Friday 24 October, 2014
John 11:17-32LOOKING BACKWARDS, LOOKING FORWARD
‘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.’(vss 21-22)
We are used to comparing Martha and Mary, their different personalities and their different kinds of faith. We usually draw on Luke 10 and his account of the dinner party at which Martha is flustered and Mary calm, and Mary usually comes off better.
Here, though, it is Martha who is the inspiration. They are both women of faith. Their much-loved brother has died and they both believe that, if Jesus had been there, he could have saved his life. Their reaction, though, is very different. Martha says ‘I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.’ Mary simply weeps. Martha’s faith encompasses the future; Mary’s is fixed in the past. Martha has hope, while Mary has only regret.
Of course this might not be entirely fair to Mary. We do not necessarily have the full conversation; all we know is how John chose to tell the story.
But this distinction is very true to life. Some of us are hopeful, trusting God with the future even when the present is very dark indeed. Our faith encompasses resurrection. As Paul wrote to the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 4:13), we do not grieve like those who have no hope.
Others are stuck in the past, brooding over what might have been: if we had made different choices, if we had been luckier in life, if Jesus had arrived sooner.
In this story, it is Martha’s faith that inspires, rather than Mary’s. God is a God of resurrection.
Prayer † Loving God, teach me to be hopeful. Give me Martha’s faith, and help me to believe that, as you raised Jesus from the dead, you can bring good out of any evil. Amen.
The World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) is a fellowship of 75 million Reformed Christians in 214 churches in 107 countries. Its member churches are Congregational, Presbyterian, Reformed and United churches with roots in the 16th-century Reformation led by John Calvin, John Knox and others. WARC has a small secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland.