Death tends to overpower words. When comforting the grieving, words seem so inadequate. We cannot find appropriate words to heal the pain. So, we offer polite, superficial statements such as:
“He is in a better place.”
“At least she’s not suffering.”
“He looks peaceful.”
While well-intended, these phrases provide little solace to the griever. After enduring a litany of platitudes, some grieving souls lash out as Martha lashed out at Jesus in
Lazarus, Martha’s brother and Jesus’ friend, died. Prior to her brother’s death, Martha and her sister Mary sent for Jesus (
Martha left her home to meet Jesus when she heard of the Galilean’s arrival. She expressed disappointment in Jesus’ delay but anticipated action on Lazarus’ behalf (
Have you ever felt this way? Have you ever felt disappointed because you expected more from God? Have you ever felt disappointed with empty religious clichés? Have you ever felt the pious platitudes were powerless? If you have, note the Messiah’s response.
Stung by Martha’s rebuke, Jesus responded with words that promised more much more. “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (
“I am the resurrection and the life.” With this statement Jesus offered: eternal life, perpetual relationship and personal renewal. To Jesus, resurrection is not simply a distant date. Resurrection indicates current, present reality. The declaration is audacious, but it is slightly less startling than the question posed to Martha. “Do you believe this?”
This might be the best of Jesus’ numerous outstanding questions. Jesus was asking Martha, “Do you believe I am the resurrection and the life?
“Do you believe I have the power of life and death in My hands?
“Do you believe I can exceed your lofty expectations?
“Do you believe I am God in the flesh?”
Before we finish this story, I want to turn Jesus’ question back to you. Do you believe Jesus is the resurrection and the life? Do you believe that all who believe in Him will live? Do you believe the sting of death has been removed?
Those questions are best answered at a grave. Those questions are best understood in the context of death, because those questions tempt us to believe in an alternate reality. Those questions encourage us to explore a realm that we’ve been told doesn’t exist. They beg us to leave the ledge of security and certainty and trust that God can intervene in the world as we know it and reshape it into the image He desires.
Do you believe Jesus is the resurrection and the life? Martha did. Martha believed, and then she saw. After the dialogue with Martha, Jesus talked to Mary (John 11:32-35). He received more questions, and the heartbreak running through this family lead Jesus to tears. On the way to the tomb of His friend, Jesus wept (John 11:35); but when He stood before the stone guarding the grave, the tears were gone. Boldly, Jesus commanded, “Take away the stone” (John 11:39). Martha protested. She believed in Jesus, but Lazarus had been dead for four days. He must smell bad (John 11:39).
Jesus asked, “Did I not tell you to believe—that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:40).
Martha relented. The stone was removed; the crowd gasped; Jesus prayed; and then all eyes focused on Jesus as His voice demanded, “Lazarus, come forth!” The voice reverberated. Then, still wrapped in his grave clothes, the former corpse wandered out of its tomb.
Pandemonium broke loose at the tomb: hugs and tears, laughter and cheers. Death had been defeated. Life had been extended. Celebration always occurs at the scene of vacated tombs. Celebration occurs for those who believe He is the resurrection and the life. Celebration occurs for those who faithfully cling to the hope that death is not the end. Celebration occurs for those who remember Jesus—the resurrection and the life—called forth the dead. Celebration occurs for those who know the One who called forth the dead also became dead for three days before becoming the first fruits of the resurrection (
Jesus asked Martha an incredible question, “Do you believe this?”
I want to ask, “Do you believe this?” Do you believe in life after death? Do you believe Jesus called Lazarus from a tomb and that he walked out of it on his own? Do you believe Jesus is the resurrection and the life?
If you do, is your belief more than words?