Today, I would like to talk to you about, “The Question Martha Dodged.” The reflection is based on the following Scripture:
“Jesus said unto her [Martha, Lazarus’ sister], I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God . . .” (John 11:25-27).
Jesus had been notified of Lazarus’ death. On his way to raise him, an important dialogue occurred between Jesus and Martha. The subject of the dialogue was the resurrection of the dead – including that of Lazarus. The conversation began when Martha stated that if Jesus had been present, Lazarus would not have died. Martha said this because she believed Jesus could have healed her brother.
But Jesus assured her that her brother would rise again (v. 23). In response, Martha stated that she believed Lazarus would rise on the last day (v. 24). Based on her response, Jesus realized there was a big problem. He and Martha were not on the same page. While Jesus knew today’s dead could be raised now, Martha pinned her hopes on a distant and somewhat vague future resurrection.
At this point, Jesus revealed to Martha that he is resurrection and life embodied, that resurrection grace is presently at work, and could (and should) be demonstrated now – not later at some future event. “I am [here and now] the resurrection and the life,” he declared. He further stated that anyone who believes in him shall never die. This last statement made Martha nervous. To make sure she was on board with this truth, Jesus put to her a direct question – compelling her to give a “yes” or “no” response: “Do you believe this?”, he asked.
But Martha was not ready to take this step yet. So she cleverly (and respectfully) evaded the question, saying ‘yes’ rather to something else: “Yes, Lord, I believe you are the Christ . . .” Notice Jesus did not ask if she believed he was the Christ. That resurrection grace in us can keep us from tasting death was a truth too much for Martha to bear. Her difficulty with present tense resurrection resurfaced when Jesus ordered that the stone be removed from Lazarus’ tomb (vv. 39-40).
The truth is, Martha is not alone. Even today, for most of us resurrection is confined to “the last day” – whatever that means. In the meantime, we have accepted sickness and death as normal. But Jesus’ instruction to us was unambiguous: “Heal the sick, raise the dead” (Matthew 10:8).
Faith in the resurrection is meaningless and of no use if we cannot feel its effects in our bodies and minds now. Let each one of us unabashedly affirm our immortality by declaring with Jesus: “I AM the Resurrection, and the Life.”
With love and blessings