Daily Readings in John – Day Thirty-Six
November 20, 2017
John 11:17-27 (NRSV)
17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” 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. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”
Jesus is good friends with this family, and before he does anything else, he talks with each sister. The first is Martha, and their conversation is intellectual and theological.
Her questioning and her interactions with Jesus are a beautiful model of faith. She tells Jesus he could have stopped this bad thing, and that she knows that God will still do what Jesus asks.
When Jesus promises he will live again, she likely assumes that he means this will happen in some distant future, but she agrees with Jesus that this good news will happen.
I like Martha. She’s smart, she’s patient, and she has hope, just four days after her brother’s death, which is remarkable.
She also gives us a window into part of what this rich Hebrew word “Messiah” means. This word, which literally means “anointed”, the one marked with oil, represents “God’s chosen one” and is translated into Greek as “Christ.”
Here, Jesus and his friend Martha tell us that Messiah means that death is impermanent, that the greatest curse and fear we face doesn’t have the last say. Even death is “but a flesh wound.”