“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
“Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” (verses 21-27)
There are two absolutely stunning statements in this short passage.
The first comes from Jesus himself, a statement I have used at countless funeral services for believers, simply because it is so power-filled and hope-inspiring. “I am the resurrection and the life.” Martha had just expressed faith that at the end of all time the faithful will experience resurrection, her brother Lazarus included. Jesus takes that faith-filled affirmation and anchors it in himself. It would be completely audacious and unhinged, were it not true. It’s as if he is saying, “That future day that you’re talking about? It’s here right now, summed up in me. I myself am the reality of that future hope.” Stunning. But true.
And because it’s true, Jesus can go on to say, “The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” Jesus, undaunted by his friend’s death, speaks hope that touches every believer. He himself overcomes death, providing life that rises up triumphant, pushing death aside. Shortly, he will demonstrate it tangibly at Lazarus’ gravesite.
But there is another statement that rings out surprisingly clear and strong, wafting on the echoes of Jesus’ own declaration. It comes from Martha’s lips. “You are the Christ, the Son of God” (verse 27).
We are so familiar with hearing these titles ascribed to Jesus, we almost forget how stunning they are. And, also, how infrequently they are used in John’s Gospel. It’s true, right near the beginning of John’s account we hear Andrew tell his brother, “We have found the Messiah” (John 1:41). Later, the woman at the well will communicate to the citizens of Samaria in the form of a question: “Could this be the Christ?” (John 4:29). Still later, after Jesus cried out at the Feast of Tabernacles promising the Spirit as streams of living water, some in the crowd called him a prophet, while some simply stated, “He is the Christ.” Immediately, others denied it (John 7:41).
But that’s it. In this Gospel, there are no other declarations of Jesus as the Christ, not even Peter’s stellar confession which stands at the centre of each of the other accounts: “You are the Christ” (e.g. Mark 8:29). John gives us no other declaration – except Martha’s, right here. Hers in the strongest of the lot. Hers, the most complete. Hers, uttered in the most dire circumstances, being the least conducive to faith – her brother has just died, and Jesus hasn’t yet come to his rescue. But Martha speaks it out, loud and strong, full of faith: “You are the Christ, the Son of God.”
In our most dire moments, we’re meant to hear Jesus power-filled declaration once again, ringing out over every impossibility: “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” And we, like Martha, even facing death, are meant to declare, “You are the Christ, the Son of God” – and leave it all in his capable hands.
Lord Jesus, gladly I hear your self-declaration as the Resurrection and the Life. Gladly I believe. But I confess, in moments of seeming impossibility I struggle. Please strengthen trust that I, like Martha, even in the valley of the shadow, might lean into the full reality of who you are, leaving the results securely in your hands.
Reflect: What faith-stretching circumstance is currently confronting you? Hear Jesus’ declaration. Step into Martha’s trust.