Raising Lazarus from the dead was one of the most amazing miracles Jesus performed. But think about Martha. In this story, we see Jesus bringing this grieving sister from a theoretical faith to actual, living faith in him. In some respects, this is just as amazing as raising someone from the dead. That’s why Martha makes a great Lenten companion for us. Hers is the kind of transformation Jesus wants to bring about in all of us.
So let’s look at Martha’s progression to deeper faith: At first, Jesus says Lazarus will rise, but Martha doesn’t believe it can happen now. She pushes it into a distant future time: “I know he will rise in the resurrection on the last day” (John 11:24). Jesus asks if she believes he is the resurrection and the life. Martha responds generally: “I have come to believe that you are the Christ” (John 11:27). She can’t seem to make the jump from Messiah to resurrection. When Jesus asks Martha to open the tomb, she hesitates: “Lord, by now there will be a stench” (John 11:39). So Jesus nudges her forward: “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?” (11:40). You can see it here and now, not just in some distant future. Martha needs to apply her faith. You can almost feel the struggle as she grapples with this decision. Finally, Martha gives permission, and the tomb is opened. Jesus calls Lazarus forth, and Martha comes to believe.
Every Sunday this Lent, Jesus leads us to take another step forward in faith. As he did with Martha, he brings us along gradually. Even if we waver, he waits for us to say yes to the next step.