Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “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 shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world” (John 11:17-27 ESV).
This exchange between Martha and Jesus in the midst of the account of the resurrection of Lazarus stood out to me this Sunday when the whole text was read. Specifically, Martha’s words seem both faithful and accusatory, both right and not completely right. Martha sees two ways out of Lazarus’s death. One is immediate and would have to take place prior to him actually dying. If Jesus had just come when they first sent for him, well, then He could easily have healed Lazarus’ disease and prevented his death. And though she says, “even now I know whatever you ask from God, God will give you,” she doesn’t see to envision an immediate resurrection. The second way she sees out of Lazarus’ death is the resurrection on the last day. When Jesus tells her that her brother will rise again, she says “I know he will at the resurrection on the last day.” To Martha, this is a far off event. In between a healing that should have taken place before his death and the resurrection on the last day, she doesn’t seem to have another reality in mind.
This is often how we, too, see things. Either God will heal the person we are praying for, or us, NOW, or we must hope in a distant resurrection day. We have hope and belief in the resurrection, but we see it as distant and far off. In our eagerness to confess the resurrection “rightly” as Martha did, is it possible that we put faith in a far off event? Is it possible that in the here and now, we find an incomplete hope and an incomplete comfort because we see the only solutions as 1. having already passed by and 2. being agonizingly distant?
Jesus offers Martha — and us — a corrective, a tweaking of our view of things. The resurrection is not an event far off in the future or a nebulous idea. The resurrection is a PERSON. “I AM the resurrection and the life,” says Jesus. And if He is the resurrection, then it is not far off from us. It is not distant. It is not some nebulous idea. The resurrection is as close to us as He is — water on our foreheads, bread and wine in our mouths, Words in our ears. The resurrection is at once already here and yet to come. This is the tension of the Christian life — the now and not yet. But it is also the hope and the promise of the Christian life. The resurrection already belongs to us. We are, in fact, already raised. We already triumph over death because the One who is the resurrection belongs to us and we to Him, and what is His is also ours — victory over death, resurrected life, and the love of the Father. And on that glorious last day, what and whose we are already will be finally fulfilled and fully revealed.
Let us Pray: Lord Jesus Christ, You are the resurrection and the life, help us to cling to You and recognize Your nearness to us so that we may live in the resurrected life You have already given to us until the time when it is fully realized; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.