Lenten Devotional // Day 34

Saturday, April 9
I AM the Resurrection and the Life by Madi Denton

John 11:17-45
When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Bethany was a little less than two miles from Jerusalem. Many Jews had come to comfort Martha and Mary after their brother’s death. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him, while Mary remained in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. Even now I know that whatever you ask God, God will give you.”
Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha replied, “I know that he will rise in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though they die. Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
She replied, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, God’s Son, the one who is coming into the world.”
After she said this, she went and spoke privately to her sister Mary, “The teacher is here and he’s calling for you.” When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to Jesus. He hadn’t entered the village but was still in the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who were comforting Mary in the house saw her get up quickly and leave, they followed her. They assumed she was going to mourn at the tomb.
When Mary arrived where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.”
When Jesus saw her crying and the Jews who had come with her crying also, he was deeply disturbed and troubled. He asked, “Where have you laid him?”
They replied, “Lord, come and see.”
Jesus began to cry. The Jews said, “See how much he loved him!” But some of them said, “He healed the eyes of the man born blind. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?”
Jesus was deeply disturbed again when he came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone covered the entrance. Jesus said, “Remove the stone.”
Martha, the sister of the dead man, said, “Lord, the smell will be awful! He’s been dead four days.”
Jesus replied, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believe, you will see God’s glory?” So they removed the stone. Jesus looked up and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. I know you always hear me. I say this for the benefit of the crowd standing here so that they will believe that you sent me.” Having said this, Jesus shouted with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his feet bound and his hands tied, and his face covered with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.”

Every time I read this story, one line slams into me like a ton of bricks.

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.”

There’s something so real about that sentence. It’s saturated in emotions of grief, loss, anger, discomfort. I know that in my past, I’ve found myself asking variations of the same question.

“Lord, if you were here, why did this happen?”
“How could you have let this happen, God?”
“Where were you, Jesus? Why were you absent?”

My discomfort doesn’t necessarily lie in the emotional truth of their statement. Those are things I’ve felt or spoken to myself in past experiences. It’s in the realization that they spoke that sentence to Jesus’ face. They looked at him and named the very painful reality they were wrestling with - that his absence did not prevent their brother’s passing.

And Jesus, as he usually does, responds in an atypical kind of way. He doesn’t rebuke Mary and Martha for their intense accusation. In fact, neither time does he actually comment on what they say to him. Instead, he holds space for their feelings and reminds them of his promises.

“Your brother will rise again.”
“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though they die. Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Jesus doesn’t make the claim that death, loss, or hardship is avoidable. It was as much a reality of his human existence as it is ours. But, he does promise that he offers resurrection and life more abundant on the other side of those experiences.

He didn’t make the heavy feelings of grief and loss go away for Mary and Martha, either. But, he did grieve alongside them, openly weeping at the loss of his friend. They weren’t alone in the hardship, and they stepped into new life alongside Lazarus surrounded by their community for support.

Jesus can handle your real, raw, true emotions. He doesn’t shame or rebuke us when we’re honest about how we’re feeling. He takes it in, sits with us, grieves alongside us, and extends us hope and peace in the promise of life and resurrection after it’s all said and done.

Questions for Contemplation
  • What did you feel when you read Mary and Martha’s response to Jesus? Why do you think you responded in that way?
  • What does Jesus’ promise of life and resurrection mean to you? 

God, we are grateful to know that in the midst of our hardest moments, you’re with us. You hold space for our feelings and encourage us to be honest about where we are, not desiring for us to hide our honest emotions. We pray that you’d constantly remind us of your promises, and that we would not forget the assurance of abundant life you extend to us.  Amen.

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