We were made for love. To receive it. To give it. And Jesus said everything hinges on it. Our Creator hardwired us for this, and it is the message of love – that we are loved – that leads us to life. But our enemy lies to us about our Creator’s love. He whispers untruths to us when the road is long and the valley is dark. His tactics haven’t changed in multiple millennia, and no one is immune. When I consider the story I call Two Sisters Who Lost Their Only Brother (found in John 11), I imagine that snake saying something along these lines to a grieving Martha:
If the Master really cared, He would have come and healed your brother. If He really loved you, He wouldn’t have let him die because He surely knows what you’re up against now without Lazarus. You and Mary, two single women without protection, without provision, what will become of you? The Master knows these things as well as you and I. He could have saved him. But He didn’t come, did He? The handwriting’s on the wall. Martha, Martha, He doesn’t really love you.
Sound familiar? Same old tired lie told a hundred different ways: God doesn’t really love you…
But the truth of the situation in John 11 is this: “Jesus dearly loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus” (John 11:5). John makes a special effort to let us know up front that Jesus loved these people dearly. As devoted to Him as they were, He was equally devoted to them though it probably didn’t seem like it to Martha at the time.
What we don’t always remember is that God’s love often involves leading us (as our Good Shepherd) through hard things. These hard things, the deep darkness, the valley of the shadow of death if you will, grows our faith and ultimately deepens our devotion to Him. And this is just where we find our friend Martha in John 11. The Good Shepherd of John 10 had led His little lambie Martha into the valley of the shadow of death.
But He didn’t lead her there to leave her there.
He led her into that valley to drop His fifth I AM statement, and after He backed it up with an incredible miracle, He would lead her right out. In the valley of the shadow of that death, His statement was especially for her and He would employ the ultimate use of metaphor. He wouldn’t just speak the words. He would in word and deed explain a ginormous spiritual truth. In John 10, just a few pages back, He declared His authority over death, and right in the middle of Martha’s crisis, He would prove it. As she lamented the loss of her brother, Jesus told her death had met its match in Him:
I am the resurrection and the life.
If all of the I AM statements are about Jesus giving us spiritual life, this is by far the most important of them all. Without the truth of this I AM, none of the rest of them are remotely possible.
Without resurrection no one lives. No one. We all stay trapped in spiritual death unable to save ourselves. Without resurrection power, there is no salvation, for there is no life. Death takes it due and it wins.
But that day in Bethany, Jesus gave His friends a taste of what Life can do to death. Death took Lazarus from Martha, but Jesus demanded death give Lazarus back. And death had no choice but to obey the Author of Life.
Lazarus was just the beginning, for the One who said I am life would soon hand Himself over to death, but death would not win the day. Death would surrender to resurrection power so that in the end we will be with Him on the right side death. Forever.
Why? Because life begins with love. Love comes first. Our Creator wanted us to live so we could love. So we could receive love and give love. It always comes back to love. It’s why the Resurrection battled death and won. It’s why He gave His life to death and when He demanded it back, it’s why death could only obey. The power of love is the power of life.