Jesus the Resurrection and the Life
17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, 19and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. 20When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. 21Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.’ 23Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ 24Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ 25Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ 27She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’
When Jesus came to Bethany, he was told that Lazarus was not only dead but had been in the tomb for 4 days. Martha came out to meet him, saying that if only he had been there, her brother would not have died. It sounds almost like an accusation – especially to the disciples who knew that he had delayed for two days before traveling – but then Martha softens her words, “But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” Her faith is strong – she knows that God is with Jesus. And Jesus says to her, “Your brother will rise again.” She assumes he is speaking of the resurrection at end times and responds that she believes this. But Jesus is, this time, not talking about the end times or the abstract, but about the present, saying that he can defeat even the death that is right there and physically very real. He says to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” and he asks if she believes this. And of course, she does, and furthermore, she believes that he is the Messiah.
Do these words sound familiar to you – the words Jesus spoke? I read them as a part of the liturgy for a memorial service on Saturday. When Christian people leave us, it is not into an abyss of death, a bleak and dark unknown, but on to a new life in Christ. The life that is lived in Jesus is with him after this earthly body has gone. He defeated death on the cross – and we live in him in eternal life – an eternal life that begins here and now, in the Now Kingdom of God, in this life, and continues into the next life with him. There is a contemporary Christian song that says, “I don’t know about harps in heaven, or the process for earning your wings. I don’t know of bright lights at the end of tunnels, or any of those things. But I know to be absent from this body is to be present with the Lord, and from what I know of him, that must be very good.” (Sarah Groves, “What Do I Know?” from the album “Conversations”) Life after death is an awakening to life with Christ – that must be very good.
But Jesus has something more in mind on the day he met Martha on the road. (Like the cliff-hanger at the movies on Saturday mornings when I was a child, come back tomorrow to find out what happens!)