Jesus’ Life and Ministry
The Resurrection Hope
JESUS finally arrives at the outskirts of Bethany, a village about two miles [3 km] from Jerusalem. It has only been a few days since Lazarus’ death and burial. His sisters Mary and Martha are still mourning, and many have come to their home to console them.
While they are mourning, someone informs Martha that Jesus is on his way. So she leaves and hurries to meet him, apparently without telling her sister. Coming to Jesus, Martha repeats what she and her sister must have said many times during the past four days: “If you had been here my brother would not have died.”
Martha, however, expresses hope, hinting that Jesus might yet do something for her brother. “I know that as many things as you ask God for, God will give you,” she says.
“Your brother will rise,” Jesus promises.
Martha understands Jesus to be speaking of a future earthly resurrection, to which Abraham and other servants of God also looked forward. So she replies: “I know he will rise in the resurrection on the last day.”
However, Jesus gives hope for immediate relief, replying: “I am the resurrection and the life.” He reminds Martha that God has given him power over death, saying: “He that exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life; and everyone that is living and exercises faith in me will never die at all.”
Jesus is not suggesting to Martha that faithful ones then alive will never die. No, but the point he is making is that exercising faith in him can lead to everlasting life. Such life will be enjoyed by most people as a result of their being resurrected on the last day. But others who are faithful will survive the end of this system of things on earth, and for these Jesus’ words will be true in a very literal sense. They will never die at all! After this remarkable statement, Jesus asks Martha, “Do you believe this?”
“Yes, Lord,” she answers. “I have believed that you are the Christ the Son of God, the One coming into the world.”
Martha then hurries back to summon her sister, telling her privately: “The Teacher is present and is calling you.” Immediately Mary leaves the house. When others see her go, they follow, assuming that she is going to the memorial tomb.
Coming to Jesus, Mary falls at his feet weeping. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died,” she says. Jesus is deeply moved when he sees that Mary and the crowds of people following her are weeping. “Where have you laid him?” he asks.
“Lord, come and see,” they answer.
Jesus too gives way to tears, causing the Jews to say: “See, what affection he used to have for him!”
Some recall that Jesus, during the Festival of Tabernacles a few months before, had healed a young man born blind, and they ask: “Was not this man that opened the eyes of the blind man able to prevent this one from dying?” John 5:21; 6:40; 9:1-7; 11:17-37.
◆ When does Jesus finally arrive near Bethany, and what is the situation there?
◆ What basis does Martha have for belief in a resurrection?
◆ How is Jesus affected by Lazarus’ death?