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Before you begin: this story is based on the account in John 11. It is interesting that the story is only mentioned once in the New Testament indicating Matthew, Mark, and Luke were not present at the time of such a memorable and note worthy miracle.

Chapter 2 the continuation of the story was witnessed by all the writers of the gospel, but as Agatha Christie wrote:"...the account of every eyewitness may be radically different from the account of every other eyewitness -even though all were present on the same occasion." This story is based on the combined accounts with a little poetic licence.

 

Martha Lazarus and Mary

Chapter 1

Lazarus was Lying on his bed, a fever raged, transparent deathly grey. Mary sat holding his hand comforting him, Martha sponged the sweat from his brow. The fever had descended suddenly. He had been working three days ago, then it came - fever, laboured breathing, weakness.
"Send for Jesus," he whispered weakly in a husky voice.

Martha visited a neighbour, who was good friends with Mary. "Lazarus is becoming worse,”She informed her, “He looks like your friend Jacob.”
Hannah came to have a look but didn't enter the door way.
"I hope it's not contagious" she said looking for a greenish or reddish mould on the house walls "Perhaps you should call a priest"
“I was wondering if we could borrow your servant, to go to find Jesus.”Martha asked
"Lazarus requested it, it would be really comforting to know that Jesus was coming.”
"I suppose you can have him," came the reluctant reply" But not too long, I have work for him. Do you know actually know where Jesus is?”
"No," said Martha, "Somewhere up north I think.”

The servant hurried north with the instructions to find Jesus and relay a message He asked in each town he crossed, "He was here" came the replies, "Don't know where he went- ask so and so, they know him." Some directions were good, others were ill informed but after three days he finally found him.
"Master Jesus, Martha and Mary of Bethany sent me to tell you: “Lord, behold, he whom you love is sick.”
Jesus replied “This sickness is not to death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God might be glorified by it.”
The servant hearing this bowed and started back again.

Meanwhile in Bethany Lazarus was delirious with the fever, burning hot, he cried out peoples names, mumbling as though he was conversing with someone.
Martha and Mary looked on helplessly, hoping for news of Jesus.
All at once Lazarus sat up in bed and exclaimed, "Jesus you came"
Mary and Martha spun around looking in the direction of Lazarus's gaze , but there was no one there, and when they looked back again Lazarus had fallen back on the bed -dead.
Mary burst into tears, Martha stared in disbelief, then stood and wandered outside." If only Jesus had been here." In a methodical stupor Martha proceeded to the neighbours to inform them of Lazarus's death. Martha being a practical person knew what to do, he must be buried by sundown. Where was she to find burial wrap? The afternoon seemed very short, Jerusalem seemed to have moved further away. One of the neighbours offered some old linen sheets which they tore into strips, and used an old head scarf to cover his face. Martha wished she had prepared earlier but she was expecting Lazarus to survive until Jesus arrived.

News spread fast. People came from Jerusalem to comfort Mary and Martha for the traditional seven day mourning period.

Jesus remained where he was for two more days. Then said to the disciples, “Let's go back to Judea.”
The disciples were concerned, "Rabbi, the Jews recently tried to stone You, and You want to go back?”
Jesus replied, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble because he sees the light of the world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles because the light is absent. Our friend Lazarus sleeps. But I go to wake him up.”
His disciples said, "Lord, if he sleeps, he will get well."
"No Lazarus is already dead." He explained, "He died two days ago. I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, in order that you may believe. So let us go to him.”
Thomas commented to the other disciples, "Sounds like this is the end, we had better go with him." Most of the disciples were hesitant and decided to follow a day later.

When the servant returned he reported to Hannah the message who considered it was too late to relay it, "He just got it wrong this time." she mused.
But when Martha saw that the servant had returned she asked what the reply was.
Martha was a little mystified when she was told, "But he had already died" she reasoned, “The words make no sense, surely he knew that, He's a prophet. Perhaps the servant had heard wrong.” She resolved not to tell Mary as she had taken the death hard, but she pondered the reply in her heart.

