17When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, 19and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. 20When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. 21Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him." 23Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." 24Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." 25Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" 27She said to him, "Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world."
28When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, "The Teacher is here and is calling for you." 29And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him.
You have to like Martha. She is quick to move, quick to respond to Jesus. Where was Mary? She stayed inside. Before we judge Mary, we must note that Mary, upon hearing that Jesus was near, also came out without delay to meet Jesus (11:29). Both the sisters say the same thing to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died" (vv.21 & 32). They knew the power of Jesus to heal. They could not conceive, at this stage, that Jesus also had the power to raise the dead. Soon they will see with their own eyes the power and authority of the Son of God to raise their brother Lazarus from the grave.
Sometimes to contemplate what is offered in Jesus is mind-boggling. Even though we were to die, we will live? Death and life -- aren't these contradictory terms? Even if we were to die physically, we will not die spiritually. Furthermore, the physical death we experience will give way to a physical resurrection from the dead. So, in the end, death itself will never have the final say. That's why we read in 1 Corinthians 15:55-57:
55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Verse 55 comes from Hosea 13:14:
14 “I will deliver this people from the power of the grave;
I will redeem them from death.
Where, O death, are your plagues?
Where, O grave, is your destruction?
The wildest hope in all of Scripture is the victory over death. Do you believe it? We can be confident that for Martha and Mary (after witnessing the raising of their brother) that such hope seemed less wild. They saw what happened to Lazarus as a foretaste of what will happen in the future. From wild to less wild to confident.
Although we can confess that Jesus overcame the powers of death, to believe it sincerely and deeply is perhaps not as pervasive as we might imagine. Let me ask you: Do you believe the powers of death and death itself have been overcome by Jesus, the Son of God?
If so, live as though this truth is true! Death has been overcome and the powers of death (i.e., death's alliances: the devil and sin) have also been defeated. If this is true, let's live our lives based on this unimaginable yet undeniable truth (!!!)
Let's pray: O Lord Jesus, we come to you and confess that death and the powers of death have been defeated. One day they will be fully nullified so that no one will ever experience either of them. In the meantime their powers have been drained by your death and resurrection. Help us to live in the new realities of resurrection life and the power of the Holy Spirit. Release us, O Son of God, to live freely and joyfully in you. In your name, amen.