My favorite Easter story is the one where Lazarus dies.
I don’t mean the part where Jesus raises him back to life. I’m talking about part before that—where Martha and Mary are grief-stricken.
In the story, found in John 11, Jesus knows that Lazarus is sick. Despite being urged to go see him, he delays too long. Lazarus dies; his sisters, Mary and Martha, are devastated.
When Jesus finally arrives at their house, he walks straight into their grief, unafraid of what he’ll find. Martha comes to meet him, struggling to reconcile her belief with her pain. Jesus reaffirms her faith and gives her hope. Mary, on the other hand, won’t even come out until he calls for her. She drags herself to his feet and sobs out her grief and disillusionment. And Jesus doesn’t reason with Mary—he weeps with her.
The story goes on to tell how he raised Lazarus from the dead. But while everybody else rushes to the tomb, I hang back. I’m captivated by that picture of Jesus. He responded to each woman according to what her heart needed.
That’s my Easter story.
I love Easter. Early on, Darren and I agreed we wanted to make it a big celebration in our family. We splurge on gifts. We dye eggs—real eggs, real colored water, real messy. We shower the kids with candy, because nothing forges a child’s affection for a holiday like getting sick off candy.
Despite all this, however, I haven’t attended an Easter service for four years. I spent way too many of my younger years under spiritual falsehoods and a bad church situation. Now I can’t sit through church—especially Easter’s boisterous, victorious celebration—without panicking. But that’s a long story for another time.
So I love Easter, but I can’t fully celebrate with my family. I feel like Martha, trying to meet Jesus with faith, but spilling over with pain instead.
Yet Jesus walks right up to me, unafraid of my grief, and repeats what he told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life.” As four Easters have passed me by, I understand him a little better. His resurrection gives us hope—not just the hope of a life after this one, but resurrection from spiritual death in this life.
This year we’ll dye eggs, splurge on presents, and talk about a God so powerful that he can conquer death. And I’ll reflect on my favorite Easter story. You know—the one where God reaches out to you and me in just the way that our hearts need him.