April 7, 2009

Tuesday, April 7, John 12:20-26

We continue with our journey to Easter with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.
(By Cynthia Davis)

It was dark when Lazarus returned.
“Tell us what happened today!” Mary did not even wait for her brother to remove his cloak.
The man slowly took off his turban and smiled at the woman.
“Mary, let Lazarus wash his hands and sit down,” Martha intervened. Solicitously she studied the man’s face. “Are you tired?”
“Sister, I could never be tired from a day with Jesus,” he smiled in reply.
“I am sure you are hungry,” she responded. “You men never think to eat when listening to the Master.”
“Yes, come sit down and tell us what happened today!” Mary bounced up and down on her toes with impatience.
Obediently Lazarus followed his sisters into the spacious room where the family dined. If he closed his eyes he could see Jesus and the twelve closest disciples sprawled around the table. An impatient sigh from Mary recalled him to the present. With a smile at her excitement, he washed his hands in the bronze basin.
“Blessed are you Lord God, Ruler of the Universe. We thank you for your bounty,” the man offered the ritual blessing then took his place at the end of the low table.
Soft cushions on all four sides of the polished wood as well as thick rugs on the stone floor spoke of the wealth of this household. A serving girl poured thinned wine from a bronze ewer into 3 carved cups. Lazarus turned his cup slowly in his hands.
“This craftsmanship is wonderful,” he stated. “Jesus honored me with this gift.”
Mary opened her mouth to speak, but closed it as her brother continued.
“Today we were near the Temple when something unusual happened,” he said with a slightly troubled look on his face.
“Tell us,” urged Martha when the man paused.
He picked up a piece of bread from the platter and stared at it before continuing. Both sisters were silent and puzzled by his action.
“Some Greeks were in Jerusalem. They singled out Philip. I guess it was because they knew him from his home town of Bethsaida. I heard them ask to speak to Jesus. Philip didn’t know what to say, so he asked Andrew. Together they went to Jesus.” He smiled slightly. “It was almost funny to see how confused the disciples were.”
Lazarus stopped speaking. Mechanically he took a bite of the bread and chewed slowly. It was obvious his thoughts were far away.
“Then what happened?” Mary could not contain herself when Lazarus didn’t resume the story.
“I didn’t hear what Andrew and Philip said. Jesus looked at them with that tender smile he has,” the man continued. “Then he stood up and moved toward the visitors. They bowed low at his approach.”
“He went to talk to the Gentiles!” Martha gasped in horror.
“You shouldn’t be surprised,” her brother shook his head. “Jesus never does the expected thing.”
“That’s true,” Mary nodded. “He welcomed me, a woman, to hear his teaching.”
Martha nodded. The two women sat quietly while Lazarus frowned at his food.
“What he said was confusing though. Jesus said, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain. If it dies, it bears more fruit.’ I’m not sure what he meant.” He didn’t look at his sisters but continued to stare at his plate.
“When a grain of wheat is planted, it grows a whole stalk of wheat,” Mary said softly.
“I know,” her brother replied. “It’s what Jesus said next that was more troubling. ‘Those who love their life lose it and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there my servant is. Those who serve me, the Father will honor.’ It sounds like he was comparing himself to the wheat. It was almost like he was expecting to die like a grain of wheat in order for greater growth to come.”
Mary moved to sit close to her brother. She took his hand between her palms.
“He raised you from the dead. Surely Jesus cannot die,” she whispered.
Lazarus shook his head and repeated. “I don’t understand it.”
Martha felt a chill like the one she experienced outside of Jerusalem watching the triumphal entry.
“He cannot die,” she repeated her sister’s words.

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