Tuesday, March 31st, 2020
Text: John 11:17-27
17 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. 20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
We noted yesterday that although Jesus received an urgent message from Lazarus’ sisters of his terminal prognosis, Jesus and the disciples remained where they were for another two days before heading to Bethany, on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Verse 17 tells us that by the time they arrived, Lazarus had already been dead for four days. Why is that fact significant? The commentator William Hendriksen writes, “according to a rabbinical tradition the soul of a deceased person hovers around the body for three days in the hope of a reunion, but takes its final departure when it notices that the body has entered the state of decomposition.” In other words, by the fourth day, Lazarus was dead for good. There was no longer any hope for the mourning loved ones of the deceased; not even a miracle could help them now. It is in this moment of complete despair that Jesus shows up. When Martha, one of the sisters, hears that Jesus has come, she quickly goes out to meet Him while Mary, the other sister, remained mourning at home.
Notice now the great faith of Martha. Even though she is dismayed at Jesus’ delayed arrival, noting that Lazarus could have been saved if He wouldn’t have taken so much time to get there, she remains confident in Jesus’ sovereign power over all of creation. Does Martha believe that Jesus can still heal her brother? At best it is unclear from this passage. After examining it for some time, I would say that without doubting Jesus’ ability, she appears to have resigned herself to the idea that the best outcome she can hope for now is seeing her brother again in heaven. Of course, the promise of an eternal reunion is no small comfort to us when a loved one passes away, but that is not all that Jesus was offering when He said, “Your brother will rise again.”
Don’t miss verses 25 and 26, as they are some of the most important verses in the book of John, including one of the seven “I am” statements of Jesus that helps us understand the full implications of His deity. Jesus assures Martha that, not only will there certainly be a resurrection on the last day, but “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” There won’t just be a resurrection somehow, someway, someday in the future: Resurrection is here and now. Resurrection stands before you and comes to you today. Jesus brings resurrection and life to all who are dead because He is the only way to life. And Jesus freely offers this life to all who believe that He is, as Martha says, “the Christ, the Son of God.” If this was the end of the chapter, we could all find great hope in these words. Fortunately for us, this is not the end of the story.
Prayer for Today:
Lord, we firmly believe that You have a plan that is perfectly timed and perfectly good. You have promised to all those who believe that when we have placed our hope in You, that we can know true life, and we will never taste the full sting and pain of death. We ask that You would help us today to recognize You for who You have declared Yourself to be: the Christ, the Son of God. May you grant us wisdom and courage as we strive to offer the hope of true life found only in You to our world which so desperately needs it. We thank you for the resurrection work that You have already begun in our hearts. It is in the precious and perfect name of Jesus we pray. Amen.