Tuesday, April 24, 2012

John 11:17-26

The encounter that Jesus has with Martha in the next verses of John 11 is so poignant and really speaks to me about the challenge of faith:

On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. (John 11:17-20)

Don’t you wonder why Mary stayed at home? We know that Martha was more of a doer, who was most comfortable in being active. And Mary was the contemplative one, who enjoyed sitting at Jesus’ feet. This is not a judgment of which personality is better, it just seems to fit with what we already know about these sisters. So, I’m thinking Martha, in her grief, needed to run and meet Jesus to get some answers, while possibly Mary was so overcome with grief she was cocooning... Everyone handles their grief differently. But we sense a bit of accusation as Martha confronts Jesus. I know “confront” has a harsh connotation, but I’m thinking there was more of a boldness and forthrightness with Martha. She was unafraid to ask the tough question that was probably on the minds of all who loved Lazarus.

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” (vs. 22)

Doesn’t there seem to be an accusatory tone in her first statement? Don’t we often feel that way when we go to the LORD in desperation? “LORD, why did you let me lose my job? You know my family needs my income!” “LORD, you know how very much I want a baby! Why am I still infertile?” “Father, how can you allow my baby to suffer?” And for some of us, it’s Martha’s exact words that pour out to God in anguish. Prayers like these are honest! We do not need to fear bringing them to God! They are part of the nitty-gritty of life!

We know that Jesus loved this family and He was deeply touched by their grief. Not only because He was human and understood sorrow, but because, as God, He also wanted them to believe and see beyond their earthly grief. While He is about to bring them great joy, there will come at a later time a day when they will once again grieve Lazarus. So He points Martha to the eternal truth that she needs and that we all need to grasp and fully believe:

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 

Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (vs.24-26)

DO YOU BELIEVE THIS??? This is the question we all need to answer. If we truly believe, we will find comfort, and hope, and even joy in the midst of the most painful situations. Jesus IS THE resurrection and THE life. It is our belief in Him that determines our eternal destiny. So this question to Martha is ours as well. Do we get it?? Tomorrow we’ll see Mary’s encounter with Jesus. Such a tender moment...

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