In this short dialogue between Jesus and Martha, the ultimate questions of life and death are asked and answered.
At the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus said to Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live even if he dies, and the one who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She replied, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God who comes into the world.”(John 11:25-27 NET)
Death is the ultimate end of all life.
Recently my wife Laura has been doing a lot of work with genealogies. She has been tracing her roots back to Sweden, Germany and England and my roots back to Scotland and England.
As I look at these family trees, stretching all the way back over some 300 or 400 years, what really bothers me… perhaps no one else but me… is that each of my ancestors, right up to my mother, has a beginning date when they were born and an end date, when they died.
On the computer printout each of their lifetimes, with all their adventures and hopes and dreams and life experience are compressed into one little square, bracketed with their birth date and their death date.
Except for Enoch, and Elijah, there are no exceptions. This causes me to think that as my grandchildren work on their genealogies that my entry will be not be any different than all the rest.
A beginning date, a name and an end date.
The ultimate question! Is that it? Is that all there is?
If this question does not haunt you then you are perhaps not old enough!
Or perhaps have not noticed the facts conveyed in all of our family trees.
Martha faced the fact of death when her brother Lazarus got sick and died. She cried out to Jesus, “if only you had been here!”
But he had not been there and Lazarus just died and was added to his family’s genealogy.
And into this situation Jesus announces the amazing fact! The Easter fact that changes everything.
He says: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live even if he dies, and the one who lives and believes in me will never die.”
In this announcement of who He is comes the question to Martha and to everyone on earth who is facing the possibility of death (which is all of us without exception!) Do you believe this?
How we answer this question determines the answer to the ultimate question and to the ultimate answer.
If we answer with Martha, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God who comes into the world”, then there is life everlasting. There is life beyond those little brackets of birth and death in the genealogies.
For Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and the only way to the Father. And he presents us with the answer to life’s ultimate question. It is Himself!
It is the astonishing fact of Easter, in which life is offered to us.
But if we answer in the negative then there are no final answers and the future genealogies with our beginning and ending dates will be “all there is”.
If we say yes, the birth date bracket is not the end point at all, but the beginning of the whole next phase of which we have seen the prelude and assurance on Easter Morning.
There we have the astonishing fact that the tomb is empty; that Jesus in a resurrection body is now alive forevermore.
My prayer for each of us, myself included, indeed for all people on earth, is that they will be able to hear the proclamation that Jesus is the resurrection and the life, hear the question, “Do you believe this?” and may with joy answer, “Yes. Lord, I believe.”
That is the joy of Easter.