Another Valentine’s Day is here. Ever since the day after Christmas, stores’ seasonal isles have been packed top to bottom with pink and red, heart-shaped junk.
I think I have expressed before that this is not my favorite holiday. But, since I still have one elementary-age kid living under my roof, my kitchen counter is covered on those silly folding cards each pleading a bright-colored, “Be my Valentine.” Who would I ever ask that to? I don’t even know what that phrase means. Can someone please explain?
At any rate, this in-depth look at Martha and Mary’s experiences with Jesus has made me think of Valentine’s from a different perspective. Rather than the rose-colored glass of superficiality and last minute teddy bears, plastic flowers and stale candy, I’m looking at it through the lenses of friendship…deep, true, enduring and ever-lasting friendship. Do you know what I’m talking about?
I think you do…I’m talking about those few people who have actually walked that mile and more in our shoes and still stand by us. I’m talking about those few humans whom, despite of the fact that they know us, they still continue to call us friends. I’m talking about those friends that in spite of time or/and distance, still manage to maintain the tie that binds us together, because that tie is of the heart and spirit, not of the material world.
We all need at least one of those…a friend to laugh with and most importantly, a friend to cry with.
I believe that the test of a true friendship is hardship. It is easy to be a friend when things are going along well. It is easy to cruise with those whose ride is smooth. When the road gets bumpy, though…the enjoyment gets hindered by reality, and relationships may suffer and fall apart.
Martha and Mary are going through one of those moments in life when pain is king. They had just lost their brother. I’m not an expert on Jewish culture, but my guess is that, since the sisters seemed to live together, and there is no indication of a husband or father-figure, they were most likely dependent on Lazarus for sustenance and support. I know in the Hispanic culture, brothers, particularly if they are older or if there is only one male sibling, they have quite the responsibility for their un-married sisters when the parents are gone. I’m assuming it might have been similar in the times of Martha and Mary. Therefore, losing Lazarus was not just devastating from the spiritual point of view, but utterly frightening from the material/financial perspective as well.
I believe they might have been left in desperate circumstances. So they were dealing with the emotional impact of grief as well as with the practical aspect of trying to figure out how they were going to continue to live…literally. In John 11, verse 32 we see some of that devastation in Mary:
When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Remember Mary is the emotional one. Overwhelmed by her feelings, she falls at the feet of Jesus yet again, this time to sob in misery and loss. She displays an attitude of surrendering, while at the same time expressing a hint of the same reproach we heard Martha voiced earlier. Jesus, however, far from judging this outburst of frustration and sadness, exhibits one of the most emotional reactions in Scripture:
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
It’s kind of interesting that Jesus does not try to reason with Mary. Unlike He did with Martha, which led to a grand revelation involving the mind…Jesus’ response to Mary’s display of emotion is filled with the same display of humanity from His part…He was deeply moved and troubled…so He wept…
Jesus knows us so well. He gives us the exact and customized response that we need when we need it, and according to who we are. He is the truest of friends. He is the one friend we can count on to stand by us when we feel that the world is coming to an end. He is the one who feels our pain. He is the one that weeps with us. He is the one who wipes away those tears. He is the one who makes all things new. And He is the one who teaches me to celebrate today and every day.
He is the One I’d ask, Lord, would you be my Valentine?