Details: An Easter Message


“Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister and Lazarus” (John 11:5)

This verse of scripture was the assigned topic for the talk below, which I delivered in church this past Sunday. Feel free to throw some Easter in there, was basically the only other direction I received.

A few weeks ago, I didn’t even realize Jesus stayed in Bethany with the three siblings – Martha, Mary, and Lazarus – mere days before his death.

And now…

Let’s just say I may never before have written anything this important.

By Angelica Hagman

Yes, Jesus Christ lived and died for us.

But His life and death were also His own.

In each life and death, there are details. Many details. The scriptures hint at only a few of the details in Christ’s.

But there were details.

Details that if we knew them, would make us nod in recognition. Details that if we knew them, would make us sad or angry for our Lord’s sake. Details that if we knew them, would make us smile, chuckle, and even laugh out loud.

And yes. Details that if we knew them, would make us cry. A lot. And for many different reasons.

So. Because I am a writer of fiction, I will now take some artistic liberties.

I will add details.

Some of these details might be right on target. Some of them might be close, but not quite. Some of them might be so far off, they’re almost laughable.

But I hope my added details, regardless of their accuracy, will make you think. I hope my added details, regardless of their factuality, will make you feel.

They made me think. They made me feel.

Because I can almost see it.

It’s mealtime. Dinner. The scent of freshly baked bread smells like a hug feels. As the sunset breeze seeks its way inside through a door left slightly ajar, a lone candle on the table flickers.

In only a few days, Jesus will die on Golgotha for the sins of all mankind. But right now, he is in Bethany, a small town just outside Jerusalem. He’s visiting Lazarus, Mary, and Martha, the three siblings John the apostle spoke of in his gospel:

“Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister and Lazarus” (John 11:5)

Lazarus, now lying down at the table, looks so different than he did that time not too long ago. That time Jesus, with a loud voice, called him out of his too-early grave.

Lazarus, come forth! (see John 11:43)

And Lazarus did come forth. Even after having been dead four days – four days! – he did come forth.

When Martha and Mary had wound off the burial bandages from his face, Lazarus had still looked a little…well, to be honest, a little like a walking corpse. Pale, sickly. A little disoriented. And maybe Martha’s previously voiced concern, uttered right before Jesus performed his miracle –“Lord, by this time he stinketh” (verse 39) – would prove kind of true.

But now, Lazarus has washed himself after a full day’s hard work and his rosy cheeks are plumped into a smile as he retells a joke he heard at the market. It’s a stupid joke, but everybody laughs anyway. Because without occasional laughter, looking at Jesus would be too hard.

They want to kill him. They want to kill him. They want to kill him.

Lazarus knows this. Martha knows this. Mary knows this.  

So they try not to think about it, and laugh whenever they can. Because even with the Light of the World across the table, darkness is difficult to push away.

Jesus thanks Mary and Martha for the excellent meal. Martha cuts off his praises and gently scolds him. He helped too much in its preparation, despite her protests. After all, Jesus is their guest, and diligent Martha wishes to be a good hostess.

Still, she is secretly pleased. Yes, Jesus is their guest. But He’s also their friend. No, more than a friend.

A brother.

And they want to kill him.

Just like they wanted to kill Lazarus, after Jesus raised him from the dead.

It makes no sense. They are fools! And yet, Jesus loves them. He loves them all.

Martha’s heart aches with tenderness, and to stop the tears from spilling over, she apologizes for the sixty-seventh time that day.

“Again, Jesus, I am so sorry about Ephraim,” she says. “Lazarus, if that stupid rooster crows again this coming night, you will slaughter him, Mary will pluck him, and I will cook him for tomorrow night’s supper.”

Lazarus just laughs, but Mary’s eyes widen. “No! Not Ephraim the Rooster! He’s too old, anyway. Too hard to chew.”

It’s a silly tradition, naming roosters. But their father started it, and…

And now when Martha sees Jesus’ smile she regrets mentioning Ephraim the Rooster, and joking about killing it.

They want to kill him.

She thinks back to the moments right before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Part of her hoped Jesus would choose to perform a miracle right then, and part of her was prepared to wait until Resurrection Day for that miracle.


Lazarus raised from the dead.

Martha still remembers Jesus’ exact words:

“I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:

And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?”

Martha also remembers her response:

“Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.” (John 11:25-27)

She still feels that way. And she knows Mary and Lazarus feel that way, too.

They want to kill him.

It’s too much. The tears sting so hotly behind Martha’s eyes, she has to turn away.

“Don’t worry, Martha,” Jesus says. Two beats later, he adds: “Ephraim the Rooster didn’t wake me.”

But Martha hears the real message in Jesus’ words. And she sees it too, in those loving eyes that cut into her very core and still love her.

Everything will be okay. In the end, everything will be okay.

