(Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here.)
I told you yesterday what Jesus said to Martha when we came with him to console her and her sister Mary after their brother's death. I tried to tell you how I was affected by Jesus' words, "I am the resurrection and the life". I couldn't continue the story then - I was too overcome.
You need to understand what I went through as we made that journey back to Bethany. Coming up through the Judean desert from the fertile Jordan Valley the land looked so dry. And that's how I felt. Dry, pessimistic, trying to cling to faith in God. I was determined to stay loyal, but afraid of where Jesus was taking us. Living with him had been a roller coaster of emotions. We saw Jesus perform amazing signs. His teaching was profound, but so simple. He could make you laugh and make you see things differently. I loved him. Some hated him. As fast as he attracted followers he gained enemies. It had felt such a privilege to be 'chosen' by him. But as we returned to the Jerusalem area I was afraid we were travelling towards our deaths. Even Jesus expected that.
On the way I noticed a dead goat, its carcass nearly picked clean by the vultures. I thought of Ezekiel's vision of the valley of dry bones and how the Lord said to Ezekiel, "can these bones live"? I'd have replied 'no way'. I thought about our friend Lazarus. If he had died, he'd be buried some days by now. We would arrive too late for any hope of Jesus healing him. 'The Lord has given. the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.' Oh yes, I can find the right words to say at a death, but it doesn't help the deadness inside. As we walked I thought about how in Ezekiel's vision the dry bones became living people and how God said, "I will put my spirit within you and you shall live..." I thought, I could do with some of that hope, some of that new life now.
That's why I was so moved when Jesus said what he said to Martha - not just that her brother would rise again, but that he is the resurrection and the life. I was standing near Jesus. I thought I knew him. But then I knew that standing beside me was Life, the Life of God. Standing beside me was Hope, the Hope of God. Standing beside me was Resurrection. It was God bringing light into darkness, making all things new. I could have died happy at that moment. But, incredibly, there was more...I'll tell you about that tomorrow.