When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died…” John 11:20 – 21
One of my husband’s favorite things to order for breakfast is called “the mess.” It is basically a bowl filled with potatoes of some kind, scrambled eggs, sausage, gravy, all usually piled high over a biscuit. It is not on the heart approved diet, but it is a favorite of his. Even when he doesn’t order “the mess,” he will mix his breakfast foods all together piling his eggs on top of his pancakes, mixing in his sausage, bacon, or ham and whatever else might be on his plate as he pours his syrup over it all. It truly is a mess. The first time one of my grandsons watched him do this he stared at his Papa G in wide eyed wonder…or maybe it was disbelief in what he was witnessing in that moment. You should probably know that my grandson doesn’t like his food to touch on his plate and he eats everything separately. So, when he gets his pancakes and eggs, the eggs are eaten first and then he will ask for help cutting up his pancakes so he can pour his syrup on to eat them. The thought of his eggs touching his pancakes is not ok and the idea of pouring syrup on your plate where it might get into his eggs is just not going to happen. Anyway, the first time he saw this, he looked at his Papa G and said: “That is a mess! Yes, my sweet boy it is.
Life can look a lot like a breakfast plate where someone has mixed everything together and you can’t tell where the pancakes end, and the eggs begin and somewhere in the mix you will find bits of sausage and potato and it is all covered in syrup and gravy. Our relationships blend one into the other, life spills over and sometimes it is good and sometimes it just isn’t. Sometimes the mix works and sometimes the mix explodes, and you find yourself doing damage control. Messes are aptly named because they take time to sort through all the myriad pieces and parts as we separate the good from the not so good. And none of it should come as any surprise to us as a mess is a dirty, untidy, or disordered condition according to dictionary.com. And as it pertains to our relationships it can all just be one messy muddle.
I wonder if it wasn’t a messy muddle for Mary and Martha when their brother Lazarus died. They had sent for Jesus when Lazarus was sick. Jesus was well aware of what was going on. On top of that Jesus wasn’t far from Bethany. He had just been in Jerusalem and had gone back across the Jorden to where John had been baptizing when he got the news. He was close enough he could easily have gotten there in time and yet scripture tells us that when he heard the news of Lazarus, he did not go immediately to him but stayed right where he was for an additional two days before he said now…it is time to go and see Lazarus. In fact, Jesus is the one who tells his disciples that Lazarus is now dead.
Jesus who could have done something…at this point has done nothing. And this nothing is what Mary and Martha are experiencing when Jesus finally arrives. Martha, when she knows Jesus has come immediately goes out and confronts him. You know when we read scripture, we seem to read it in a way that has Martha quietly and sweetly letting Jesus know if only you could have been here sooner…REALLY! This woman who demanded Jesus tell her sister to get up and help her! I doubt she was nice about what she said. We have sanitized her words. I personally think…please know these are my thoughts…that she was angry. Jesus had healed so many people by this point in his ministry, Martha trusted him and knew he could have healed her brother…but he delayed coming to him…Lazarus who was a good friend…the entire family was…or so she thought. Yes, I do believe Martha was angry when she first confronted Jesus even as she allowed God would do whatever he asked. Martha is deeply grieving her brother in this moment.
And then there is Mary…she too is angry. She doesn’t even get up to go see him when he arrives. This woman who sat at his feet absorbing every word…not helping her sister around the house to get ready for dinner. This woman who loved Jesus…she stays in the house. She does not go to him until Martha comes back to get her and says the Teacher is calling for you….it is not until then that she goes to him. It would seem in that moment she has a choice…she can sit in her mess, or she can go to the savior.
How many times do we sit in our own messes in life? How many times do we refuse to move out of the anger and pain and allow healing to enter into our lives? How many times do we hold onto our resentments, frustrations, and hurts? How many times, when the savior calls to us…do we, unlike Mary, refuse to get up and go?
We all have messes in our lives. We all have made mistakes. We have all been hurt at some point by someone else. Jesus is calling for us to come to him. To give him our burdens. To let him offer the time and space to allow healing to enter into our mess. Neither Martha nor Mary let their anger stand in the way of their healing. Even though their approach to Jesus was different they both got the same result, Jesus wept for them. Lazarus being brought back to life and back into community is almost anticlimactic to the great empathy Jesus gave in his tears for their grief.
Jesus didn’t just call to Martha and Mary…Jesus is calling to us all to come to him. To lay our burdens down at the foot of the cross. To step out of our messes, whatever they might be as you make the choice to work toward healing. And so, today, I pray for all who are reading these words that you will not let anything stand in the way of coming to Jesus.