By Denise Trull
We always make our way home when we sense that suffering is imminent. We seek the arms, the hearts, the voices of those who know us best. It is fully human, this particular need of home. Jesus knew it well, being like us in all things but sin.
This is the night Jesus dwelt safely in the house at Bethany, "where they made Him supper and Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at table with Him." Mary gently anointed His feet with oil, "and the house,” St. John hastens to reminds us, “was filled with the fragrance of the ointment.” Jesus was safe. He was loved. He ate and drank with His friends.
They were all filled with the ebb and flow of unspoken foreboding. There were threats against Jesus, that they knew. There were rumors of men seeking to kill Lazarus -- to squelch the miracle that he indeed lived again. His anxious sisters perhaps stopped their work suddenly to listen with held breath for sounds outside the door. Did Jesus see and gently distract them with His laugh and His beckoning hand that called for more wine? Martha would come and fill that glass as she had done so many times before. Service could always sweep away the worry for Martha. This Jesus knew and had come to love in her. Good and faithful Martha. Did she gaze at Him while she poured? Did she just smile into His eyes now that she had learned to seek the better part? Was she filled with peace that at least for now He was safe within her walls -- that she was a home for Him?
And what of Mary? Did He lean quietly down to her and answer one more of the many questions that He never tired of hearing as she tugged in that old familiar way upon the hem of his tunic?
Did the Apostles lounge happily by windows in little knots, feeling among themselves the deep content that came from knowing the Master’s friendship -- that they belonged there in His loving company? Did they sing together, as they did so often on the road, one of the ancient songs of their people to celebrate this peace? Did Jesus smile quietly at them and suddenly join in with His own beautiful voice?
I love this night, and yet a poignancy permeates as fragrant as the scent of oil rising about them.
It fills my heart with joy that this was a place Jesus called home. A place He could sleep, eat, and take His ease among familiar faces. Perhaps they all looked at each other and smiled, remembering the many Sabbaths they had shared. Perhaps Lazarus quietly took Jesus aside and asked him many anxious questions about what he had seen and heard down in the pit with "the peoples of the past." Jesus might have cupped that dear, anxious face in His hands and spoke comfort to him. That all would be as it should. Lazarus must not be afraid. And so he was not.
I don't think any of them talked much by the end of the night. They probably sat closer and closer to Him as Martha and Mary held his beautiful, kind, outstretched hands and listened to His voice, trying to store all He said, and the way he said it, in their memories. He would be going soon, of that they were certain. I cannot imagine the ache in their hearts and minds. I ache for Him now, and I have never seen Him.
But they saw Him, they ate with Him, heard Him laugh, heard Him pray, heard Him call forth Lazarus from the grave with voiced power. Felt his embrace when greeting him at the door of their home and exchanged with Him the kiss of peace, took his sandals off, brought him a basin to wash his feet and poured the fragrant oil extravagantly upon them. Made his favorite meal. All those loving things that friends do so readily for one another.
Tomorrow He would be gone, never to return in quite the same way that they knew now. But tonight He was safe. He was loved. And they prayed for strength to hold fast for whatever would come, and they watched through the night together -- as one.