Details: An Easter Message

details

“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.

Details
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.

jesus-raising-lazarus-from-dead

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

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

The Scriptures Are Not Just Words: Part 1

scriptures1Quick: give me three words that describe the scriptures.

If you haven’t really connected yet to scriptures like the Bible and the Book of Mormon, you might have provided words like these:

Difficult. Confusing. Time-consuming.

If you, on the other hand, have found treasures hiding in their pages over and over again, you might have come up with something like this:

Comfort. Power. Inspiration.

Ok, so even if you adore the scriptures you might have included one or more of the words in the first set! Studying the scriptures isn’t always easy or convenient. That said, the scriptures contain real power. They can be instruments of peace and comfort. Words written to a wide audience thousands of years ago can speak to us in a very personal and current way, helping us in our daily problems and guiding us as we make important decisions.

In short: the scriptures are not just words.

I recently asked some of my friends and family to each share a scripture that’s been influential in their lives, adding just a few sentences on how the particular scripture helped them.

For the next few weeks, I will share their responses. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

Maria

My brother recently gave a talk in church, and one of the scriptures he mentioned really struck me:

“And I said unto them: Have ye inquired of the Lord?” (1 Nephi 15:8)

Not only short and sweet, but really simple if you think about it. If we have questions or concerns, we should just ask the Lord! He’s always there and He wants to hear from us. There’s nothing He refuses to discuss with us or help us with, so if we have something on our mind or don’t see a solution to one of our problems or whatever, we should do as Nephi and ask ourselves: Have we inquired of the Lord? I think that’s going to be my new motto in life, because the Lord really does know everything and always wants what’s best for us!

Eivor

“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isaiah 41:10)

I memorized this scripture in preparation for my first surgery. It gave me comfort, power, and courage to endure what was necessary.

Sharman

“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” (Ether 12:27)

This scripture has always been a comfort and encouragement to me. So many times I know I fall short, and I seem to be struggling with the same challenges (patience was one that I was so very conscious of on my mission and when my children were young…still is when I’m behind the wheel!). But I know that The Lord doesn’t make empty promises, and this is why we’re here on earth. It’s humbling, but I know He will guide us and give us strength to make the changes we need to. Often my weaknesses are shown through church assignments or other service opportunities. How ironic… 😉

 Erica (Let Why Lead)

“This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalms 118: 24 )

I have a tendency to complicate things. I sometimes stand in the way of my own happiness by dwelling on my problems and flaws. When I feel my mind starting to swirl with the same old issues, I remind myself God made this day for me and that he wants me to experience joy. This verse helps me get over myself. It has also come to mean even more to me since becoming a mother. As a mom, I’ve gone through periods where the days feel so routine that I can barely remember what day of the week it is. When I refocus myself and think of this verse, I remember that every day—even the most mundane one—is worth really living.

Johanna

“And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.” (1 Nephi 11:17).

I love this scripture because often in life it is hard to accept our current situation in life and understand why some bad things are happening to us and those we love. This scripture makes me calm and gives me peace, because all we really need to know is in that scripture!

Don’t you love these? I’m excited for Part 2!

Trusting the Lord: Three Lessons from Moses’ Mother

moses

You’re probably familiar with Moses, the Old Testament prophet who helped free the Israelites from their captivity in Egypt.

You might also remember the circumstances surrounding Moses’ birth. The Egyptian Pharaoh, concerned about the population growth of his Israelite slaves, ordered that every newborn Israelite boy be put to death.

Moses’ mother managed to hide him for three months. Three months that must have been precious but extremely stressful – Pharaoh was scouring Egypt for babies and babies make a lot of noise!

For whatever reason, things couldn’t continue as they had. The situation required her to act or instead be acted upon.

So she gently tucked Moses into a home-made basket that she then placed in the river. (see Exodus 2)

Wait – she did what?!

When I heard this story as a child, I never once even thought to question the mother’s judgement. Now that I have children of my own, it occurs to me what a difficult and dangerous thing she did.

That said, I am positive she acted under divine inspiration (though she might not have known it at the time). I also feel confident Moses’ mother trusted in the Lord, hoping and praying for his divine assistance.

