The Point of the Story

4 Apr

Let’s just be clear, John is my least favorite gospel. John has a very defiant point he wants to make and builds the action and dialogue around that point, so that it ends up sounding like Jesus is just kinda mean to his friends.

The continuation of yesterday’s story has Jesus approaching – but not entering – Bethany. This stage of the story Martha talks with Jesus without the rest of the mourners.

17-20 When Jesus finally got there, he found Lazarus already four days dead. Bethany was near Jerusalem, only a couple of miles away, and many of the Jews were visiting Martha and Mary, sympathizing with them over their brother. Martha heard Jesus was coming and went out to meet him. Mary remained in the house.

21-22 Martha said, “Master, if you’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. Even now, I know that whatever you ask God he will give you.”

23 Jesus said, “Your brother will be raised up.”

24 Martha replied, “I know that he will be raised up in the resurrection at the end of time.”

In this part of the story Jesus talks in ways that the others do not understand what he is says. Resurrection is a theological idea, that had been influenced by Greek thought, was not accepted by all Jews. So Martha probably even feels daring when she declares her belief in the concept of resurrection. But Jesus wants to push the idea further. . .

25-26 “You don’t have to wait for the End. I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all. Do you believe this?”

27 “Yes, Master. All along I have believed that you are the Messiah, the Son of God who comes into the world.”

So in these verses are the reason the story is written; so Jesus can say to Martha with his disciples standing in attendance, “I am, right now, Resurrection and Life.” The gospel writer is throwing this powerful statement in the nay-sayers face. The power of life and death belongs to Jesus. Also, this is another of the ‘I am’ statements that are exclusive to this gospel.

There are two interesting notes for me in these verses. First, Jesus does not talk about God here, just himself. Usually there is a pointing to God as the one who is the power, but it does not occur in these verses. Secondly, that Martha, because of her declaration that Jesus is Messiah, become a apostle by definition. That is, one who publicly profession Jesus as the Christ (Greek translation of Messiah). So, this begs the question of why Martha was never recognized as a disciple or an apostle by the early church?

The next section begins with a statement that makes it clear we are only getting part of the conversation that Jesus had with Martha.

28 After saying this, she went to her sister Mary and whispered in her ear, “The Teacher is here and is asking for you.”

29-32 The moment she heard that, she jumped up and ran out to him. Jesus had not yet entered the town but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When her sympathizing Jewish friends saw Mary run off, they followed her, thinking she was on her way to the tomb to weep there. Mary came to where Jesus was waiting and fell at his feet, saying, “Master, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

And so we begin again with Mary telling Jesus that he could have cured Lazarus if he had gotten there on time. This will be said one more time before the story is done.

What I like about this section is the friends following Mary, so she will not have to mourn alone at the graveside. A few times in my life I have been with families right after someone they loved has died. I have noticed how people tend to avoid these situation saying, “but I don’t know what to say”, “it’s a difficult time, they probably just want family, or to be alone”. I do think there is little to be said in the face of death, but standing with someone is a gift to them. I like this Jewish community that mourns with Martha and Mary and lets them know they are not alone.

It is a wonderful part of our faith to know that God is with us and we are not alone. Yet, it is also a precious gift to have human beings around who support us and care for us in every human ways. I pray you have someone today who will be that person. Peace.

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One Response to “The Point of the Story”

  1. Gladys Bernet April 4, 2014 at 2:11 pm #

    Mary,

    I’m enjoying you blog and especially was touched by today’s message. If you are wondering if anyone is “out there” listening – they are. Take care.

    Gladys Bernet

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