Joy Comes Again to the House of Affliction

by Andy Wood on January 6, 2014

in Ability, Five LV Laws, Life Currency, LV Cycle, Principle of Freedom, Tense Truths

(Unlike the previous story, this one actually happened)

Day 0

Lazarus TombMorning seems to come more quickly in Bethany. This village, whose name means “House of Affliction,” sits on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives.  Seems fitting, I suppose.  One of three designated healing centers in Israel, Bethany is certainly no place for slumber.  Even one of the town’s leaders, Simon, has earned the nickname “the Leper” for obvious reasons.

This place gets up early for healthcare.

In one particular house, the residents have yet to sleep. There a man named Lazarus lies very ill, and nothing seems to help.  His sisters Martha and Mary care for him around the clock. Martha has spent the night on her feet; Mary has spent the night on her knees.  Nothing has helped.

If only Jesus were here.  That’s the conclusion both sisters – usually so different in perspective – agree upon.  They know Jesus loves them uniquely; their home has been His refuge. Jesus faithfully and completely heals perfect strangers. Lazarus He loves!  This is a no-brainer, if they can just get word to Him in time.

So as day breaks on Bethany, Martha dispatches a messenger with a note only Jesus can appreciate:  “He whom You love is sick.”  That’ll take care of it… assuming Lazarus can make it that long.

The journey won’t be an easy.  Across the hills and mountains around Jerusalem, down to Jericho, then east of the river into Perea.  It’ll take a day for the messenger to arrive and another day for Jesus to return.  Nobody travels those parts at night.

No sooner has he scurried out of sight over the Mount of Olives, Martha hears the wail from her brother’s bedside.

Lazarus is dead.  It’s too late.

Day 1

Word spreads quickly in a little place like Bethany. In the House of Affliction, the bad news spreads even faster, and people know what to do.  This place, where even lepers receive respect and care, knows how to treat their dead and bereaved families.  Within hours Lazarus has been wrapped with cloth strips and entombed in a cave with a large stone seal.

Meanwhile, Martha for once is letting someone else do the cooking. Her house is filled with attendants as she and Mary mourn for what could have been.

If Jesus had been here, their brother wouldn’t have died.

Why did they wait so long?  Why did they think they could take care of the situation?

As they weep, their neighbors weep with them. Louder. Longer.  When affliction comes to the House of Affliction, the afflicted know how to act, well, afflicted.

And as the sun drops like a rock on Bethany, a day’s journey away a messenger delivers an urgent plea:  “He whom You love is sick.”

Day 2

The word has spread now from Bethany, and Martha’s house is an even larger hub of activity. People from nearby regions are making their way to the House of Affliction to pay their respects.  Occasionally Mary in her grief will return the tomb – accompanied always by a horde of co-mourners.  Nobody in Bethany weeps alone.

With kitchen duties covered, Martha assumes the role of chief greeter for the family. She finds some comfort in the many kindnesses expressed. It’s gratifying to know that in some small way she’s reaping what she’s sown in terms of service and care. Yet it still seems so unfair. This was her only brother. And she and her family had not just been good to people – they’d been good to God.

Is this the thanks she gets?

Everything will be OK this evening, however, when Jesus gets here. Even in her suffering, His presence will make everything OK. Plus, Jesus seems to get her, and speaks things into her life that nobody else dares to. Martha needs that right now.  Mary needs it too.

It’s going to be OK.  Jesus is almost here.

Day 3

It’s been another sleepless night in the House of Affliction.  Martha watches another sunrise through eyes tired from crying.  Her wheels are turning. Her feet are pacing. Her fists are clenching and unclenching.

Martha is hurt and frustrated at best – confused and livid at worst. And she’s had all night to think about it.

Just as the sun set the day before, the breathless messenger returned.

Alone.

“Where’s Jesus?” she had asked.

“He didn’t come.”

“What do you mean he didn’t come?”

“He told me to tell you that this sickness will not lead to death, but to God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

It’s the first time ever that Martha has seen Jesus get something this badly wrong.  Or anything wrong, for that matter.

