After waiting two more days after hearing the news, Jesus set out with his disciples for Bethany. To the natural eye, he showed up waaaaay too late. He'd performed healings, and he'd even raised people from the dead before (twice). But on both the earlier occasions, the person had only been dead only a short time. This man was dead for four days, and his body was in the process of decay.
Notice the first words out of Martha’s mouth when she sees Jesus: "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." From the fact that her sister Mary says the exact word-for-word plea to Jesus when she meets him, we can guess that this is something the sisters had been telling each other for the last four days. They'd been saying to each other “Once the Master gets here, he’ll heal our brother" over and over and over and over, slowly losing hope and becoming more desperate as they had to watch their brother deteriorate before their eyes. And those words undoubtedly turned extra bitter once their brother breathed his last and succumbed to the sickness. “If only he’d been here! What was so important to him that he let our brother die?!”
But let's go back to Martha's conversation in today's reading. Her first sentence upon meeting Jesus was laced with despair and maybe some bitterness. But her very next sentence proclaims hope. She hints that even now, God would give Jesus whatever he asked, which would include raising Lazarus from the dead. She doesn’t even dare give full voice to her hope, but it’s there.
The Lord responds with what she understands to be just a vague general statement of theology. “Of course my brother will rise again. . .on the last day, right?”
And then the Savior gently corrects her, and moves from the general to the very specific, inviting her up to a whole new level of understanding of himself. “Yes, your brother will rise on the last day, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I am the resurrection and the life. The resurrection that'll happen someday? That will be me. All will be raised through me. All will be given life through me. He might die physically, but he’ll really be alive. And he won’t die, not really. He won’t die spiritually, and when I come back, that pesky physical death will finally be dealt with as well."
And then we see one of the most important questions ever asked: “Do you believe this?” All of this is true, but it won’t benefit you if you don’t believe in me. And fortunately, she had the right answer. I’d like you to notice that she didn’t have a complete knowledge of the Savior, nor did she need it. That'd be helpful, but not necessary. She knew that he was the Messiah, the Son of God sent into our world. She definitely didn’t know what we know from reading the book of Romans. But she knew enough.
There might be someone here who needs this question asked of them. Jesus died on the cross in order to pay the penalty for our sins. He rose three days later. He ascended to the right hand of the Father. He’ll come again someday to bring to completion God’s plan of restoration of all creation. He’ll judge every person who’s ever lived, and he’ll be the determining factor for every person as to where they spend eternity. All these things are true, but it does you no good to know about it if you haven’t believed in Christ. There’s a huge difference between knowing facts of theology and knowing Christ on a personal level. He’s made some pretty incredible claims about himself. And he’s asking you, right now, “Do you believe this?” Not “Do your parents believe this?” or “Does your spouse believe this?” Well, do you? If you have any doubts about this, please read this.
Yes Lord, I believe that you’re the Christ, the Anointed One, the Son of God, the One sent to save me. Thank you for showing that to me, since it makes all the difference in the world.
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