Our readings today feature two women at two different tombs: Mary Magdalene at Jesus’ empty tomb, and Martha the sister of Lazarus mourning her brother outside of his tomb.
At the sites of these two tombs, there is resurrection. There is also evidence that people do not understand the true power of resurrection.
Simon Peter and John investigated Jesus’ empty tomb, but they still did not understand what Scripture made clear: that Jesus would rise from the dead. Martha told Jesus that she knew that her brother would rise again at the resurrection of the last day, but she did not yet realize that Jesus was about to raise him much earlier than she expected.
We misunderstand resurrection too. We spend a lot of time talking about “going to heaven when we die” but we completely miss the promise of resurrection! There is life after heaven, and it is the resurrected and redeemed bodies that Jesus promised us. We are not wasting our time here on earth, busying ourselves with meaningless deeds until we can escape away to heaven. We are awaiting what Jesus showed us a glimpse of – resurrected bodies, living in a redeemed creation, experiencing the unhindered presence of God.
In the verses just before John 11:25-26, Martha waved off Jesus’ comfort by insisting she knew her theology. She knew that one day, in the distant future, He would come back to life and everything would be made right. When Jesus said, “Your brother will come back to life again” (11:23), Martha was thinking of this distant future. But Jesus insisted that He is the resurrection and the life, the living and breathing person who has broken into our world of death and decay and brought life!
Martha was thinking of abstract theological truth, unaware that Jesus was about to take that faraway hope and turn it into a reality that day. It’s as if Jesus was saying: “No, there is a promise of new life now!”
We are not promised a physical resurrection from the dead right here and now, and we still ache for the day when all will be made right. We are not done waiting. Yet the promises of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection are still this: there is abundant life to be lived right now.
Jesus provided glimpses into the coming kingdom of God: He fed the poor and healed the sick, He comforted the mourning and played with children, He even made sure that a wedding was properly celebrated. Part of the promise of the resurrection is that we can experience and participate in similar glimpses of the coming kingdom of God. We have been empowered by the Holy Spirit to serve our communities, to comfort one another, and to celebrate our victories together.
I have had the privilege over the past couple of years to study the Bible with a group of young women at my church, and this group has been a glimpse of the coming kingdom of God for me. We have held each other when parents passed away, packed up boxes and moved people to new apartments, cooked food together to celebrate the end of a degree program or the writing of a book. We have experienced abundant life together—life that testifies to the truth of the resurrection by living like it really is true.
One of the ways we share the gospel with unbelievers is by living abundant lives. This doesn’t mean financial prosperity, career success, or material possessions; it means that we live like the resurrection is really true and like Jesus’ promises can be trusted because they can. If we truly believe that God raised Jesus from the dead and that He has promised eternal life to His followers, we will live different lives. We will live lives in community, poured out for the sake of others, rejoicing in the promise of our resurrection. Our hope is eternal: abundant life now and a redeemed and resurrected life in the future.
Week 6 Challenge: Reflect on Jesus’ first encounter with Mary in John 20:15. How would you have felt if you were in Mary’s position? Mary recognized Jesus by the way He said her name. How does Jesus comfort and minister to you in personal, intimate ways?