What They Say. What He Says.
From the series Letters to the Prison
Last week Jesus, having informed his disciples that Lazarus was already dead (John 11:14), decided nevertheless to go to his friends in Bethany near Jerusalem. We see in John 11:17-20 that, when Jesus arrives, Lazarus had already been dead for four days. We also see the presence of “many Jews” with Mary and Martha. They’ve come to console the sisters in the death of their brother. So, Jesus arrives in the area in a public way with many witnesses to attest to the timing of his arrival and the pre-existent fact of Lazarus’ death and burial. This is important because what’s about to happen is so amazing… so profound… that people might have a really hard time believing it had actually happened –if there weren’t so many eyewitnesses.
But before we get to what happens, we need to examine some astonishing things that people say about Jesus at this moment… and what he says about himself. That’s the whole point of this study: To answer the question, “Is Jesus who he says he is?”
To begin, Martha goes out to meet Jesus as he is arriving in Bethany. Look what she says:
- “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” -John 11:21-22
If you listen carefully to people, you begin to recognize that they speak from the perspective of their own beliefs about reality. They bring certain assumptions to bear on what they say. Let’s consider some of what Martha reveals about her beliefs in this simple yet stunning statement: First, she clearly believes that Jesus could have preserved Lazarus’ life “had he been there.” Second, she believes that God hears and honors every request Jesus makes. Third, she believes that “even now” --though Lazarus is already dead, Jesus could still receive whatever he asks for from God. Note that Martha is making no assumptions about what Jesus’ will is or whether he would ask God for anything… her statement reflects a simple but deep faith in Jesus’ position with God and a complete dependence on and acceptance of his will for the outcome. Look how Jesus responds:
- “Your brother will rise again.” -John 11:23
Ever gone to a funeral and heard someone say, “well, at least they’re in a better place?” It seems like the polite catch-all thing to say when you don’t know what else to say at a funeral. And do we suppose that the person who says such a thing has any confidence at all about whether what they’ve said is true? But here, at Lazarus’ funeral, Jesus is not doling out canned pleasantries to make Martha feel better. What he says here is just a simple reality confidently expressed. He’s so certain of the fact of Lazarus’ imminent resurrection that he doesn’t even sense the need to say something like “surely” or, “I promise,” or even the now-famous “truly, truly.” Jesus just casually lays out a simple statement of the truth of what will come to be known as one of the most amazing events in all human history. Yet Jesus expresses it so casually that Martha misses the point at first, as we will see.
There’s so much more to examine in this conversation. Until next week! We love you.