And yes, it’s true:

Ephraim the Rooster didn’t wake Jesus in the middle of the night.

Ephraim the Rooster didn’t wake Jesus, because Jesus already lay awake.

So many thoughts. About what has been. About what is. About what is to come.

And then there are the stars, visible through the stable roof. Jesus will help Lazarus patch up the roof the next morning, but for now, the stars are a comfort.

The siblings offered him a bed inside the main house, of course, but sleeping in the stable somehow seemed right.

Thirty-three years ago, he was born in a stable. He won’t die in one – he knows that – but staying here now, in his last few days as a mortal?

There’s a sense of closure, somehow.

And the manger, the animal feeding trough in the corner…it looks a lot like one of his first big carpentry projects.

At the thought, Jesus’ heart squeezes.

Yes, Jesus is the Son of God. But he is also the Son of Joseph, the carpenter who taught him so much more than carpentry.

“I miss you, Father.” Jesus’ words seem to drift up to the stars, to both His fathers: the earthly and the heavenly.

He will reunite with Joseph soon, as well as Elohim. That is a comfort.

But who will comfort his mother, Mary? Who will stand by her, take care of her after Jesus is gone?

It will become clear to him soon, of that he feels sure. In fact, he already has somebody in mind. John, the man who will witness of him, keep his legacy of love alive in words that will one day be read by millions.

But Jesus still hopes he gets to speak privately to his mother before he draws his last mortal breaths. She’s lying awake now, too – he can feel her worrying. Yes, his mother is a woman of exceeding faith, but like Martha, she worries.

She was the one who told him to hide in Bethany with Lazarus, Martha, and Mary.

“It’s not safe for you here with me, my son,” she said. Now, in the darkness, as Jesus stares at the stars through the broken stable roof, he can still feel the love in her faltering voice, the love in her hand on his cheek.

What a woman. And still, she doesn’t fully understand. Neither do Lazarus, Martha, and Mary.

But they are on his side. He knows that. And they are taking great risks for his sake.

In only a few days he will bleed in a garden, and then hang on a tree-turned-cross in Golgotha, the Place of the Skull.

And when that happens, the thought of them, and others like them, will grant him the strength he needs.

In some ways, Jesus knows, it would have been easier to spend his last few days alone, with only his Heavenly Father. Like he did those forty days in the desert before his ministry began.

But he needs the reminder. He needs the strength. He needs the comfort.

They want to kill me. And I will let them. For my mother. For Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. For all.

But he is ready. For one, Mary of Bethany – who’s now in the main house, dreaming she’s once more a child, running through the fields – has already symbolically anointed him for his grave. He can almost smell the costly ointment of spikenard. He can almost see Mary bathe his feet with the salve, then wipe it off with her hair.

Mary didn’t fully understand what she had been inspired to do, but she did it anyway. As usual.

Not that Mary or her siblings are anywhere near perfect. But that’s the point.

That’s why Jesus is here. That’s why he will do what he came here to do.

At the darkest moment of the night, Ephraim the Rooster crows. Crazy bird.

In a few days, another rooster will crow, and the life of Jesus’ chosen successor – Peter – will change forever.

And Jesus’ own life will change. It will change into death, and then back into life.

Jesus can’t help but wonder: How will my resurrected body feel? Will I, for just a moment, be like Lazarus once was? A little pale and sickly-looking, a little disoriented? Maybe even slightly stinky?

It’s all in his Father’s hands, Jesus knows this. And he can feel the approval of both his Fathers now.

Awakened by Ephraim the Rooster, the new baby lamb brays. The firstborn lamb. The lamb that will soon be sacrificed as part of the Passover celebration.

“Sleep while you can, little lamb,” says Jesus, like a true Shepherd.

And with the smells and sounds of the stable filling him, and the hay pricking his skin through the clothes that ignorant Roman soldiers will soon divide amongst themselves, Jesus closes his eyes and tries to follow his own counsel.

Everything will be okay. In the end, everything will be okay.


Yes, in Jesus’ life and death there were details. Most likely not these particular details, but details nonetheless.

There are details in your life, and mine. And in the end, only a few of those details truly matter. Like:

Would you, like Lazarus, Martha, and Mary, offer your house to Jesus as a place of comfort and strength?

Would you, like Lazarus, Martha, and Mary, shelter Jesus when others itch to kill Him?

Would you, like Lazarus, Martha, and Mary, be okay with not understanding Jesus and His mission fully?

Would you, like Lazarus, Martha, and Mary, choose to be his friend when he most needed one?

No, not would you. Will you.

Will you?

Let’s make the most important details matter.

Jesus in Gethsemane

Jesus in Gethsemane, where he atoned for all mankind.

Related scriptures:
John 11John 12:1-9

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While You Slept: An Easter Message
Let Him In: A Christmas Message