The surprising story of how Jesus responds to suffering and death continues as He enters Bethany, the city where Lazarus passed away.
On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days…many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
John 11:17-24 (NIV)
The Resurrection at the Last Day
Martha has placed her faith in a “last day” and in a literal “resurrection.” This belief was common to 1st Century Jews, including Jesus.
Earlier in the Gospel of John, Jesus says, “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day” (John 6:39 - NIV).
The “last day” is a complex theme (too big for one dab of Scripture Sauce), but it’s often referred to as “The Day of the LORD” in the Tanakh (Old Testament) and “the end of the age” elsewhere.
This last day involves turmoil, God’s judgment on evil, and the restoration of all things, where the Resurrection of the dead takes place among other amazing details (see Revelation 21-22).
Our Resurrection Vocabulary
So, we have a huge question for ourselves: Do we ever talk about the last day in our churches?
Do we believe in the literal resurrection of the dead when Christ returns?
From my experience, we only talk about heaven in a very generic sense. In fact, most religions share some belief in heaven:
But what sets the Bible’s view of the afterlife apart from the rest?
The faith of the Scriptures—the faith Christ died for—is rooted in something much deeper and more beautiful than our typical understanding of heaven.
Martha thought Jesus was just trying to comfort her—like the other mourners—by saying “Your brother will rise again.” She assumed Jesus only meant Lazarus would rise again at the Last Day (this is of course completely true).
But—remember this is huge—Jesus is about to show her the present reality of the Resurrection to confirm its future reality.
Y’all, I’m serious. Stay tuned. The story of Lazarus is oft-neglected in our churches, but it will reaffirm your hope of the Gospel and God’s promises.
"Jesus is about to show her the present reality of the Resurrection to confirm its future reality."
Did you miss Day 1 on the story of Lazarus? No worries, go here!