Week of May 20
Rev. Doreen Smalls
Lesson Scripture: John 11:17-27
We are privileged to live in a society where, when the help is needed, it arrives quickly. In an emergency, we pick up the phone and within a short period of time, normally a few minutes, assistance arrives. Perhaps you have had to make an urgent call because of a loved one’s illness, an accident or fire.
But imagine there are great delays in the emergency response system. Suppose you were placed on hold for hours or you received a voice message informing you the emergency medical personnel, firefighters or police officers have gone for the day and will return your call at their earliest convenience. Your patience will grow weary rather quickly.
Mary and Martha sent a dire message to Jesus telling him that their brother, whom Jesus loved, was sick. The sisters were disappointed, though, when Jesus showed no urgency in arriving to help.
Lament of a grieving heart
When a loved one dies, we welcome visitors into our home with warm greetings and heartfelt thanks. Many times we say, “Thank you for coming,” or “It’s good to see you.” These words display our appreciation and gratitude for their presence and hospitality.
When Jesus arrived to join the mourners following Lazarus’ death, Martha expressed a different kind of greeting. She stated, “Lord, if you had been there, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:21) Martha was clearly dismayed that Jesus had not come sooner.
By the time Jesus arrived, Lazarus had been dead for four days. A belief in Judaism was that the soul lingered around the body in the tomb for three days hoping the body would be revived. On the fourth day, the soul could see the body was really dead and would leave it for good.
Christ was a friend of the family and a powerful servant of God who had healed a multitude of people throughout the surrounding areas. So Martha had expected Jesus to do something. She expected him to save her brother and his friend. Because her expectation was so high her disappointment was even greater.
She cried out to God like most of us have done with a familiar phrase - “If only.” People spend too much of their lives dwelling on past experiences thinking that if they would have done things differently things would be better. And that very well may have been the case. Because we cannot change our past we must focus on the present and the future.
Do you know people who constantly look back on their past, continually wishing it had been different? Even when you look at the past sins of others, is there any benefit to demanding that they try to change the results of what they did?
Looking past the present
As the conversation continues Martha declares, “But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” (John 11:22) Her disappointment had turned to hope and faith. Again she was expecting Jesus to do something.
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” (John 11:23) Martha said, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” (John 11:24) She misunderstood what Jesus meant. She thought Jesus was referring to the resurrection of the dead, which is a popular belief in Judaism.
Jesus responded, “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.” (John 11:25-26)
Jesus is the Word of God, which is the source of resurrection and life. Resurrection is something that is available now in the person of Jesus.
Those who believe in Jesus comprehend that death is not a final end. We who believe in Christ have eternal life and that begins here and now! Therefore, we can affirm that he is the Messiah and the Son of God!
What does it mean in your life to say that Jesus is the resurrection? What difference does it make to know that Jesus was and is “the resurrection and the life?”
Rev. Doreen Smalls is an associate director at the Office of Connectional Ministries. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.