Friend of Jesus.
Of all the ways to be defined, this one is the best. Beloved by the Messiah.
But you are used to defining yourself by what you do. Martha, the helper. The servant. The one people count on. You love passionately and loyally. You give yourself completely. Poured out to the uttermost. That’s you, Martha.
I get it. Jesus is the most astonishing thing to come into your life since—well, ever. And he has chosen to be your friend. You feel the weight of that reality: Friend of Jesus. The deepest yearnings for love in you open like hunger. Ever the doer, you must make yourself worthy, make your home worthy, show your devotion.
When Lazarus gets sick, you know the plan. You almost smile to yourself. You are a friend of Jesus, the healer. He’s healed countless strangers. Now he will come running to you. Another miracle! At your house! You fly around getting ready for him. You throw yourself into tending Lazarus, waiting for Jesus to come and see your faithfulness.
But Jesus doesn’t come.
Lazarus suffers, and Jesus doesn’t come.
You and Mary sit through long beside nights, and Jesus doesn’t come.
Jesus doesn’t come.
You put your brother in a tomb. You stand alone, and you stare in disbelief at the dead dreams lying behind that stone. Shame whispers.
“You are not enough.”
You are anxious and worried about many things.
Didn’t you exhaust yourself serving Jesus? Didn’t you try so hard to make everything perfect for him? And in the end, he rebuked you.
Were you serving him, or yourself?
You wanted him to need you, to be grateful for your labors of love. Now your brother is dead, and all your efforts cannot change that. Your sister grieves, and nothing you can say or do will help. You have failed.
And Jesus, he saw all that. He knew all that.
He doesn’t need you at all.
One thing is needed, Martha. Only one thing.
Mary, sitting at his feet and soaking up his presence. Mary has chosen the good portion.
Four days of staring at the outside of a tomb. Four days of silence. Four days of knowing he didn’t come, he didn’t come, and all your efforts were not enough. They will never be enough.
Finally you hear he is coming, and you can’t help running to him, just as you can’t help the accusation: “Lord, if you had been here, he wouldn’t have died.”
That anger hovers there between you, shimmering. You blurt, “But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” See, Jesus? See how much I trust you?
This time Jesus doesn’t rebuke you. But he sees your deep fear, the unbelief behind your words. He doesn’t excuse his behavior. He makes no apology for his absence. Instead, He gives a promise. “Your brother will rise again.”
How many times have you said those very words to others? Now it feels like putting a band-aid over a severed limb. Sure, Jesus. We get it. Someday all will be well. After we have prayed and waited and you don’t come till it’s too late. After we have suffered and lugged around our shame. When we have learned our lesson.
But then Jesus says, “Everyone who believes in me will rise again,” and he isn’t just talking about Lazarus. He leads you to the tomb where your heart is buried. Where your real belief lies dead and sealed.
“Take the stone away.”
But the stink, Lord! Your dead hopes stink.
He looks at you through his own tears. “Didn’t I tell you that you’d see my glory if you only believe?”
Martha. My glory is now. My glory is here. My glory is for you.
Jesus ignores your somedays and gives you now. There is nothing you can do, no service you can perform, no words you can say, to earn this moment. He offers you the one thing, the only thing. The thing that, once grasped, can never be taken from you.
When Jesus calls Lazarus out of that grave, he isn’t just bringing back his friend. He’s showing you how he sees you.
Not shameful. Worthy. Not as a someday love, but a now love. He isn’t waiting for you to fix yourself or get your act together or figure out how to really serve him without shame or pride. He isn’t waiting for anything at all. This love is now, this resurrection is now, and right this very minute you can trust him. Right this minute his love is for you, all of it, and Lazarus is walking out of that grave.
Martha, you are indeed the friend of Jesus, beloved. He wants you. Sometimes you must walk with your expectations all the way to death and endure the darkest nights of loss before you can see it. Sit at the tomb. He is coming with resurrection.
You were never forgotten, not for one minute. He was always coming. To you, Martha. The friend of Jesus.