Our first visit to the village of Bethany, located about two miles outside of Jerusalem, doesn’t start out with a lot of hope. Lazarus was sick. His sisters were concerned. And Jesus–though he loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus–seems to be taking his time, finally telling the disciples plainly, “Lazarus has died.” Knowing the danger that awaited from those wishing to do Jesus harm, Thomas took it upon himself to motivate the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
Not exactly the most stirring of “Let’s go” speeches, but nevertheless, the disciples followed Jesus to Bethany, where Martha and Mary were mourning the loss of their brother, and as Martha greets Jesus, we hear the tone of this passage beginning to shift. Martha knew that nothing was beyond Jesus’ grasp, but even when Jesus told her that Lazarus would rise again, she couldn’t imagine the miracle He was describing. She pointed to the future, but Jesus was pointing to Himself, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” After confessing her belief that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, Martha went and called for her sister Mary, who met Jesus with the same belief as her sister, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Seeing Jesus weep, the Jews saw the love of Jesus for Lazarus, but they also had a question, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” That’s a question Jesus had already answered in his conversation with Martha and one that He would soon answer in a way that everyone could see, but the choice before us today is in how we answer that question and the one Jesus posed to Martha, “Do you believe this?” This passage shows us that answering “yes” to that question isn’t a removal of all suffering. Thomas’ summary was right, “Let us also go, that we may die with him,” but Jesus tells us that it wasn’t the full picture.
As Paul wrote to the church in Rome, “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:8-11, ESV). Believing in Jesus and following Him doesn’t lead to death, but it does lead through death, to the glory of God. Do you believe this?