Word for the day by Christian Education Forum

 All Saints Day

John 11:21-27
Verses of Focus: 21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

   Timing is a tricky concept that we deal with on a daily basis. There’s no possible way to stop time and thus more often than not we have to face situations and events head-on, with the bare minimum preparation. We can plan as much as we’d like, but in the grand scheme of things, we live with the results of our actions in real-time. These seemingly innumerable events may flash before us with not so much thought, but others may stick with us, potentially leaving us in a constant state of hindsight. On one hand, you can learn to approach a situation again more optimally and improve, but on the other, one can be constantly asking the dreaded question of “What if?..” How does one handle failure? How do we prepare for the tragic loss of life? How do we bear hardship? Do we dwell in a place of regret or do we move forward? We see in today’s passage a tragic circumstance of loss many of us are not foreign to, but also the hope Jesus grants to all the saints and believers.

            I want to put the passage into a greater context by briefly referencing the previous 2 chapters of John as we celebrate All Saints Day, and the theme of bringing all those to Christ in November. Jesus had healed a blind man miraculously with mud and spit and the Pharisees refused to acknowledge Jesus’ character and power. In their eyes, Jesus was a sinner just like the blind man, yet they couldn’t comprehend where Jesus' power came from. How could a sinner do miraculous healing?  Jesus stated to the disciples, who also believed the blind man’s sin caused his blindness, that the situation was to bring the glory of God, and that they had a responsibility to bring light. This is a key concept of the saints who the apostle Paul defines as those faithful in Christ Jesus. In Jesus’ life mission we see him inviting those to follow him and live the message of repentance. Though the Pharisees deny this message, Jesus does the work of the Father alongside his apostles until His time of ascension.

            The Passage of John 11 and our main topic of focus, details the event of the loss of Lazarus, and Jesus’ interactions with Lazarus’ family. Though Jesus heard the news of Lazarus’ sickness, He doesn’t make it in time and is actually only present four days after Lazarus’ burial. Jesus forewarns the disciples of Lazarus’ raising up saying he will wake him up as Lazarus is just sleeping, but the disciples do not fully understand. He is approached by Martha, Lazarus’ sister who believes Jesus can still save her brother, though she also shares her sadness in stating that if you were there Lazarus would never have died. We see Martha’s faith in both that reality and Jesus' power to raise her brother. We read that Mary shares a similar what-if statement and falls before Jesus in grief. We see in verse 34 the famous and shortest verse in scripture of Jesus’ grief over death.

            We see both sisters pose the what-if scenario with differing responses. Rightfully so, both sisters have experienced incredible grief in losing their brother which Jesus shares with them.  What I find encouragement in is Martha’s response when Jesus states in v, 25-26 “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” Martha’s reply is I believe you are the Messiah of the world. That faith in Jesus in a time of grief is what all saints are required to have. We then see an unbelievable situation of Jesus actually resurrecting Lazarus. Not only can Jesus heal the blind, but he controls life and death! Though that may not happen for all of us in our requests to God in tragedy, what we can learn and take with us is Martha’s response. Jesus’ purpose in asking Martha that question via v.25-26 was to remind her of the real hope we have. The body will be lost at an unknown time, but if we believe, the saints will one day rise again to be with God forever. So rather than living in “What if” we respond with “EVEN IF” because our hope transcends this life and body.

            As we see the grief of the sisters and the conversation of what defines a sinner and saint enfold between the Jewish people, let us remember what truly matters. Those who believe in the life and message of Jesus Christ may receive salvation. We are all sinners, but through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we now have life. May we take hope in that and push forward no matter what. The Lord hears us in our grief and pain and wants our ultimate good. May you be blessed by the church and saints.

What are the doubts and pain that I hold onto in my life? What is the hope I cling to fight it?

Thought of the Day
Lord God create in me a clean heart and a desire to do Your will. Let us remember the saints before us and empower us to be more like you. - Amen

Arun Chacko
Staten Island Mar Thoma Church 

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