Martha was at the street market, situated either side of the Jerusalem to Jericho road, a welcome relief for those traveling the steep road from Jericho. She was in the process of buying things for a meal when she heard a man on a donkey saying, 'Jesus the prophet is heading this way.'
"Excuse me" she said, “I couldn't help overhearing you, where did you see him?”
“He was coming up on the Jericho Road heading this way.”
Her first thought was I will need extra supplies, then came the overwhelming urge to go to him. So leaving her bag with a shop keeper she knew, she headed out of town. With an involuntary stride downhill Martha made good time. While she walked she thought of her brother, so disappointed that Jesus hadn't arrived in time. She recalled the other incidents of the widows son that had been brought back to life, and the fig tree that had withered. Oh how she would have loved to have been there to witness them herself. She concluded he had power over life and death, but what about Lazarus could he be raised from the dead? It's been four days, the stench could be smelt outside the tomb already. A mixture of faith and doubt swept over her soul and she spent most of the time trying to think of the right words to speak when she met him.

It was almost fifteen minutes before she saw a group of people ahead resting under a tree. Once Martha had caught her breath she recited, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now, whatever You will ask of God, God will give You,”
Jesus said to her, “Your brother shall rise again.”
It took a little while to respond as she analyzed what Jesus said, Martha replied, “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day” thinking of the easiest thing to believe.
Jesus said "I am the Resurrection and the Life! He who believes in Me, though he die, yet he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God,
who has come into the world,” not that she understood what he had said.
Jesus said “Go and call Mary.”
Walking slowly back up the steep grade Martha wondered why she hadn't had the presence of mind to call Mary herself before she descended this steep path. Then she remembered all the people from Jerusalem that had come to grieve with them. The last thing she wanted to do was say that Jesus had arrived and have the temple guard arrive to take Him away, but she couldn't think of what to do. She arrived back at the market and saw Hannah her neighbour heading back towards her house, holding provisions.
Martha ran to catch up with her, “Hannah, Are you heading home?”
“Yes”
“Could I ask you to do me a favour?”
“Sure”
“Could you tell Mary that Jesus is on the Jericho road and has asked to see her.”
“So he's finally here? Better late than never. Sorry that's a bit hard, I'm sure he will be a comfort to you both.”
“I'm just concerned about the visitors,” Martha frowned,” We wouldn't want word to get back to the priests in Jerusalem.”
“Don't worry- I'll be very discreet - I'm good at that.”Hannah smiled knowingly.
With that Martha returned to where she had met Jesus.

When Hannah entered Martha's house, a cold silence descended over the murmur of voices. She felt all the eyes staring at her while she continued over to Mary and whispered into her ear. The message took a while to sink in and Hannah was already out the door when Mary rushed past her leaving her guests behind.
Her guests seeing her leave thought she was going back to the grave to weep and where a little surprised to see her continue past the path to the grave.

When Mary reached the place where Jesus and Martha were, Mary fell down at His feet, and said to Him, almost accusingly, in tears, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Jesus groaned in the spirit and was grieved at the spectacle before him. When He saw her weeping, and also the Jews who came with her weeping. He said, “Where have you laid him?”
They replied, “Lord, come we will show you.”
They traveled back up the hill to the track that led to the tomb.
Standing looking at a distance from the grave, hearing the weeping and unbelief that surrounded Him. Jesus himself wept, not for sadness but for their lack of faith.
Then the Jews seeing that said, “Behold how He loved him!”
Some of them said, “Was not this Man who opened the eyes of the blind able also to cause that even this one should not have died?”
Then Jesus, groaning in Himself again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, a fly covered stone lay over the entrance.
Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”
Martha objected, “Lord, the smell is repulsive, it has been four days. I don't think viewing his body now is going to be very pleasant.”
"Martha did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?"
A look of realization and hope spread across her face.
Then she indicated to a couple of others and they rolled away the stone from the entrance to the cave.
Those looking on whispered to each other, "What on earth is he doing?"
Someone commented,"He just wants to see the body to pay his respects"
Jesus lifted his eyes toward heaven and said, "Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. I know that You hear Me always, but because of the people who stand by I said it, so that they may believe that You have sent Me.
He then cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come here!"
There was a stunned silence then a murmur "What did he say?” “Are you sure he said that?” “You have got to be joking!”
Nothing seem to happen.
A chuckle was heard "He's really made a fool of himself this time"
A figure wrapped in linen struggling with the bindings that held his arms at his side and his legs together shuffled ungracefully to the entrance.
Every one stood with their mouths open, a few dull thuds were heard as some of those watching fainted at the unbelievable sight. Most wondered if they were seeing a ghost.
Jesus saw them hesitate, “Don't be afraid ,”he said breaking the stunned silence” Go untie him and let him go!”
The inexpressible joy that overwhelmed the sisters as they freed Lazarus from his bindings. Who could doubt this man now, truly he is the Messiah.

