Easter reminds me of John 11. Martha and Mary dispatch a courier to find Jesus and tell him that Lazarus, their brother, is gravely ill.
Jesus is about 18 miles away. When Jesus gets the word, he seems unfazed, making a statement that must have sounded remarkable to those around: "This sickness will not end in death. … It is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it."
Jesus stays put for two more days. Back in Bethany, the sisters are increasingly anxious as their brother hovers near death. Jesus is nowhere to be seen. Then Lazarus dies.
They prepare his body. They place him in the tomb. It's too late!
The mourning begins. The little hope they had is gone. One, two, three days pass. On the fourth day, who shows up but Jesus?
Martha went out to meet him in despair and loving trust, saying, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask."
Jesus tells Martha that her brother will rise again. Martha answered by saying the right thing: "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." Jesus responded, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
She answered with truth about Jesus, "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world."
Fast-forward a short while to the crypt where Jesus and the crowd stood. When Jesus saw everyone weeping, he was deeply moved. Jesus wept. He came to the tomb and said, "Take away the stone."
But Martha replied, "Lord, by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days."
Then comes the signature statement of the passage, when Jesus said to this grieving, responsible, loving sister of Lazarus, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"
When we believe like Jesus asks us to, God's glory shows up. Jesus calls us to believe with conviction that what he says is true.
Belief with conviction
In verse 27 Jesus asks Martha, "Do you believe I am the resurrection and the life?" Jesus is inviting Martha and the crowd to contemplate the question, "Do you believe who I am and that what I say is true?"
We have a clear directive from Jesus to believe, with conviction, in that which is true. But I don't think that is enough.
Jesus was not only calling his listeners to believe that what he says is true. He was asking them to believe, with courageous faith, in that which they had not yet seen.
Lazarus was still dead.
Jesus calls us to believe with conviction and with courage. Martha says all the right things, doesn't she? But when Jesus said to "roll away the stone," calling on those around him to action, she wasn't so sure. "There will be a bad odor."
Jesus wanted his followers to believe not only in the Truth of Christ, but in the power of Christ, power strong enough even to open the grave!
He was about to do an amazing work by raising Lazarus from the dead. To do this work he called his followers to take their belief in who he was and to step out in courage believing in what he could do, so that his glory would be seen.
Those listening to Jesus obediently rolled away the stone. "Jesus called in a loud voice, 'Lazarus, come out!'" And the dead man came out.
Why do we believe with conviction and courage? To see God's glory. This story takes us there.
Lazarus had been dead for four days. Hopelessness was set in stone until Jesus said, "Roll away that stone."
If you believe, you will see the glory of God!
The truth in the words of Christ leads us to conviction. The power in the words of Christ leads us to courage. When glory shows up, revealed through the power of the exalted Christ, may our own agendas not obstruct that glory.
When Martha and Mary and the crowds saw Lazarus walk out of that crypt, shrouded in strips of linen, Jesus did not want to hear them say, "Look, Lazarus is alive!" He wanted to hear, "We have seen the glory of God."
Dr. Corey is the president of Biola University.
Published, April 2012