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.’
Today’s Gospel from the Daily Office features the beginning of the story of Lazarus walking freely from his tomb four days after death. We often remember this story by its conclusion: Lazarus lives! What miracle, what blessing, what hope!
But before the dear friend of Jesus emerges from the cave, we meet his sisters in mourning. Jesus responds with consolation and grace and his assurance that He is the Resurrection and the life. These verses remain a beloved part of our own funeral liturgies, and they bless the grieving heart with the truth that in Christ, death has been swallowed up forever.
While there is no greater hope than the Resurrection, there is a moment in this passage that reveals an additional comfort. Anyone who has experienced grief knows that there is often a gap between believing in Christ’s promise and genuinely feeling it. In sadness, we might recognize that Jesus tells us about eternal life, and yet it is often some time before that truth takes root in us.
We notice in this passage that when Jesus proclaims the Resurrection and asks Martha, “do you believe this?”, Martha does not reply, “Yes, Lord, I believe in every single thing you have just said.” She replies, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”
We don’t know Martha’s inner heart, but her words sound to me like the words of so many who grieve. The Resurrection and a promise of such magnitude might be too strange, too distant, too much for her aching heart to comprehend. But she knows Jesus. She trusts in Jesus. She believes in Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God.
This story is helpful for me in times of uncertainty. How often do well-meaning Christians accompany their friends through times of distress and say things like, “well, God has a plan!” Or “all things work together for good!” These are good and vital verses in our Holy Scriptures, but when jobs are lost or family members are suffering, I might not know very much at all about any “plan” of God. But I do know Jesus.
Martha is a courageous example of trust. She teaches us what it looks like to hurt and still have hope. Her faithfulness reveals that it is often not our time or place to know the mechanisms of God’s purposes. And yet we know the Messiah, the Son of God, and that - mercifully - is enough.