Summary: In this story we see the reaction of three different people to death; Martha hoped, Mary hid and Jesus wept
I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE
A woman in Arkansas was sitting in her car in a parking lot last year when she heard a loud bang and then felt a sharp pain in the back of her head. She reached back and felt a warm sticky substance on the back of her head and realized that she had been shot. Her life flashed in front of her eyes – all the things she had done, and not done, all the people she was leaving behind. She was holding her hands behind her head when someone walked by and asked, "Are you OK?" The woman answered, "I've been shot in the head, and I'm holding my brains in." Well, it wasn't her brains. It was dough. A Pillsbury biscuit canister had exploded in the back seat, apparently from the heat, making a loud explosion and shooting dough into the back of the woman's head.
Like this woman at some point we all have to come to terms with our own mortality. I turned 50 a few years ago and have come to the realization that I have more days behind me that before me. There are some here today that have faced illness and alarming medical reports. Unless Jesus returns, one day all of us here will have to face death.
I am not afraid of dying. I just don't want to be there when it happens. -- Woody Allen.
Today we are continuing in our series looking at the I Am statements of Jesus. As I said last week, each one of these statements tells us another thing about the character and care of Jesus for us. Today we want to remember that the words of Jesus show us that we can face death with certainty instead of fear.
John 11:17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. 21 "Lord," Martha said to Jesus, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask." 23 Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." 24 Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." 25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" 27 "Yes, Lord," she told him, "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world." 28 And after she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. "The Teacher is here," she said, "and is asking for you." 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there. 32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 "Where have you laid him?" he asked. "Come and see, Lord," they replied. 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, "See how he loved him!" 37 But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?"
In Jewish belief when a person passed away their soul remained near the body for 3 days. The period of mourning for the dead lasted of 3 days of very heavy mourning, 4 days of heavy mourning and then 30 days of lighter mourning. It was customary for friends and relatives to come and comfort the family. Lazarus had been in the grave now for 4 days which meant that all hope was lost.
In this story there are three characters who all responded to the death of Lazarus in a different way.
1. Martha Hoped (vs. 17-27) – Jesus is able
Martha ran out to meet Jesus as He arrived. When she met Him her words were clear “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” The emphasis here seems to be on the fact that she knew that Jesus was able to help. “I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” She knew that Jesus was the Christ. She believed that he would have been able to heal her brother. However 4 days had gone by. Lazarus’ soul was gone. It was too late. Yes, God would do what Jesus asked and yes her brother would rise again some day at the resurrection – but he was gone.