Saturday 07 April 2018

Bible Book:

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.’” (v. 25)

John 11:17-44 Saturday 7 April 2018

Psalm: Psalm 145


John’s Gospel centres on the question of belief in Jesus. People are presented with an immediate choice. Either they believe in Jesus or they reject him, but to believe in him is to gain life and to reject him is to lose it (John 3:16-21).

This little family, Martha, Mary and Lazarus, are among those who have chosen to believe in Jesus. Martha sums this up in her response to Jesus’ question: “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world” (v. 27). She uses three titles which give very high status to Jesus:

  • Messiah is the name for God’s chosen representative, the supernatural figure who will see that God’s will is done.
  • Son of God is a title traditionally given to the kings of Israel (Psalm 2:7), the one who shares God’s nature and identity.
  • “The one coming into the world” draws on an Old Testament prophecy (Deuteronomy 18:18), looking forward to a second prophet like Moses. This works as a summary of what John’s church believed about Jesus – this was the belief that led to life in him (John 20:31).

Jesus’ meeting with Martha was private. His meeting with Mary was much more public, as the Jewish mourners followed her when she hurried out of the house. Her first words to Jesus mirrored her sister’s: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (v. 32) Yet Jesus’ response was very different. In this more public setting, he did not ask questions about faith. Instead, he wept with her (verse 35), sharing her humanity and her loss.

His conversation with Martha centred on the power and presence of God in him. His conversation with Mary centred on all that makes him human. And the two came together as he stood before Lazarus’ tomb, still “greatly disturbed” (v, 38) and gave God’s gift of life back to him.  Lazarus had been dead for four days (verses 17, 39). Jewish tradition said that at this point, the spirit had certainly departed – he was unquestionably dead. So Jesus’ action in calling him back to life was a sign of God’s power flowing through him and echoing in his voice. Yet even this renewed life was not the life Jesus promised. Lazarus’s physical life would, one day, come to an end; but the life Jesus offers is not interrupted even by death, because nothing can separate us from him when we put our faith in him.

To Ponder

  • Does this story add anything to the traditional understanding of Martha, the busy one, and Mary, the contemplative one? If so, what? How might it enable you to negotiate that balancing act any more nimbly in your own life?
  • The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke all describe Simon Peter as declaring that Jesus is the Messiah. John’s Gospel gives these words to Martha, despite the discrimination faced by women at that time. Does this change your perspective on the conversation in any way? If so, how?
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