Sunday, January 1, 2017
Why Faith in Christ is Crucial
John 11:1-27 (CEB): Martha’s Faith
Jesus said to [Martha], “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.” (25-27)
In a world of naysayers, doubters, and advantage-takers, it is against-the-norm to be a person of faith. And when we see examples of faithful people in our world, their light contrasts with the darkness of others’ doubts. It was no different during the Johannine community of late first-century Palestine. People of faith were the important pillars of Christianity. They were the people who inspired the love of Christ to spread into the hearts of others. Martha, as we see in John 11, is a pillar of faith, even in the midst of her desperate mourning for her brother Lazarus.
In John 11:1-27, Jesus receives word that his dear friend Lazarus has died. He decides to hold off his visit for a few days because He will perform the final “sign” or miracle before His Passion. This sign, Jesus says, will glorify the Father and Him and be a means to solidify the faith of the doubtful, confused disciples: “Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus has died. For your sakes, I’m glad I wasn’t there so that you can believe. Let’s go to him’” (14-15).
Jesus arrives in Bethany. Lazarus has been in the tomb for four days, and many Judeans, as a result, gather around the mourning family and act as witnesses to the miracle that is about to happen. Martha leaves Mary and the crowd to meet Jesus on His way. The sacred writer records their conversation, which illustrates Martha’s faith in Jesus:
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 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.” (John 11:21-27)
At the center of this miracle are Jesus’ closest friends -- Mary, Martha, Lazarus, and the disciples. This brings an intimacy to the sign. It is not just for a crowd of disbelieving religious leaders; instead, the sign bolsters the faith of Jesus’ inner circle. It is difficult to believe, sometimes, that even Jesus’ closest friends -- those who lived with him, ate with Him, and witnessed numerous of His healings and other miracles -- need another sign “so that [they] can believe” (15). Martha, however, is held up as a shining light of faith. She is the bright contrast to the disciples doubts and misunderstandings in John 11:12-16. Her faith in Jesus is made clear in verse 27: “[Martha] replied, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, God’s Son, the one who is coming into the world’.”
Doubt is the path of least resistance in our world. And I am convinced that it is one of the enemy’s key weapons against the Body of Christ. As is evidenced in this text, even Jesus’ closest followers doubt him. We must have faith in Jesus, however, for He gives His faithful eternal life. Martha, a simple Palestinian woman and dear friend of Jesus, is held up as a model of faith. She seeks Jesus upon the road, expresses her belief in him, and becomes the faithful pillar of this inner circle of friends.
How is our faith? Is it a vacillating presence dictated by a demanding, “see-it-to-believe-it” world? When faith becomes a struggle -- and let’s admit that it does -- recall the steadfast faith of Martha who in the midst of loss and pain cries out to Jesus, not in a demand but in faith and trust.
I pray that God grant each of us the grace to know Him better and to believe in Him with the trusting heart of Martha. Amen.
Have a blessed New Year!