High-Flying Easter Hope
By: Noelle Kirchner
Jesus said to Martha, “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?” - John 11:25-26
Jesus makes this quintessential statement about his identity to Martha, one of the two sisters of Lazarus. At the time of Jesus’ proclamation, Lazarus has been dead and in the tomb for four days. Both sisters are frustrated that Jesus did not come earlier, when Lazarus was sick but still alive, to heal him. They do not know that Jesus intends to use Lazarus’ death as an occasion to demonstrate a miracle and prove his identity, as described in these verses.
The fact Lazarus had been dead for four days is significant. The situation was assuredly beyond remedy, according to Jewish thought at the time of Jesus. Biological observation supported this theory, as all color would have left the body and it would have begun stinking due to decomposition, as Martha notes (11:39).
When Jesus asks to see Lazarus, many would have thought he was making a hopeless request. Instead, Jesus’ statement in our passage demonstrates he is offering two-fold hope. First, this hope concerns death: “The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.” Physical death has no power over believers. Second, this hope concerns life: “Whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” Believers will benefit from present life and life eternal through Christ.
Scripture underlines this role of Jesus—he raises someone from the dead in all four gospels. While only the Gospel of John includes the story of Lazarus, the other three note the resurrection of Jairus’ daughter. Lazarus’ resurrection is particularly tender, however, because of Jesus’ intimate relationship with the family and his emotional investment in the outcome (11:33–35). All four stories, however, prove the veracity of Jesus’ claim and foreshadow his own resurrection.
At Easter, it’s particularly timely to give thought to Jesus’ identity as the “resurrection and the life.” Jesus explains its meaning to Martha—how would you describe it to someone? As a mother of three boys, I am fond of the “Jelly Bean Poem,” which spells out the blessings we have in Christ through jelly beans. While there are multiple versions of this poem, some people credit Charlene Dickensen as its original author. The poem reads:
Red is for the blood Jesus shed,
Green is for new life ahead.
Yellow is for God’s Light so bright,
Orange is for the edge of night.
Black is for the sins we’ve made,
White is for the grace he gave.
Purple is for his hour of sorrow,
Pink is for our new tomorrow.
A jar of jelly beans, colorful and sweet,
Is a prayer, a promise, a special treat.
This poem gives us simple words, but I like using a swing to illustrate what resurrection power looks like to my children. A swing may go low, but inevitably it comes back up. That’s the power of faith. God promises that he will never leave us in our lows, including death—we have the firm hope of coming back up. Pumping our legs is equivalent to exercising our faith muscle. We get to participate in Christ’s mystery by believing and experiencing the exhilaration of the high he offers—life in the present and life eternal.
Where does Christ’s two-fold hope meet you today? Maybe you’re low, needing the promise of his high-flying hope. Or maybe you’re enjoying the sweet satisfaction of a hope fulfilled and celebrating God’s goodness. Wherever the Easter message meets you, remember that Christ is personally invested in seeing your story through. Like Lazarus, you are dear to him. He is looking for you!
Do you want more Holy Week inspiration? Read this prayer by one of my subscribers—it’s a favorite!
Rev. Noelle Kirchner, MDiv., believes we don’t have to live with full schedules and thin souls. A busy mom of three boys, she is passionate about making faith fresh and relevant. Noelle is a graduate of Princeton Seminary and an ordained Presbyterian minister who has served in churches for over ten years. She has written for places like the TODAY Show Parenting Team, Huff Post Parents, The Laundry Moms, and (in)courage. Her faith and family cable television show, Chaos to Calm, features parenting hot topics and has hosted two New York Times bestselling authors. Watch her episodes or sermons, connect with her on social media, and follow her blog by visiting her website, or receive her free devotional e-book.
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Originally published Monday, 10 April 2023.