Faith and vulnerability
November 2, 2021
The All Saints’ Day lessons feature one of my three favorite gospel stories: the raising of Lazarus from the dead. This story is only found in the Gospel of John. It is a profound story of loss, faith, and love.
“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Those were the words that Mary of Bethany said to Jesus as she wept for her brother, Lazarus, who was lying in the tomb. Jesus, who could have stopped Lazarus’ untimely death. Jesus, who could have prevented the pain that Mary and Martha felt. Jesus, the man who restored the blind man’s sight and turned water into wine at the wedding at Cana, did not do enough in Mary’s eyes.
Jesus heard Mary’s words and wanted to see where they laid Lazarus. “Jesus began to weep.” Jesus encountered one of the most human experiences: grief. Did Jesus feel guilty for coming too late? Did Mary’s declaration truly impact him? I like to think that Jesus was at his most vulnerable here. Weeping at the loss of his friend, and having just been reminded that he could have stopped this tragedy in his tracks.
What if, though, Mary’s statement to Jesus was not entirely out of anger? What if when she said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died,” she was also expressing her faith? There is an implicit affirmation of faith in this one sentence; in her anger towards Jesus for arriving too late, Mary is aware that Jesus does have the ability to heal. She sees that Jesus is the Messiah. In this passage Mary and Jesus connect through their vulnerability. Mary’s conflicting emotions and Jesus’ grief allow us to dive into the story and feel their pain like it is our own.
Faith is a tricky thing sometimes. Sometimes it is hard to see the forest for the trees. Perhaps, like Mary, we are angry with Jesus and cannot parcel out faith from emotion. At the end of the day, Jesus always finds a way to resurrect new life in us, just like he did with Lazarus.
This week I challenge you to be vulnerable like Jesus was, or faithful like Mary.