Every time I read the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, I’m taken back by his exchange with Martha. I see in Martha’s words my inevitable human inclination to not get God yet act like I’ve got him figured out.
It’s what Martha says. Jesus has finally showed up at the scene of his grieving friends’ home where Lazarus has been 4 days dead. Martha, the busy-in-the-kitchen sister, runs to Jesus not for comfort, not for help, but to protest. “If you had been here my brother wouldn’t have died!” She accuses. I can hear the anger and disappointment in her voice. She believed Jesus was powerful enough to have healed her brother when he was sick, but she didn’t believe there was a thing he could do now that her brother was dead.
She throws out a hail Mary, “But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.” When I read the rest of the exchange she has with Jesus it’s apparent that she doesn’t think Jesus will be able to raise Lazarus from the dead. So what does she mean by this? Maybe she’s just saying what she thinks she’s figured out about God: God gives his Chosen One whatever He asks, but the Chosen One doesn’t himself raise the dead. She’s declared what she thinks she’s got figure out about God.
Jesus tells her that her brother will rise again and she quips back with more of her authoritative knowledge of God, “Duh! I know that! I know he’ll rise from the dead in the end when everyone else does!” (My paraphrase).
Then Jesus, the only One who really knows God inside and out and who says with absolute authority the exact truth about God declares, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who believes in me will never die. Do you believe this Martha?”
In my version: I know you think you have God down to a science Martha, but here’s the truth. Do you believe it?
Martha, Martha, Martha. I’m just like you. We’re all just like you. Even when face to face with the undeniable truth about God, even with Bible opened, hymns sung, prayers muttered, and orthodox church attended we still take what God has revealed about himself in Jesus, and in stubborn unbelief, hang our heads when faced with what we don’t understand and can’t do a thing about. We quote in wrote what we know we’re supposed to know and think we have a full handle on. But we don’t really believe a word of what we say we know.
“Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one has come into the world from God.”
She didn’t know a single thing she just said. But she said it. She was orthodox. She knew the right answer. And if she was in a debate with a person who declared what they knew about the gods she would have put them in their place with her authoritative declaration that there is One God and His Messiah would come and set them straight! If only she really believed what she said. If only she really knew who it was standing there in front of her. But she really didn’t.
I’m a Christian. And if you need adjectives I’m an orthodox, Calvanistic, reformed Christian. I believe there is one God and that He is Father, Son and Spirit. I believe in the Christ, the only begotten son of the Living God. I believe I’m made right with God simply and impossibly by my belief in Christ’s death as the only propitiation that satisfies the wrath of God for my sins. I believe that Christ rose from the dead on the third day and that the Spirit of the Living God dwells in me. I believe one day I too will be raised from the dead and will live forever in abundant life where fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore are mine because I’ll be in the presence of my Savior. And beyond understanding, I believe that in that day, when I see Him, I’ll be made like Him- sinless, an Image-of-God Bearer, a Redeemed One. I believe right now I’m being transformed into that image and am being led by the same God through many tribulations as I follow the steps of my Savior. And finally, I believe all this that I believe, I only believe, because God made me alive to Himself when I was dead as a doornail. Even my belief is a gift from Him.
Now that’s a loaded paragraph. I claim to believe all this. I say I know God to be these things. But the reality is, like Martha, I claim a lot of things I really know nothing about. This is not to say they are not true, but that the mountain of truth that they are is greater than my puny understanding.
Like Martha, my belief, my proclamation about God does not show my all encompassing knowledge, but rather, shows that an all-knowing God has rocked my world. Like Martha. And despite my unbelief in the things I claim I believe, He’s still proving himself to be to me the resurrection and the life.