At least a few people have asked me or my wife why we named our daughter Martha. It’s not exactly on the top of naming charts today. Some have speculated that it’s a family name, but that’s not why we chose the name. At least that’s not why I liked it.
Here is the story of why I was thinking about the name Martha. A few months before her birth, we were watching a Netflix movie called “The Dig.” It’s a drama movie about the real-life discovery of the Sutton Hoo treasure, a massive Anglo-Saxon burial mound filled with coins and artifacts that was first excavated in England in the late 1930s. The movie, however, is really a secular philosophical exploration of death and what kind of legacy we leave behind.
On the one hand, it’s refreshing to see a movie dealing with the deepest questions of human significance. On the other hand, the movie’s answer to the problem of death is that we don’t really die because artifacts of who we were and what we did are left behind, like a handprint on a cave wall or the coins and relics in the burial mound treasure itself. This answer is profoundly unsatisfying, but apart from Jesus it is the only real comfort you could offer someone in the throes of grief.
Watching the movie made me realize that we have something far better! We have a God who does not offer up such cheap comforts but has promised to destroy and undo death forever. And that brings us to Martha. When Martha’s brother Lazarus died and Jesus finally arrived at her home, Martha was the first to go and meet him. Here’s how John records that conversation:
So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” (John 11:20-27 ESV).
What a beautiful confession of faith! Despite her fresh grief, she never takes her eyes off of Jesus. She runs to meet Him and confesses her faith in Him with every word she speaks. She confesses the real and everlasting hope that all who believe in Jesus have, that those who die are not dead but will rise again in the resurrection when Jesus returns on the last day. She also points us to the reason we can have such certain hope in death, “You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” Because Jesus, the Son of God, conquered death through His own resurrection on Easter morning, we have the certainty that all who believe in Jesus will be raised to new and everlasting life again! Death will not have the last word. Jesus will raise them up, never to die again.
Every one of us as Christians is given opportunity in our life to confess that even in death, we have hope in Jesus who will raise us up to life again. We don’t need to comfort ourselves with hollow comforts like, “A part of you always lives on.” We have something much better!
Although most of us don’t think about it very often, one of the best opportunities we have to confess our Christian faith is in our own death. From showing our loved ones how to die with faith and hope in Jesus, to using our earthly possessions that we leave behind in a way that glorifies God, to our funeral service itself, there are many opportunities for us to confess to our family and friends one last time that our hope is in Jesus and not in this world.
The best way to do that is to plan ahead for your funeral. We may not want to think about death, but each of us is headed to the grave whether we want to think about it or not. By planning our funeral in advance, we can confess with beautiful hymns and Scripture readings that our hope is still in Jesus, who will raise us up again.
With that in mind, the church has prepared a funeral planning guide to assist you that we’ve included on our website. We’d love every member of our congregation to read it, give it some thought, and complete it. When you do, please give a copy to the church office. This is tremendously helpful if your own personal copy is misplaced or can’t be found by your family.
I know death is difficult. Many of us still grieve deeply for someone we love that we are separated from for now. But we grieve in hope, because we know Jesus will one day soon return to raise the dead to new life. We will be reunited with Him in His kingdom, surrounded by all those who believe in Him.
We believe that He is the Christ, the Son of God, who has come into the world and will come into the world again. And believing we take heart in His promise: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he died, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”
Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!