John 11:45 Then many of the Jews who came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on Him.

 

Chapter 2

When the Chief Priests and Pharisees heard that Lazarus had been raised from the dead they called together a council. They all sat around discussing 'the Jesus problem'. They talked of the miracles and especially the raising of Lazarus, comments such as “What can we do?” “He has such a reputation”, “How many miracles has he done?” “If we don't do something the Romans will blame us for an uprising.” “If we let him alone all will believe in him and we will be pushed aside!”
Nicodemas was the only defender - “What harm has he done?” “Is it wrong to do good?”
The High Priest Caiaphas sat and listened to the conversations which gradually raised from mild conversation to a heated debate.
At the height of the volume Caiaphas the high priest stood and quieted them. “You people do not know what you are talking about. The best solution is that one man is given to the Romans in exchange for the nation, and if the figure head is destroyed so is the movement. Giving Jesus to the Romans will do three things: it will appease the Romans by appearing to have contained an uprising, we will be be seen by the people not to have caused the death of Jesus whom they consider a prophet, and we will be rid of this deceiver for good. We just need someone to tell us where he is.”
They all applauded this plan of action, apart from Nicodemus who sent word to Jesus of their intentions.

For this reason Jesus no longer walked openly among the Jews. Instead, he left Bethany and secluded himself in a city called Ephraim which was situated in the mountains. There he stayed with his disciples.

After a few weeks Jesus journeyed back to Bethany in preparation for the passover. Judas Iscariot's father, Simon, was a Pharisee who lived in Bethany because of his inflamed eczema. Although his condition was not contagious he wasn't permitted to serve in the temple so he had moved to Bethany in the hopes the inflammation would improve. He also sought to distance himself from the embarrassing leprosy label people used to describe him with. Now Judas requested his father to have a meal at his house. Simon was hesitant at first since he was a Pharisee, but because he was curious to see this man Judas had been following and also Lazarus, who had been raised from the dead, he made it a condition that they should both be there.

In Roman times it was traditional to recline at a U shaped table supporting yourself on one elbow facing the host, with your feet away from the table. The gap between the tables was used to facilitate serving. Simon, Jesus, Lazarus, Judas and John were placed near the host,with the others all sitting towards the other end of the table. Martha was asked to help with the preparations as she was renown for her catering.

Now Mary, Martha's sister, was not invited to the feast. She sat at home alone in the quietness contemplating her life and how much it had changed since she met the prophet of Nazareth. After the sudden death of her husband, Martha had started a small bed and breakfast on the Jericho Jerusalem road for a means of income. Martha provided the meals and Mary, with her fine singing voice, provided the entertainment. However this had earned her a reputation of providing something more than just singing. She knew this reputation was true and it constantly burdened her. But how things had changed - now she sat and sang and told stories of the miracles that Jesus had performed, and the truths she had learned sitting at his feet. Then as a climax to have her brother die then raised from the dead! Her heart became so overwhelmed with appreciation that tears flowed. If only she could show it somehow. An idea flashed through her mind as she remembered that carved alabaster cask one of her rich clients had given her. It was her most valued possession. A full pound of oil of Spikenard that she was keeping as a form of income insurance for a rainy day. She rushed to the chest where she kept it, hidden in a cloth, then unwrapped it and fondled it in her hands. Mary wondered when she would be able to present it, then considering she might not have another opportunity for a while, walked hastily to Simon's house. Martha saw her walk through the servants entrance and exclaimed, “Mary what are you doing here- what's the matter?”
Mary just said “nothing” and continued into the dining room. A mixture of body odour and the aroma of roasted meat hit her as she walked into the room. No one seemed to notice her clutching the precious container, and probably thought the tears were from peeling onions.