But can you imagine the fear of the unknown? The second-guessing? And if anybody else knew about her actions, the fear of judgement? (“So you’d rather let your son die slowly, is that it?” “At least I tried to flee with my son before the guards got to him.”)

So what happened to Moses? While bathing in the river, Pharaoh’s daughter found the child. She was enamored with the chubby cuteness, and Moses became the exception: he not only lived, but became the Pharaoh’s daughter’s adopted son and the person who would forever change the lives of the captive Israelites.

All because of a mother who decided to trust the Lord and do something (seemingly) crazy.

As I’ve thought more about what I can learn from Moses’ mother, I have arrived at three important lessons on trusting the Lord.

1. You may have to do some additional work. After Moses’ mother acted against reason and put Moses in the river, she had Moses’ sister Miriam keep watch over the baby as he lay in the basket. When Pharaoh’s daughter arrived at the scene, Miriam was perfectly positioned to ask Pharaoh’s daughter if she needed someone to nurse the baby – she knew just the person for the job!

2. Things will work out, but not necessarily in the way you hoped. Moses’ mother would doubtlessly have preferred that Pharaoh change his mind about killing the Israelites’ sons, but things eventually worked out all right: she got paid for nursing her son in her own home. Even so, she eventually had to return Moses to Pharaoh’s daughter.

3. You may turn out to be one of the “other” Israelites. I’m referring to the men and women who prayed to the Lord to deliver their sons from the Pharaoh’s edict, but who lost them anyway. If you find yourself in their midst, remember that you will one day be delivered. Your Moses – The Redeemer of Israel, Jesus Christ – will free you and compensate you for every loss.

Just trust in Him.

While You Slept: An Easter Message

DSC_3209

An empty easter egg to symbolize Christ’s empty tomb.

A friend of mine asked if I would post here on Feast on the Word the Easter talk I gave yesterday in church. Since I’ve been really busy with my fiction writing lately, I decided to go for it: sharing my talk counts as a post, right?

The text looked lonely by itself, so I added a title. And because the talk is quite long, I’ve divided it over a few pages, so don’t forget to click through. I’ll be impressed if someone actually reads the whole thing!

Talk given by Angelica Hagman on Easter Sunday April 31, 2013

While You Slept

This Easter week, we celebrate Jesus Christ, our Savior. In particular, we honor his atoning sacrifice on our behalf, his death on the cross, and his glorious resurrection.

Atonement, Resurrection…big, complicated words if you are unfamiliar with them – and sometimes even when you know their significance. So let me clarify, just a bit.

In the scriptures, we learn that “no unclean thing can dwell with God.” (1 Ne 10:21) But when Adam and Eve fell by partaking of the fruit in the garden of Eden, mankind was shut off from God’s presence. Because of this fall, humans sin, and our sins make us spiritually dirty. Which, as we’ve already mentioned, means we can’t dwell with God.

So, are we lost forever? Can we never return to our beloved Father?

Enter Jesus Christ. Christ, Heavenly Father’s sinless son, conquered two major obstacles that separate us from God: spiritual and physical death.

Christ conquered spiritual death by paying the price for our sins in the Garden of Gethsemane through what we call the Atonement. And three days after his crucifixion on Golgatha, he conquered physical death when his body and spirit reunited in an event we call the Resurrection.

And here’s the best part: because of Christ’s atonement and resurrection, we will also rise again and, if we live righteously, return to our Heavenly Father.

These Easter events, then, are really worth celebrating. Think about it: Christ won the victory over physical and spiritual death! No other set of events in human history comes close in importance.

All right. Now that we have a general idea of why we celebrate Easter, let me begin my message today.

Many of you know I am a writer. And my job as a writer is to put fictional characters on journeys. To give them something to do. To help them feel. To help them discover themselves and their purpose. And – hopefully – to help them change for the better.

Today, I’m going to do something a little bit different. I’m going to ask you to be my character.

Oh, and just to warn you: I’m going to take some artistic liberties from here on out, to better highlight emotional truth. I did warn you that I’m a writer. 

Okay. Let’s get started.

Pages: 1 2 3

Happy Valentine’s Day, God!

VdayFirst things first: Happy Valentine’s Day, lovebirds!

