I could smell the loss across the room sitting in front of my mother’s casket. She passed away the day after Palm Sunday and buried on Good Friday, six years ago.
Holy week . . . the special time of resurrection.
Her last days were difficult for our family. Daughter Sherise and I remained throughout the last days and hours, lying in the bed next to her. We watched sickness corrode the body that contained the sweet soul.
As she faded from this life to the next, daughter placed a palm branch above her hospital bed and held a hyacinth beneath her ashen face. Her last shallow earth breaths, taking in the scent of her favorite time of year, before meeting the Father.
The fragrance of Mom sits on my windowsill today, the purple symbol of loss and resurrection. I placed a hyacinth on her grave just the other day and saw her smile.
All of us have faced the death of one we didn’t want to see leave. The story in the gospel of John tells of a family grieving a loved one. We sometimes think of Martha as the one who feels “a woman’s work is never done,” while she steps over her worshipping sister, Mary. They, like us, were real women who experienced their personal faith in different ways.
I’ve been both.
Martha plays a special role in ministry to me as I read her story. Their beloved brother Lazarus dies. Martha stands mourning at the tomb. Her brother has been dead four days. She waits for Jesus. She thinks He’s late. When she heard He was coming, she ran to meet Him. Mary remained, knowing He’d show up.
Martha greets him with sorrowful words stained with complaint, “Lord, if You would have been here, this wouldn’t have happened” . . . my paraphrase in hearing Martha’s frustration, sounding like my voice at times of crisis of faith.
Jesus looks into the hurting eyes of Martha and says, “Your brother will rise again and live.”
“I know this, on the last day, on resurrection day” she says, maybe tapping her foot.
. . . and He gently replies . . .
“I AM the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me will have life and never die.” He doesn’t say there will be, or can be, He says He is the resurrection.
And then the profound question to her and to us . . . .“Martha, do you believe this?”
The often busy and serving Martha answered without batting an eyelash, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, the One coming into the world.”
Mary and Martha join together at Lazarus’ tomb . . . before the miracle, we see a grieving God . . . Jesus wept holy tears. He loved his close friend.
The Master says, “Move the stone away.”
Martha falls prey to logic, “It’s been four days, there will be a stench.”
Jesus prayed aloud to the Father who hears. He shouts “Lazarus, COME OUT!” to the corpse who amazingly appears and sheds death rags. Many came to believe at the cemetery revival, the final miracle in the book of John.
Belief is needed before the miracle. Can you imagine how our lives would be if we believed through the impossible circumstances of life?
How terrible it is to love something that death can touch . . . death, the fruit of the garden. But when we believe, Jesus crushes the neck of death with His foot and it slithers away to the appointed place.
Hyacinths smell like life to me . . . the fragrance of Mom and her new life.
The scent of the cross. Resurrection and new life.
“______________, do you believe this?”
This illness is not unto death, but to glorify the Son of God. John 11:4
. . . and it has in my life (a treasured word I received in 1979, two days after my son was born with renal failure).