My husband, my oldest son and I got to spend a little time with my mom and dad yesterday. My aunt and uncle were there too. And several friends I grew up with. I wish I could say we were gathered together to celebrate Christmas or just to enjoy time together, but that’s not why. We were standing on the wet ground under a gray sky at the burial service for a dear family friend. She’d spent the last few weeks in ICU thanks to COVID and it ended up taking her life. I watched as my dad and my uncle and the rest of the pallbearers carried her coffin. I stood next to my mom and listened as the preacher shared about Mrs. Susan’s life, the woman who’d been like a second mom to me growing up. My mom and Ms. Susan have been friends since before I was born and my dad and Mrs. Susan’s husband grew up together. There’s never been a time in my life that this family hasn’t been in it and now Ms. Susan’s gone.
The preacher spoke of Lazarus and how Jesus called him out of the grave (John 11:1-44). Jesus had friends in this little place called Bethany and he’d gotten word that one of those friends, Lazarus, was very sick. Jesus actually waits a couple of days before heading to Bethany, knowing that meant that by the time he and the disciples made it there that Lazarus would already be dead, but he tells them his reasoning behind this…so that they might believe.
So they go to Bethany, where in the meantime Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha, are grieving the loss of their brother. And Martha is confused. She says to Jesus:
If you had been here, my brother would not have died.John 11:21
You can almost feel the hurt and confusion in her words. That questioning of why? Why weren’t you here Jesus? You could have stopped it. You could have healed him. Where were you?
But then she tags that with what feels like hope.
But I know even now that God will give you whatever you ask.John 11:22
She’s confused, she hurt, she might even be a little angry. Some might also say she may be a little crazy. She’s standing before this Jewish man, her friend and her rabbi, and basically implying that all he has to do is ask for her brother’s life to be restored and it will be.
Except this is no regular man. This is not your average rabbi. This man is God with flesh on. He’s the one who commands the sea and the wind. He’s the opener of eyes and ears and the straighter of twisted limbs. He was and is and is to come. He is Immanuel.
And he’s the one who calls this dead man out of his tomb and out he comes still wrapped in the grave clothes that say he’s forever gone from this world. He was dead and now he’s not.
And his two sisters, who had been grieving, hearts broken with tears spilling down their cheeks, suddenly had returned to them what was lost. They suddenly understood. They saw Jesus…his power, his love, his mercy…right there before them as their brother stumbled out of death and back into life.
There was grief and then there was glory.
As I thought about this, it occurred to me that we are there in the grief. We are here in this world that is wrapped up tight in grave clothes. We, in this world, are waiting for Jesus…the one who we know can make all of this right. The one who can wipe the tears away and heal all the hurts. The one who can straighten the crooked places and repair what’s broken. We are in Bethany, awaiting the arrival of the Restorer of All Things and he’s coming soon.
He will crack the skies open and shout for the grave clothes to be taken off and we will be caught up in the air to meet him. All the sickness and the hate and the evil of this world will be gone and we will be as we were meant to be.
But in the meantime, we wait here in the grief as we ache for the glory. O Lord, come soon.