5 August 2017

John 11:17-27

"She said to him, 'Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.'" (v. 27)

Psalm: Psalm 50:1-15


This section of John's Gospel provides a plethora of characters with whom we might identify. Different people have different responses to (and understandings of) Jesus, some of which we might recognise only too well, and some of which might challenge or encourage us. Here, centre stage is given to Martha, leading up to her confession of faith.

It is significant, perhaps, that Martha's confession does not come at a time when she thinks Jesus is wonderful! She goes to meet him and her greeting is one of chastisement, as well as an expression of confidence in his presence (verses 21-22). She is angry with him and she does not fully understand his actions, nor is she able to reconcile his behaviour with her expectations of him. Yet, even in the midst of her anger, frustration and bewilderment, she still knows who Jesus is and believes in him. In contrast to the disciples who were present at the first sign at the wedding in Cana (John 2:1-11), Martha's belief comes before Jesus' sign. Indeed not only he did not act as she expected but he has contributed to her grief. She is not satisfied by his religious teaching as she knows the thinking and practice well, but it offers little comfort to her in her grief.

Jesus then responds with words of revelation (verse 25). Again they relate to the ongoing conversation about who he is: Jesus is the resurrection and the life. In him is the transforming love, light and energy of the Father who raises from death to life, and he makes present the reality of this divine life for those who know him. Through Jesus' own suffering, death and resurrection others are raised and set free to new life.

Jesus does not deny the reality of physical death, but gives an assurance of everlasting life. He promises a new kind and quality of life that continues beyond the grave. Even death is of relevant and not final importance. Those who have faith in Jesus are already alive in eternity. And Martha, in the midst of her grief, anger and frustration, has faith!

To Ponder

  • When you feel angry, frustrated or let down by God, what do you do with those feelings?
  • Sometimes our knowledge of God does not match our experience.  What helps you to work your way through these times?

Bible notes author

The Revd Nicola Price-Tebbutt

Nicola Price-Tebbutt is a presbyter in the Methodist Church. She has previously served in circuit in Sheffield and as a tutor at Hartley Victoria College in Manchester.