Family Resemblance


At first you don’t see the family resemblance. Mary seems quiet. She seems to be an introvert. She is a thinker of deep thoughts and she feels just as deeply. Martha is an extrovert who busies herself in hospitality. We don’t know much about their brother Lazarus. He is most famous for his death and resurrection. He is though, a friend of Jesus. He and Jesus have spent significant time ‘hanging out’ with one another. We know of no deep thoughts or great deeds but he is a friend, pal if you will, to Jesus.

A closer look shows the commonality. They each, in their own way are worshippers.

Because I lead nothing that resembles a traditional church, people sometimes feel free to come to me with complaints about their home church. The folks that talk to me love the moments in church when they ‘feel’ deeply in worship or when they have the opportunity to commit themselves wholly to Jesus as “living sacrifices”. These ‘mountain top moments are too infrequent for them and they wish they could be more regular. Sympathy is not one my chief virtues and so I am not long in reminding people that the ‘mountain top’ is a great place to visit but we don’t live there. Worship must mean more than an ecstatic experience.

Yes Mary sat in rapt attention at Jesus feet and after the raising of her brother she does extravagantly pour nard out, anointing Jesus for his own burial. She sheds the concerns of this world and zeroes in on the “better thing”. Her focus is not on the temporal but the eternal and her worship reflects her heart.

Martha worships in another way. She is active in her worship! James writes about being a doer of the word not just a hearer. He might have had Martha in mind. Paul writes in Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.”  I advise people who want to worship to see the opportunity to worship in each task that comes to hand and to get involved in Kingdom work. The phrase “work and worship are one” can be true. It wasn’t long into his encounter with God that Moses was asked “What is in your hand?” God uses the things that are ‘at hand’ to bring him glory. Jesus visited the Mount of Transfiguration and then “set his face like a flint for Jerusalem”. His destiny and the glory of God was to be found in the mess of this world and even the gore of the cross. Jesus speaks about the Father being glorified in the cross. He enjoins his worshippers to “take up their cross and follow me.” Martha gets a bad rap as being too busy to worship but I suspect  she saw her work as worship.

Lazarus strikes me as someone who enjoyed a warm fellowship with Jesus. We don’t see him in the mode of either sister. Jesus is his chum. This kind of relationship is not instant. Over time it develops as Lazarus spends time in Jesus’ presence. They have shared experiences. Some may have been quite poignant but most would have been hum drum. The quantity of time, just the ordinary moments together, become the stuff of a deep friendship.

If we exclude Jesus from our ordinary moments then we exclude him from most of our moments. Life is lived in the ordinary. Lazarus reminds me that Jesus longs to be my companion as well as my Lord. The word ‘companion’ means someone we share bread with. Bread is the most ordinary of food. Our companionship with Jesus can be the richest of worship experiences but we too often miss out because we only value the ‘Mary’ times of worship.

There is a decided ‘family resemblance’ in this trio. They like you and me were made for worship. We find satisfaction and meaning in true worship. Our limited understanding of what worship is and can be, prevents us from experiencing the “abundant life” which is Jesus gift to us.