As Christians around the world celebrate the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I would like to consider a similar sequence of events recorded in the book of John. In chapter 11 of John, the apostle describes the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus’ good friend Lazarus of Bethany. As the narrative unfolds, it becomes evident that Jesus is in no hurry to arrive in Bethany to save Lazarus from death. In fact, in John 11:14 Jesus states he was glad he was not present in Bethany in order that Lazarus might die and the disciples believe. Most of you know the outcome of the story. Jesus does journey to Bethany, meets the grieving community, mourns himself, and then in demonstration of his power over death raises Lazarus back to life.
Within this narrative we receive the first glimpse of what Good Friday and Easter Sunday promise for Christians. Lazarus, while raised to life, was not raised to resurrection life. Instead he was raised again to temporal life. Eventually, Lazarus experiences temporal death a second time. As Jesus proclaims to Martha in John 11:25-26, “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?” Jesus’ decision to delay his arrival in Bethany, allowing Lazarus to die, and raising him back to temporal life stands as a foreshadowing of what Jesus will provide to all who believe through his own death, burial and resurrection. Instead of receiving a second chance at this temporal life, Jesus’ act of sacrifice brings true resurrection life: eternity with God.
The question Jesus posed to Martha as he entered Bethany is the same question each of us must answer in order to receive resurrection life through Jesus’s sacrifice. “Do you believe this?” Do you believe Jesus is the resurrection and the life? Jesus does not ask the question without substantiating his claim. He raised Lazarus to life and then Jesus himself was raised to resurrection life, demonstrating God’s power over death. The Easter weekend is an opportunity for us to reflect upon this tremendous victory and the promise of resurrection life. The question you must answer is, “Do you believe this?”