Friday in Lent 5

It’s the Jersey Girl in me.  I adore how direct Martha is in this story: “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.”  Tell him, sister.

Martha meets Jesus with these words as he arrives in Bethany; her sister Mary will echo them later in the story.  Jesus took his sweet time getting to his friends; by the time he shows up, Lazarus has been dead for four days.  It’s been at least that long that the sisters have been deep in anxiety, mired in grief, busy with the logistics of mourning.  In other words, they’ve got every reason to fuss at Jesus.

And I love that they do, sort of.  It’s not an out-of-line kind of fussing, but a matter-of-fact observation: Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. I relate to Martha’s frankness: she’s angry with Jesus and tells him why.  And yet she still shows up to greet him; she still is glad to see him. Their relationship is strong enough for honesty and truth.  Martha’s words hold both reproach and hope; they hold complaint and confidence and candor. In other words, they’re exactly how you might speak intimately to a friend, to one whom you love and trust and who loves and trusts you.

Historian Roberta Bondi writes of how this story—this moment between Martha and Jesus—transforms her understanding of prayer.  Prayer is “a sharing of the whole self and an entire life with God.”

She continues, “Jesus gives no sign that he expects Mary and Martha to relate to him as passive, obedient, little children . . . Because they love him, they are not submissive or subservient. They are not in the least afraid of him.  They are not silently, sullenly angry with him.  They do not accept what has happened as the will of God.  They tell him they are angry with him, and why.  As for Jesus, he does not simply tolerate these uppity women. He values them. He chooses them for his closest friends. He trusts them in their anger with him, and he trusts them with his life.”

May we all be blessed to have such friends; may we all find such a friend in Jesus.

Mo. Jenna+

[Quotes are from Roberta Bondi’s Memories of God: Theological Reflections on a Life(Nashville: Abingdon, 1995), 34, 43-44.]