So much for being Jesus’ friends. So much for getting something in return for her service to God and the community. So much for God cutting her a break.  So much for Jesus being compassionate – or even being a prophet.

“This sickness will not lead to death.” My God, what’s that supposed to mean?

Oh… He must be talking about the Resurrection.

Unless… wait a minute… Yes, that has to be it! Martha’s angst turns to hopeful excitement. As a first-century Jew she believes that the soul of the deceased hovers above the body for three days before going to Sheol, the place of the dead – with the possibility of reanimating the body.  After the third day, decomposition would make that impossible.  So Jesus is coming today!

He has to.

He will!

Only He doesn’t.

Day 4

It’s been four days of company and an endless array of visitors. After today the mourners will return to whatever “normal” is. As the day wears on, even Martha’s ready for some peace and quiet. She can only imagine what Mary’s thinking. About the only thing they’ve said to each other over the last four days is, “If Jesus had been here, our brother wouldn’t have died.”

But Jesus wasn’t and Lazarus did, and it’s time to accept it.

Most guests at the House of Affliction simply show up. But as the sun begins lengthening the day’s shadows, the messenger returns:  Jesus is near!

Martha springs to action while Mary waits in the house. She rushes west to the edge of town in time to see the silhouetted image of her lost Friend coming near. Finally.

There before hugs or hellos, the hostess greets the AWOL Host:  “Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.”

Four days of unanswered questions lie hidden in what must sound like an accusation.  Why didn’t Jesus do what she wanted Him to? What good does faith do a broken heart? How can you trust God when it’s too late? And how can this pain have anything to do with the glory of God?

Martha adds, somewhat stiffly, “But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will grant you.”

“Your brother will come back to life again,” Jesus replies.

“I know that he will come back to life again in the resurrection at the last day,” says Martha.

Jesus looks at the tired eyes, trembling lips, and broken heart of His friend and says, “I AM the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live even if he dies, and He who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

In a moment of truth, Martha replies with something that sounds like rehearsed catechism:  “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God who comes into the world.”

Jesus seems to know what both of them need.  “Where’s Mary?”  He asks.

Martha dutifully returns and pulls Mary aside.  “The Teacher is here and is asking for you.”

Mary rises quickly and rushes outside the city, closely followed by her consoling committee. Falling at His feet, she repeats Martha’s words verbatim: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.”

No questions.  No accusations.  Not from her.  This is the sister who would soon anoint those same feet with perfume as a sign of love pointing toward His own burial.  She gets it. She gets Him.  Still, it hurts.

And amid the opinions and criticisms, a weeping Christ shows in a sign of His own what He does with tombs.  Arriving at the grave, He orders:  “Take away the stone.”

Martha again, using theology to object to Jesus: “Lord, it’s too late! He’s been buried four days.”

With tears still rolling down his cheeks, Jesus responds in that way only He can speak to people like Martha:  “Didn’t I tell you that if you believe, you would see the glory of God?”

They remove the stone and after a prayer of gratitude, Jesus shouts in a thundering voice: “Lazarus, come out!”

As Lazarus stumbles to the entrance of the cave, Jesus orders the gasping witnesses, “Loose him and let him go!”

But Lazarus isn’t the only one freed on this day, as Joy comes again to the House of Affliction.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Bongo January 6, 2014 at 2:00 pm

I love your version of this story – and thanks for linking to my post.
Bongo´s last blog post ..Trail Arrow

Martha Orlando January 6, 2014 at 10:14 pm

May we all have this perspective in times of affliction! Great reminder, Andy, to cling to Him, and not to our own devices.
Being named “Martha,” this story has always touched my heart and reminded me that, though Martha is sensible and responsible, she needs to remember that God will grant gifts when she least expects it.
Love and blessings!
Martha Orlando´s last blog post ..Watch!

OUTDOOR レインポンチョ 無地 アウトドア ロング レインコート カッパ 雨ガッパ November 15, 2015 at 1:36 am

Viにringrazio、considero CHE quelloチェホLE​​TTO SIA OTTIMO

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