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 her brother Lazarus took sick, Mary had asked Jesus for help, but Jesus purposely delayed coming to heal him, and by the time he finally arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had been dead and buried for at least four days.
When he arrived Martha cried “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died”
. When Mary, her sister, came to greet him, she said the exact same thing: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died”.
Amidst all the grief and tears, the neighbors mumbled their own aside: “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” Could he not have prevented all this horrible pain and heartache?
I remember uttering those same words of Mary and Martha as I looked at my brother Billy’s body in the casket. He had been killed in a car accident at age 35. He was a new Christian of only one year, and just learning how to serve God and his neighbor. His excitement about his new found faith in Jesus Christ was a thrill to me and my parents. So I could not help asking God, “Why now, oh Lord? Could you not have protected him and prevented his death?”
Jesus answered their question and mine when he was so disturbed that he wept. In one of the shortest verses in the Bible, “Jesus began to weep.” (John 11:35), which reveals one of the most important characteristics we can ever know about the heart of God. When Jesus encountered Mary and Martha weeping for their dead brother Lazarus, and their distraught neighbors, John writes that he was “deeply moved in spirit and troubled” (John 11:33). The God whom we worship is a tender God who is deeply moved, and grieved, by anything and everything that threatens our lives as human beings. He cares for us beyond our ability to understand his deep love for us.
That day and many days after we buried my brother, I began to see the compassionate and empathetic nature of God. Like Mary, Martha, and their neighbors, we grieved losing my brother at the young age of 35 and as a new Christian, but we came to know that his sainthood was a light in our darkness. His new-found faith in Jesus Christ was our solid hope of seeing him again and sharing the love of Christ with him. He was a saint whose memory still lives in my heart. As sinners whom Christ has redeemed by giving his own human life on the cross we too are saints. Thanks be to God who loves us beyond the depth of our knowledge.
- As you remember those whom you love who have died, can you celebrate their lives, their gifts of faith they have left behind as a guiding light for you?
- What will you leave behind for others to remember about your faith and your walk with Jesus Christ?
- How can your sainthood help others come to know the deep love that God has for them?
Sue is NLS Spiritual Director, since 2019 and is a retired Lutheran Pastor (ELCA). Active in VdC since 1995, she has served two terms on the Board of the Texas VdC Secretariat, and also on the Texas Gulf Coast VdC Board as Spiritual Director since its start-up in 2017.