“I am the resurrection and the life,” says the Lord. Asking Martha then, he says, “Do you believe this?” “Yes Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”
Many overlook the fact that Martha is making a political statement. She has decided to enter into the debate about Israel’s future, knee deep. The question was about Jesus being the resurrection and the life, a markedly spiritual distinction. Martha answers with a political one. In a way her answer was: “Do I believe you are the resurrection and the life? Yes, I believe you are the Messiah, the one who will bring defeat to the enemy.”
Notice the disconnect? We are talking about a different enemy. When “Messiah” was mentioned to most Jews of the time they thought about political defeat of the oppressor – the Romans. To speak of the Messiah coming was treason.
Martha is more than just sassy. She is reframing the entire political issue, and helping shape the landscape of the new Christian message. What she really said: “Yes, I believe that you are more than just the political liberator, but the spiritual leader of my people,” she is really saying.
So Martha is more than just gutsy. She is more than just guilty of treason. Now she is also guilty of turning her back on the establishment of the Sadducees and the Temple establishment of Scribes. Martha is a disciple who is taking seriously other words of Jesus, like “Take up your cross and follow me.” She is putting her life on the line.
Jesus makes it clear that her very interpretation is the one that brings life. One is not to believe in the concept of resurrection, or the concept of Messiah, but in Jesus himself – and it is this belief that brings life.
I have often wondered what it means to believe in Jesus himself. Believe in his power? Believe in his identity? Believe in what ultimately happens to him – death on a cross?
And as this story illuminates, the belief in eternal life is something that Jesus brings into the present. It is not a future state of being, but a present state of mind, body, and spirit. So to believe in Jesus is to be suddenly transformed in understanding of what is important and who is the author of life.
For me, this is the heart of “believing in Jesus”. It is not a state of simply knowing his identity, but a present reality of Jesus as the resurrection and the life – in the here and now.
And in that I find great joy, and rest for my weary soul. As a “thinker” who is often burdened with my own thoughts, it is nice to wake up and rest in the simple fact that I may not know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future.