Day 26, Thursday
Posted on: March 23, 2023
by: Gerrit Dawson, Senior Pastor
by: Gerrit Dawson, Senior Pastor
Lord, If You Had Been Here, My Brother Would Not Have Died
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[to] me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in[to] 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.”
What Prompts the Question?
Jesus delayed. Lazarus died. He was placed in a tomb and the family underwent the rituals of mourning. When Martha hears that Jesus is finally coming, she leaves her role as hostess to grieving family and friends. She goes straight out to meet Jesus away from the house. Once again she makes no direct request nor asks any overt question. But there is surely a note of disappointment, even of rebuke, in her declaration, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
How many times have we said something similar? Or wished we could dare to speak to God so directly? “Lord, it didn’t have to be this way. If you had heard my prayer, all this could have been prevented. You weren’t on time! You didn’t come through! I don’t understand why if you have the power you didn’t use it. Jesus, if you had been there. . . .”
Martha then adds an expression of faith. Despite her disappointment, she still hopes Jesus will set things right. It isn’t too late. She says, “God will give you whatever you ask, even now.” Commentators note, however, that Martha’s words indicate she saw Jesus as a conduit to God his Father but did not fully grasp that Jesus is the Son who has authority in himself over life and death. She didn’t yet see who her friend Jesus really is.
Jesus replies with a bold promise, “Your brother will rise again.” It seems Martha took this as but vague comfort. I hear her words as, “Right, Lord, I know there will be a resurrection of all the dead one day in the distant future. But that seems very far away.” When we are grieving, someone may say, “You will see her again.” Many times that is scant help. We may want to shout, “But I want to see her now! I hurt right here and now, and heaven by and by is much too far away!” Martha does not yet know that things could be any other way.
Unoffended, Jesus takes Martha’s words as an opportunity to make the fifth of his momentous “I Am” statements. His words emphasize the personal identity he claims. “I, I myself, I am the resurrection and the life.” We can scarcely overstate the magnitude of this claim. All life everywhere and always came into being through Jesus! All life that lives right now does so because Jesus sustains it. All life that dies on earth will rise only through and in Jesus, the one who has the power to make “all things new” (Revelation 21:5). Jesus is uncreated life, life that he has shared from eternity with the Father and the Spirit. The Father created all life that there is through his Son, the Word, in the shaping power of the Holy Spirit.
Perhaps we can see inside Jesus’ words by reading other Scriptures about him:
For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible . . . And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:17-18)
In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. (Hebrews 1:2)
Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. (Revelation 1:17-18)
This one man who stood so tall spoke with a particular tenor of voice, walked with a unique gait, and lived in Israel two thousand years ago, this man is creator and re-creator. He is the resurrection and the life!
Then Jesus asks Martha to trust beyond her grief and believe beyond her prior expectations. It’s a question he asks all of us: “Do you believe this?”
Martha replies with an immediately deepened and consecrated faith, “Yes, Lord, I have believed that you are the Christ, the Son of God who has come into the world.” Klink explains what such trust involves:
Belief in Jesus is the act of submitting to the authority of the Son of God, the creator of all things. This entails finding one’s end (death) secured in Jesus (both present and future) and one’s beginning (life) renewed and redefined in Jesus so that one is “free indeed” (John 8:36), unencumbered by the slavery of sin, having received the full rights of sonship in the house of God forever (John 8:34-35). (505)
And Bishop Newbigin inspiringly explains the implications of Jesus’ words:
The last day has already dawned. . . . Resurrection is no longer a mere doctrine; it has a living face and a name. Jesus is himself the presence of the life which is God’s gift beyond death. (142)
When I hear the words you spoke,
I am hearing the voice that brought
Suns and worlds and seas into being.
When I think of seeing your face
On that day you spoke with Martha,
I am looking at the countenance
That bathes my soul with light.
You are the greening in every leaf,
The beating of every heart,
The first breath of every newborn,
The flight under every wing,
The gaze of knowing
Between everyone who loves.
You are the one who rose
From the deepest death
To crack the sealed heavens
And erupt in life within us now
That leads on to everlasting communion.
You, Jesus, are the resurrection and the life.
Yes, Lord, I believe!
Posted in: Lent