Tag Archives: lazarus

The personal touch

Martha calmly conversed. Mary dissolved in tears.

Two sisters, same dead brother. They both talked with Jesus, each with different experiences.

After Lazarus died and Martha heard that Jesus was in town, she went and talked with him.

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

They had a conversation, Jesus and Martha taking turns. There is challenge and explanation. It is logical, as much as talking about resurrection is logical. Martha asserts what she believes, that she believes.

It is, in short, a very Martha conversation.

Martha heads back home and tells Mary that Jesus wants to talk with her. Mary goes to him, leading a crowd of friends and mourners.

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Mary starts exactly the same way, and then dissolves into a weeping bundle at Jesus’ feet. Jesus, the text says, John the observer notes, “was deeply moved and troubled in spirit.” Jesus and Mary go to the grave. “Jesus wept.”

We could, of course, suggest that Jesus was weeping the loss of Lazarus, that he was grieving his own death days away. But I wonder.

These two interactions with these two women are perfectly suited to what we know of the women. The sense of perfectly appropriate response is genius, pure emotional intelligence genius.

What if Jesus had switched his response, weeping with Martha, teaching Mary. It would feel wrong, rude somehow. It would lack any sense that he really knew these women, knew their hearts,  their personalities. Instead, he interacts with Martha and weeps with Mary and each has a sense that Jesus really knows them.

I wonder how often we miss the conversation and comfort Jesus offers. We look for some formal religiousity. Meanwhile, he’s waiting to converse. Or cry.


Sometimes you talk for an audience.

Nancy and I talk quite a bit. We walk and talk. We text. We tweet. We email.

Sometimes, when we are out for supper, we probably look like the couples who never talk. We eat. We listen. We look sideways at the people who are talking loudly at adjacent tables. We feel no need to perform.

Sometimes, however, we do talk in front of other people so they can hear us talk, so they know how we interact. There have been times when we’ve been with our kids that we have made sure that we have talked and laughed and even kissed. It hasn’t been made up, it’s not pretend. It’s the public version of a deep private relationship, with an awareness that there is an audience and an awareness that the audience shapes the conversation and, perhaps more importantly, is shaped by the conversation.

Jesus is standing outside the tomb where Lazarus’ body is. He looked up and said,

“Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

Jesus was, for the people listening, establishing that there was a relationship. He acknowledges that they talk all the time. He wants everyone to be sure that what is going to follow, the emergence of Lazarus, is clearly rooted in the conversational relationship he has with his father. It can’t be his own power. It can’t be a coincidence. It needs to be that Jesus made a seemingly heretical claim, and instead of being struck by lightening, Lazarus is struck by life.

Maybe like Jesus,  just as I  “public talk” with Nancy, I need to “public talk” with God.

Maybe life would strike twice.

A simple offer.

Chris wrote about simple packaging of ideas yesterday. He was encouraging people who are selling to be clear, taking the time to phrases offers in ways that the customer can understand.

Let simple be the mantra. Make your contracts brief, small, simple. Make your projects short, finite, and clear. Make your deliverables obvious, simple, and measurable.

At the same time I was thinking about that essay, I was reading a conversation between Jesus and Martha. Her brother has just died. When she meets Jesus at the edge of town, she is pretty direct: “If you had been here,” she said, “my brother would not have died.”

It wasn’t like Jesus didn’t know her brother was sick. She had sent a message days before. There had been time. We know (though she didn’t) that Jesus had deliberately waited until her brother had died.

“Your brother will rise again,” Jesus said.

She took it as a familiar theological affirmation: “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

But Jesus wasn’t going to let her be that vague. Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;  and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

It was as simple a statement of what Jesus could do as could be imagined. To a grieving yet hopeful  sister, it was the message that she wanted to hear.

Then Jesus called a dead Lazarus out of a grave.

A message perfectly suited to an audience, stated with startling simplicity and confidence, backed by incredible customer service.

Jesus’ followers have often taken Martha’s position. “Of course there will be life after everything,” then we’ve complicated what’s delivered.

Maybe Jesus is still simply right.