Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Easter and Our Unanswered Questions

[The Midweek Encounter is a ministry of Encounter Church in Kentwood, MI. These posts are reflections on Sunday's message, which can be heard here each week: http://myencounterchurch.org/#/messages-media] 


Will I ever get better?

Why did my little sister have to die?

Which college should I choose?

Why do so many other people get to have happy marriages?

When will I finally get a job?

We all come to God with questions. Some of them are big and will seemingly never be answered in this lifetime; some are seemingly smaller, yet frustrating all the same. It’s tempting to approach Easter with its flowers and candy and Easter eggs and simply say, “Jesus rose from the dead! All is well!” And in a cosmic sense, Jesus’ resurrection makes that statement true, but in our day-to-day lives it often doesn’t seem that way. 


Photo Credit: Marko Horvat

Which is why we turn instead to a different resurrection--that of Lazarus. Because to get to a resurrection, first there must be a death. When Lazarus died, his sisters didn’t understand how this had happened. Their friend Jesus was the miracle-working Son of God, yet Lazarus not only fell terribly sick, but died and was buried for four days before Jesus himself finally arrived. It’s not surprising that Martha had a few choice words for Jesus when he arrived, starting out their conversation with, “‘Lord,’ Martha said to Jesus, ‘if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’” 

Martha’s actions here are a good example for us--she didn’t run away from Jesus with her questions, she ran to him with them. She was full of both anger and faith, but both of them were pointed in the right direction--directly toward Jesus. So when Jesus told her her brother would rise again, we can almost hear the resignation in her voice as she responded, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus didn’t leave it there though. He went on, telling her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 

Even in the midst of her grief over the death of her beloved brother and the anger at Jesus over his refusal to step in and do something to stop it, Martha’s response was that yes, she believed Jesus is who he said he is--the Son of God. At this point in the story, Martha didn’t know what the ending would be. But whatever happened, she knew who Jesus was. Even her anger and frustration and confusion didn’t remove the true answer from her lips. 

Jesus’ question to Martha is the same one we have to answer today and each day we wake up to the brokenness, pain, and confusion we may face. “Whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?

Jesus didn’t immediately tell Martha he was about to raise her brother from the dead. Martha had to live in the space of death and heartache for a little while longer, and perhaps we may have to as well--for another day, another month, or another lifetime. Yet, a few verses later, Jesus himself wept at seeing the tomb where Lazarus’ body was. Far from being a God who sees our pain and responds with a condescending pat on the head and “It’s all going to be okay,” our God is one who not only wipes the tears from our eyes but cries alongside us. Resurrection may not happen exactly when we think it should or how we think it should. It’s not always instantaneous and it’s certainly not always pain free. But the words to Elevation Worship’s song Resurrecting are, even in the midst of great difficulty, true: 


By Your spirit I will rise
From the ashes of defeat
The resurrected king
Is resurrecting me
In Your name I come alive
To declare your victory
The resurrected king
Is resurrecting me

The resurrecting in our own lives may not happen once and then never again, because God never promised life would be easy. Each time we end up in the ashes of defeat, the resurrecting can happen afresh. And each time, God is right there with us. 


[Brianna DeWitt believes in Jesus, surrounding yourself with good people, and that desserts are best when they involve chocolate and peanut butter. She writes about faith, growing up, and whatever else pops into her head on her own blog, and tweets (largely about food) at @bwitt722.]

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