She timidly walked between the tables to where Jesus sat.“Mary” he acknowledge her
“Master I...” but she could not contain the tears.
With blurry eyes she removed the seal, reached over the table, and poured some of the anointment on his head. But it wasn't enough, she wanted to cover him with it, but the table was in the way. She hurried around the table to where his feet were and attempted to pour it on his feet. But none of the ointment appeared. She shook and patted the end, then to her frustration it slipped from her hand and it broke on the ground. The perfume pervaded the room. Mary realized what she had done and wept some more, disappointed at the waste on the floor. She knelt at his feet kissing them, wetting them with great drops of tears, then realizing his feet were all wet she wiped them with her hair to dry them. She scooped up some of the spilt ointment and lathered it onto his feet.
Those looking on were embarrassed by the outburst. Simon the host, thought “If this man if were a prophet, he would have known this sinful woman's reputation, he wouldn't have let this happen.”
Judas Iscariot, Simon's son exclaimed “Why was not this ointment sold for more than three hundred pence, and given to the poor? It's worth a whole years wages!” Some of the other disciples agreed with him after hearing it's value. Not that Judas was really concerned for the poor, but as treasurer, others had noted constant discrepancies in the accounting.
Jesus responded to the criticism,”Don't be harsh to her, she has anointed me for my burial. The poor will always be here, and you can do them good whenever you want to, but I will not be. Truly I say to you, where ever this gospel is preached throughout the whole world, this act will be spoken of in her memory.”
He then turned to Simon, and addressed him, “Could I say something?”
Simon responded “By all means, speak”
“There was a certain creditor who had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me, which of them will appreciate him the most?
Simon answered, Well I suppose... he who was forgiven the most.”
Jesus, said “That is exactly right. He drew attention to Mary, and said “Simon, do you see this woman? I entered into your house, you gave me no water to wash my feet: but she has washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.
You didn't greet me with a kiss: but this woman since the time she came in has not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil you did not anoint: but this woman has anointed my head and my feet with this precious ointment. Therefore I say, her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: because as you said 'to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.'
Turning to Mary he said, “All your sins are forgiven, go in peace.”
Those at the meal where astounded at his comment, thinking “Who is this that forgives sins also?”
And he said to her, Your faith has saved you; go in peace.

Simon was mortified with the comments, “How dare he make me look a bad host and compare me to this this woman? I am a Pharisee!”
Judas also thought Jesus had gone too far in criticizing his father as it brought reproach on him also. Then to say he forgave sins, only God could do that! It was the last straw.
Judas stayed after the guests had left. Simon was fuming, “How dare he?” he kept saying “The cheek of it.” When eventually he calmed down, he said to Judas, “As much as I don't like the way Caiaphas has treated me, he did offer a very handsome reward for information on Jesus' whereabouts. It would set one up for life. I mean I couldn't go but you could. It would also help my cause when I am ready to return to Jerusalem”
Judas sat thoughtfully for a while, “Perhaps you were right all along, perhaps he isn't the Messiah.”
“I told you son - can any good thing come out of Nazareth? But you wouldn't listen.”
“I know but I had to make sure.” came a subdued reply.
Simon smiled, “He will be wishing he was dead once those vultures get hold of him.”

 

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength
and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14 ©2008 Stephen Share

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