Lord, if you had been here: The mystery of Reality with a capital “R”

The_Rising_of_Lazarus“Lord, if you had been here…” The words of Mary as she fell to the feet of Jesus.

LORD, IF YOU HAD BEEN HERE! Her pain so great, her legs could not stand. Her heart raced with a mix of relief, anger, desperation and profound sadness.

Lord, if you had been here! Mary’s tears washed the feet of her friend, her Savior, her hope and her home.

Lord,… her voice shakes, 4 days of gut wrenching grief. Where was he? She had seen him heal the sick, give the blind their sight, speak healing into the lame man and though he knew his friend, her brother, Lazarus, was sick, he had not come. The pain shrouded her face in shades of grey and red. She finished her sentence, Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.

Jesus looked at his friend. The pain so powerful, he felt it in his very core. He looked to the crowd, they too were weeping and mourning and questioning. Lord, where were you? If you had only been here, then Lazarus would still be here too. Jesus, knew the whole story, but his friends did not. How could they? Human experience and logic doesn’t allow for the kind of story Jesus was writing. Yet, Jesus, knowing the whole story, first knew their pain. His heart felt their sadness and it seeped into his veins, his heart pounded, his palms sweat and his eyes welled up with tears.

Jesus wept.

His sadness, his grief, his empathy, caused alligator tears to fall from his eyes and to those watching, his tears declared his great love for his friend. “See how he loved him!” The crowd knew his love. And, though Jesus knew what he was about to do, he so loved those around him that their pain mixed so profoundly with his love that tears were the only acceptable words.

Where have you laid him? Take me to him. The series of events that unfolded next were other worldly. He moved with tenderness, gentility and strength. He moved with assuredness. He commanded the stone to be rolled away. The crowd protested, Lazarus had been dead now for four days and the smell would be great. Jesus insisted.

The crowd watched, I imagine Mary watched her friend move and felt her heart race. “Why hadn’t he come? Why must he grieve with us, when he could have celebrated with us?” She watched as the grave opened and there was no smell. A thought runs through her mind as a flash of lightning. “Is he going to raise my brother from the dead? It can’t be? There is no way! Even for Jesus, this is too much. What is he doing?” Her heart raced with a mix of hope and logic. Then she heard the words, “Lazarus come out!”

She stood frozen. The entire crowd stood still. No one moved and silence fell on the crowd as as though even breath was too loud. The silence held wonder, fear, anticipation, hope, and doubt all at the same time.  Their silence gave way to release, air left the lungs of the crowd with a collective sigh. Lazarus made his way to the door of the grave that had held him captive for the past four days. The air let out by the crowd seemingly filled his lungs and he stood dazed as though he’d abruptly woken up from a deep sleep and a good dream. 

Mary looked at Lazarus for moment, but her gaze then stayed upon Jesus. Wonder, awe, astonishment, were the only words remotely capable of expressing her heart. Her tears of grief had transformed to tears of wonder. Her suffering turned to laughter. Her hands and heart once shaken with profound sadness, shook with the adrenaline rush found in the most profound joy. He was alive. The story of her brother had just been given a new chapter. Mary now realized that the Lord had been there. Though her brother died, the Lord, her friend, Jesus knew all along that the story of her brother was not yet complete. He had an even greater story in mind. He had an unthinkable ending. Though Jesus had known her brother was sick and remained absent, He knew all along that this absence was going to lead to this. To life. To true life. To unthinkable life.

I imagine Mary’s life never quite looked the same after this day. She would now mark her life story with befores and afters. The day Lazarus came back to life was the day Mary believed that fairy tales were actually true and she lived in one. Her life, her brother’s life were now defined by impossibility and they lived for the rest of their days in the Reality that nothing’s impossible to God.

There are two realities. One, with a small “r” and one with a capital “R”. Small “r” realities can be taught, explained through logic and are the basis on which most seek to understand faith (comical really). Miracle stories are often taught through the lens of small “r” realities. They are taught as if a science lesson meant to be understood and therefore, strip them of the mystery.  Mary would tell you there was no science involved in her brother raising from the dead. I imagine, if Mary were to tell us the story, her hands would again shake and tears would run down her cheeks as if she were in Bethany once again. The miracle, unexplainable. She, like the blind man in John 9, could only explain the miracle through story “all I know is that my brother was dead and now he lives.” Miracles are capital “R” realities. The unexplainable Reality found in the truth of the fairy tale.

Following Jesus, believing he is who he says he is, is a constant invitation to live in capital “R”  Realities. And this, is painful, beautiful, exciting and breathtaking. Jesus leads us, me, to the impossible places and stops to ask the question, “do you believe?” More often than not, I’m invited to live into the miracle before the Reality of the miracle sets in. (Mary and the crowd had to remove the stone before Lazarus came out. The lame man had to pick up his mat and walk. The man with a withered hand had to stretch it out.) So many places in scripture people are invited to express their belief in action, prior to the Reality of the miracle. It is in taking the step of belief that the miracle simultaneously occurs.

You and I are invited to belief that is foolish. We are invited to act as though the miracle has occurred before we feel the full effects of the miracle itself. We are invited to eat of the body and blood of Jesus, sharing in his death and therefore sharing in his life. A fairy tale.

May your faith increase as you stare at the impossible: as you grieve in the absence of Jesus, as you say “Lord if you had been here, then (fill in the blank), as you are invited to roll away the stone of the impossible and step in belief, living in the Reality of the fairy tale of the gospel.

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