In the Lectionary

March 26, Lent 5A, (John 11:1-45)

Martha hears Jesus’ promise, but she has a brother whose body is starting to decay.

Lauren winner tells the story of 12-year-old Julian, who told her father, a pastor, that she couldn’t go forward with confirmation because she wasn’t sure she could promise to believe everything she was supposed to believe forever. Her father replied, “What you promise when you are confirmed is not that you will believe this forever. What you promise is that this is the story you will wrestle with forever.”

There’s plenty to wrestle with in John’s story of raising Lazarus. How reassuring to be able to wrestle with this story alongside the formidable Martha. I’m with Martha when she scolds Jesus for delaying arrival until it’s too late to heal her brother. Even with the extra knowledge I have as a reader, I’m not convinced the delay will glorify God. My faith isn’t as strong as Martha’s when she says, “Even now I know . . .” 

Jesus’ bold “I AM” statement here is the most powerful in the Gospel. It’s the boldest, farthest-reaching of any promise in John. The claim “I am the resurrection and the life” reflects Jesus’ intimate relationship with God. The statement declares Jesus’ authority existentially and eschatologically over the most challenging circumstances. Jesus promises that those who live and believe will never die. Gail O’Day calls the promise “an invitation to experience the power of God’s love in the world that defeats death by believing in Jesus. . . . God present in Jesus has decisively altered the believer’s experience of life and death.”