Lazarus was Your friend, so close were the both of you that his sisters, Mary and Martha became acquainted with You. It was said that You loved them dearly. Was it not the same Mary who washed Your feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair? It’s no surprise that they called to You when Lazarus took ill. No wonder they expected You to come and perform one more miracle. One would think that You would not even allow any misfortune to befall him. But then, You had a habit of doing things in mysterious ways. You still do.
Why did You delay up to two days before going? You could have simply said “Thou art healed” and he would be. You had done it for the centurion’s servant, You could have done it for Your dear Lazarus too. Yet, You kept them waiting, watching, hoping… Until Lazarus passed away. Why? Was it necessary? You could have chosen somebody else through whose death God would be glorified. Why Your dear Lazarus, why Mary and Martha? Why do You choose those closest to Your heart to bear the heaviest cross? Or… Is it because of the greater glory that awaits such long-suffering? Is this how You choose to pick the special guests of honour at the wedding feast of the lamb?
By the time You got to Bethany, he had been buried four days. He had probably begun to decay. When Martha asked why you had taken long to come to their rescue, she added that she knew God will grant whatever you asked. That’s an uncommon faith! You had performed several miracles but raising the dead and buried was not just a miracle. It’d be an ultimate demonstration of authority, over both life and death. And yet, Mary believed that it was possible if You, If YOU asked the father. She was going through a lot of pain due to the loss of her brother: she had waited together with her sister Mary for You to come to save Your beloved friend but You didn’t until he had died and was buried. Her faith must have been broken but she gathered the broken pieces and raised her heart to you, still believing in Your mercy.
Was that the purpose, an uncommon faith that stands even when it’s impossible, irrational; A faith that isn’t drowned by pain, loss, bitterness or even logic and intellect; the kind of faith that chooses to stand alone on nothing, the faith that depends wholly on the being of God even when it seems H isn’t there. And Your delay got that out of Martha!
And when You told her that her brother would rise again, she said she knew he’d rise again on the last day. She didn’t even think he’d come back to life that moment but she had believed it, she had trusted You. She confessed that YOU were the Son Of God. Despite what she was going through and Your apparent nonchalance that would’ve certainly hurt and disappointed her yet she held on. Pain and loss were meant to build or destroy one’s faith. It was the fire through which all faith must pass in order to determine its strength. Right there, in the middle of chaos and fire, disappointed and embittered, not knowing what would happen next, Martha chose to keep trusting in You.
Mary came weeping, saying her brother would not have died if You had been there. Was it the sorrow, the pain and anguish of loss, the frailty of human life, the agony of mortality; was it the faith that was struggling to walk on water, the ignorance and innocence inherent in the soul of man, the gap between mortals and eternity that You had been called to bridge; was it the grief in Your own soul, the darkness that was hovering its wings over You, looking for vantage to strike? What was it that led You to tears?
You thanked The Father for he had always heard You. The stone was rolled away and You called him by his name, “Lazarus, come out” Oh what joy! I can’t imagine the awe in the eyes of Mary and Martha, the tiny pieces of what’s left of their faith coming together yet unable to comprehend what happened before their eyes. You had power over death, yes, YOU are the Christ, Son of The Living God. Faith had paid off. And how about Lazarus. What was it like in the grave? Cold and silent? What else? Did he hear voices, was he aware of his surrounding, was he conscious that he had died? Could he think? He was dead yet just asleep as You had said (and I believe You). Did his soul descend to Hades and he heard You call his name all the way there? Or, did his soul hang around there, wandering, waiting, for You? That too required faith, to keep hope even after death.
So here I am, stuck in this dark and cold grave. I had waited for You to come. I had desperately called upon Your name to come save me, to perform just one more miracle. But You stayed behind, two hundred days until I died. I was buried underground, where I can’t hear anything or anyone. But not You. I would hear You, even if I were in the darkest pits of Hades. I’m decaying but not my faith. It’s void here, nothing on which to stand but it’s time my faith stops depending on something to stand. You are, You were, and You will be. My faith stands on that. It’s been forty days now but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that You will come and even if You do Forty thousand days later, You’d be right on time. You’re never late. I’m holding onto Your promise until You call out my name and I will answer, defy death and rise again.
JL Maikaho’s poetry manuscript was a finalist in the maiden Nigerian NewsDirect Chapbook Awards. Her works have appeared in Brittle Paper, Kalahari Review and elsewhere. She has been longlisted for the Bill Ward Prize for Emerging Authors and shortlisted for the MAFEELDA Essay Contest, both in 2022. JL is a SprinNG alumna, writes from Gombe, Nigeria and tweets @JLMaikaho.