We often think of Valentine’s Day as a day to celebrate romantic love as well as love between family and friends.

But what if we on Valentine’s Day decided to think a little bit extra about our love for God? After all, the first and great commandment is this:

“And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” (Deut 6:5)

How much should we love God? That’s right. With all our heart, soul, and might.

That’s quite a bit.

Learning how to love God – and how to love Him with all our heart, soul, and might – is a great topic, and one I might tackle in another blog post (or several). For now, let’s assume you love God at least a little bit. And if you do, wouldn’t it be appropriate to show your love for Him today of all days?

But how do we show our love for God? He tells us exactly how in John 14:15.

“If ye love me, keep my commandments.”

Keep my commandments. A comprehensive and guiding statement, but also pretty broad. Today, I want to challenge you to answer the following question:

What is one specific thing I can do today to show God I love Him?

Then I would encourage you, as a Valentine’s Day gift to him, to go and do just that.

Curious about what my gift to God will be today? I’m going to thank Him for my blessings in detailed prayer and try not to ask Him for anything! I know, not too impressive. I might do something else, too, but expressing gratitude is at least a decent way to start off! What about you – what will your Valentine’s Day gift to God be?

Got Snake Problems? Look to God and Live!

Moses and the Brass Serpent, by Judith Mehr

Moses and the Brass Serpent, by Judith Mehr

After Moses parted the Red Sea and led the Israelites out of Egypt, the Israelites had a bit of a rough time in the desert for a few years (ok, forty). Many of their trials came because they were slow to remember the Lord and His goodness in freeing them from the Egyptians. Even a parted sea, it seems, can seem unremarkable in hindsight.

During one period of trial, many Israelites died because they were bit by snakes. Desperate for relief, they begged Moses, their leader, to ask God to get rid of the poisonous beasts.

The Lord’s answer to Moses’ prayer, found in Numbers 21:8-9, is very interesting:

“And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live

And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.”

All you had to do was take a look at a brass serpent on a pole? Easy peasy! Surely all the wounded Israelites were healed right away and all was well!

Well…it’s a little more complicated than that.

For more information on what happened, let’s turn to the Book of Mormon. According to Nephi,

“…the labor which [the Israelites] had to perform was to look; and because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished.” (1 Nephi 17:41)

Wait…what?! Some – many, even – chose to die(!) rather than look? Because it was too easy?

Nephi says the Israelites hardened their hearts (see 1 Nephi 17:41) and this lack of faith evidently blinded them. But come on

Put yourself in the average Israelites’ shoes (sandals?). While sweeping out sand from your tent, a snake sinks its fangs into you. The pain is searing. Your leg quickly swells until it resembles a three-foot sausage. Soon enough, you are shaking and burning up with fever.

Why don’t you just sneak a peak at Moses’ stupid brass serpent? Sure: it’s too easy and your heart is hard as a camel’s skull, but isn’t it worth just a try? Especially since you just begged Moses to ask God to get rid of the snakes for you. Plus, it worked for others!

Knowing the brass serpent represents the Savior and his atoning sacrifice for us (see Helaman 8:14-15), I suspect “hard hearts” isn’t the only reason many of the Israelites chose death over looking. Lack of faith, after all, isn’t just about hard hearts and stiff necks. It’s also connected with a basic human emotion:

Fear.

What if? What if looking at the brass serpent doesn’t work? Or what if it works on everyone but me. What does that say about me?

When I think about the choice to “not look” this way, I get it. I don’t mean to say that a majority of Israelites felt this way. Maybe most of them were just stubborn in their unrighteousness. But if some of them did feel this way, I understand their choice.

I believe in Christ and His atonement for all mankind. But all too often, I catch myself acting according to a subconscious belief, a hidden fear:

What if Christ can heal anyone but me?

And so it becomes easier to not believe. To harden your heart. To not look.

It isn’t easier, of course. At least not in the long-run. But it sure seems easier.

The real truth? It’s much easier to look at the brass serpent and live than suffer physical death. It’s much easier to look to God and live than suffer spiritual death.

We just can’t let fear get in the way of our faith.

“…look to God and live” (Alma 37:46-47)


How can we get better at accepting Christ’s healing balm for our snake-bitten souls?