Bible Study: John 11:19-26

Bible Study

John 11:19-26

St. Mary of the Angels

October 15, 2021

John 11:19-24: Martha goes out to Jesus to confront Him for not having been there in time to save Lazarus. Though she loves Christ Jesus and believes in Him, her tone is accusatory. This is the opposite of how we should approach God (See Hebrews 4:16: “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”). Martha is imposing her own expectation on how God should act – namely, saving her brother before he dies – rather than having faith that God will act as He does and on His own timetable, and however He acts that is good. With faith, we can walk in confidence to God and seek what is proper: mercy, forgiveness, and grace. We may walk in confidence because if we have faith we know that however God responds to us that response will be merciful and will be the grace that we need.

John 11:23: “Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall live again.”

Christ Jesus is making a statement in faith in line with the teaching of the Pharisees – namely, that there is a resurrection of the dead. Pharisaic Judaism was a kind of democratizing of the Jewish faith – the obligations of the Priestly class should be practiced by all Jews, and so there passes unto the masses a more puritanical and ascetical approach to life. As a result, the glory that may have been reserved for the few elites now passes unto the many – hence, the triumph of the Law shall be the triumph of the People of the Law, and this is expressed as a resurrection of all the People of God. If the good persevere, then they may die, but in the “flesh” they shall behold what God has in store for Israel.

Job 19:25-27: “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And those after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another…”

The body dies (“worms destroy this body”), but he lives on (“yet in my flesh shall I see God”). This is not the same flesh that the worms consume. This is a flesh that worms cannot consume, a flesh freed from the snares of death, and yet also a flesh particularized to Job (“whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold”). The end point of a life lived in fidelity to the Law, therefore, is triumphant and transformational, and yet without swallowing up and forgetting the unique identity of the triumphant and transformed man.

John 11:24: “Martha saith unto Him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

The problem with the Pharisaical view of the resurrection of the dead is that, in keeping with the preponderance of lawyers and bureaucrats among the Pharisees (the professional class and the nouveau riche in contrast to the “old money” elites among the Sadducees), their teachings have become legalistic in tone and creedal statements used to separate themselves from other factions more so than anything like a “living faith.” The connotation is that Martha is making a dry statement of faith that has been abstracted and offers her little solace.

John 11:25: “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life…”

Christ Jesus has replaced an abstracted statement of faith with Himself, a living Person standing in front of Martha in the here and the now. As the “I AM” is the Name of God, so then as God is immanent, so He is transformative. He makes alive a creedal statement of faith that had lost its vitality (See Ezekiel 37:4-5: “Then he said to me, Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, Dry bones, hear the Word of the Lord! So this is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.”).

Though the body may die, the faithful will not be left behind. The uncorrupted life is going to persevere in Christ Jesus. We are not uncorrupted, for we sin. But Christ Jesus is uncorrupted, and so if we are alive in Him, then we are alive in His uncorrupted life (See Psalm 16:10: “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, nor let your holy one see corruption.”).

To be alive in Christ Jesus is to die to sin and to be triumphant over death in grace. So death is inescapable not only to the human condition because of Adam’s sin (the wage of sin is death), but to the Christian condition. For to be a Christian is to carry the Cross with Christ Jesus unto the bitter end, and then to be resurrected with Him on the third day. The Davidic Messiah who is going to die and to be reborn must be the Suffering Servant, so that He may suffer with us, and we may be redeemed in Him (See Isaiah 53:9: “And they made his grave with the wicked” and Isaiah 53:10: [And yet after he dies he will be resurrected, for…] he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days” and Isaiah 53:10 [And the redeemed will be resurrected into his new life, for…] the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.” And how do we know that the will of the Lord refers to the faithful? See Psalm 22:30: “Posterity shall serve him: it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation.” And so the faithful shall be caught up into the triumph of that Suffering Servant so that the faithful may worship him and also pass on that faith forevermore). The Suffering Servant makes the people righteous (See Isaiah 53:11: “By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many: for he shall bear their iniquities.”). The people in turn pass on this righteousness unto others, which is the work of the Church (See Daniel 12:3: “And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever.”). So death is inescapable for all men, whether faithless or faithful, but in Christ Jesus alone death is defeated and the transformative life takes hold for the work forevermore to be done – namely, the work of worshipping God in holiness and righteousness, and the work of passing on that faith unto those still in the darkness of sin.

John 11:25: “…he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.”

Death is inescapable, but in Christ Jesus life is triumphant and transformative. What seems to be defeat (though he were dead) in fact turns out to be victory (yet shall he live). God turns all our expectations on our heads. The ultimate act of faith is accepting the God who seems by our own measure to be weak, defeated, inaccessible, or unmoved by our plight. Mary shows higher faith, for she does not go out to confront Christ Jesus. She stays in her house; for she is as full of sorrow as her sister, Martha, but she accepts in faith that though God’s ways are not her ways God is nevertheless merciful and good. Whatever happens or does not happen, God is good, so there is nothing for her to do but to wait for God to do or not to do whatever He may choose.

John 11:26: “Believest thou this?”

Martha came out to confront Christ Jesus, but He confronts her instead. Do you believe Me, He is asking her? Do we believe Him? The end of faith of not just a mental assent but an action that confirms what we truly believe. We do not have faith, if we refuse to take a stand when we are confronted. Christ Jesus offers us a transformative life, but we must be for Him unambiguously.

19 And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.

20 Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house.

21 Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.

22 But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.

23 Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again.

24 Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.

25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:

26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?

Published by Michael Sean Erickson

I write, act, and produce films in Los Angeles. Everything else is conjecture.

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