Scripture keeps our eyes on Jesus, yet there are mere human heroes, too, who are intended to capture our attention. Look for those who are identified as people of faith.
Hebrews 11 lists heroes—men and women—from the Old Testament: Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab and many more. They all lived “by faith.” In the New Testament, a nameless centurion was among the first (Matt 8:10). This Gentile’s faith exceeded all within Israel. Also of great faith was the sinful woman who kissed Jesus’ feet and anointed them with ointment (Luke 7:50), and the woman who suffered from bleeding (Luke 8:48).
Then there is Martha. She is the one who gets a bad rap for serving while others are sitting (Luke 10:38–42). But there is so much more to her. Here she is coming out to meet Jesus after the death of her brother Lazarus.
So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” (John 11:20–27)
We see peculiar details, such as Mary seated again, and Martha, later in the same narrative, suggesting that the tomb would be better sealed because of the stench. But what is most amazing is Martha’s bold statement. She knows—and so she says—that Jesus is able to raise her brother right then. Martha shines in this conversation. She is our imperfect heroine, whose faith we hope to imitate.
Of all of Jesus’ “I am” disclosures, “I am the resurrection and life” is the one on which all other statements depend. If death is not defeated, Jesus-as-good-shepherd will be with us only until we die. If death is not defeated, Satan is not defeated. So Jesus’ revelation of himself to Martha was intimate and glorious. In response, as a woman who represents all those who would ever follow Jesus, she makes a confident, clear assertion to him and about him: “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” As the anointed King of heaven, Jesus alone has power over death, and he will, indeed, raise all those who have put their faith in him.
The end of the gospel of John gives his purpose in writing. “These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). Martha is the first and only person in his gospel who has these words on her lips. Listen to her. Speak what she speaks. We must all speak what she speaks.
And here is one final thought for those who have experienced the loss of a loved one. This story offers a special invitation to you. For you, Martha’s words might be a liturgical lifeline each day. Your heroine’s words bring you into the middle of a conversation with Jesus, in which he is asking you the question, “Do you believe this?”
“Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”