Two weeks before we celebrate the Resurrection, we are faced, in today’s readings, with the question of resurrection. We know from the Gospels, that in Jesus’ time, this was not a totally accepted concept. Pharisees and Sadducees disagreed about it and even used it as a test case to ensnare Jesus.
Ezekiel is commanded by God to prophesy to the people with the offer of new life. The rising from the graves, whether physical or allegorical, and being enlivened with the breath of God, is a powerful image of the restoration of life.
John relates the calling forth of Lazarus from the tomb, even though he was already dead for four days. The text gives some specific reason for this act. The raising of Lazarus is for God’s glory, and also that the Son of God might be glorified through it. When Jesus tells his disciples that Lazarus is dead, he adds that he is glad he was not there, because what is about to happen will help their faith. Before he calls Lazarus to come out, Jesus offers a prayer of thanks to God for hearing him. Then he adds that he knows God always hears him, but that he has said this prayer so that all the people present might believe that he has been sent by God.
One of Martha’s roles in this story is to lead us on a faith journey through her own professions. Martha’s four professions of faith in Jesus are specific. – The first was in the power of Jesus to save. She truly believed that if Jesus had been there her brother would not have died. His presence would have made all the difference. – The second profession was in the loving relationship that Jesus had with God. She knew that God would grant Jesus whatever he might ask. – The third confession is in the resurrection on the last day. Martha is clear on where she stands on that question. – All these acts of faith lead her to her own surety about Jesus. When Jesus asks her if she believes that everyone who believes in him will never die, she responds with her fourth profession. “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one that is coming into the world.” And so the story leads us to ponder what we believe. We can all claim ‘resurrection moments’ in our lives, communally and individually. We all experience the new life of spring coming from the depths of the earth. But the issue of the Gospel is deeper than that. It is the question we face in the loss of someone. It is the question we face when we ponder our own mortality or immortality. It is the ultimate end question.
“I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he/she dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” Last week my cousin buried her husband, whose death came rather quickly and unexpectedly. In her grief and struggle she said to me, “I know I will see him again. Well, isn’t that what we believe?”
Elizabeth Ferguson, OP