John 11:11-27

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 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. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”


Our gospel today takes us to the core of our faith, what it means to affirm that Jesus is resurrection and life. The scene is immediately set with us learning that Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary, and the friend of Jesus is ill. Lazarus’ illness is so severe that his sisters send word to Jesus asking him to come to Bethany, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” It is with hope that they reach out to Jesus. Jesus’ response, however, seems odd and less than satisfactory: “… though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.” Jesus frames his behavior with these words, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

Jesus relays the promise that God’s power and plan will be found in the darkness of human suffering; even into death. Against the darkness of suffering, Jesus speaks his purpose: it is for God’s glory and his mission. We can only imagine the sadness when Jesus doesn’t arrive and Lazarus dies. It is not surprising that Martha confronts Jesus so directly. Her words relay her grief but also speak to her trust in Jesus as her friend and healer, “Even now, I know if you pray to God, God will give you what you ask for.” Her trust in God’s love for one that Jesus clearly loved is not shaken. As their conversation unfolds, Jesus claims his identity and poses the question of faith 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. Do you believe this?”

Our reading ends with Martha’s profession of faith, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.” There are times when circumstances in our lives may test the very limits of our faith. Today Martha offers encouragement to what faith looks like even in the midst of loss, sorrow, and disappointment – when things don’t fall in line in the way we would desire.

Jesus is still asking this same question of us today, “I am the resurrection and the life, do you believe?” Do you believe that Jesus can give you life even if there is death and suffering around you? Do you believe that there is hope no matter the circumstance? May we search our own hearts for the answers.

Faithfully,
Rose+


O Lord, you relieve our necessity out of the abundance of your great riches: Grant that we may accept with joy the salvation you bestow, and manifest it to all the world by the quality of our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(Lesser Feasts and Fasts)