heard. He showed how to be immersed in the human reality, and know the encompassing presence of God’s Spirit. He offered solace and gracious understanding. Like Lazarus, those who listened too, were unbound and let go.
Ponder upon these…
Who do we keep bound,
suppressing them so much, hidden from site, they dwell in a deepening cave?
What do we kept suppressed within,
fearing once released it will not return to the safety of a locked space?
When do we curb our emotions,
grief buried so deep, that its reek seeps into the sweet promise of a new day?
Where is the centre point that we skirt around,
averting our sight to that which hurts our gaze?
How do we quell our concerns,
never addressed through healthy questions, so that the fear is kept bottled and revealed as anxious stress?
There is no shame is gracious grief, channelling the stream of deep tears,
so as to open the space where emotion and reality whirl.
For it is here, that the teary salt becomes the healer, disinfecting, washing and clarifying the painful wound, unbinding all that holds it, and releasing the potential for the new life that comes forth.
The Spirit’s song is heard in that grief, and Jesus holds it so tenderly.
To be controlled by human nature results in death;
to be controlled by the Spirit results in life and peace.
You wept for the bound…
In your compassion, Jesus,
…the tears of a lost and beloved friend
…the tears of missed moments
…the tears of holding friends’ pain
…the tears of acknowledging community distress
…the tears of an empty space
…the tears of uncertain, and living, faith
In this compassion,
You cried out.
Let the bound be unbound.
The hidden be revealed.
The truth be set free.
Gracious Spirit of Life and Peace,
Jesus our Brother and Friend,
Who or what we keep trapped,
whenever, wherever or however it is expressed,
unbind it, let it go.
In our humanity,
Hear our prayer, O God of Life and Peace Amen, amen, amen.
© Rev Anne Hewitt 21/03/2023
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