“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”‘ John 11:25-26
The beautiful theme of this ridiculously complex and nearly inconceivable passage in John’s gospel is that Jesus had power over death. Yes, Jesus could provide prevention of death like in his miracles. Yes, Jesus could provide accompaniment to death like on the cross. But this story reminds us (and wildly so) that Jesus can also resist death’s existence and cause death to cease.
Amidst the mourning and agony and sorrow, Jesus shows up and shares in the rituals of grief: denial, anger, sadness, and even bargaining. But instead of choosing his own acceptance, Jesus cries out for something more –something that would incite others to re-evaluate what they had capacity, proclivity, and imagination to accept: calling someone who is the most dead back to life.
This is our truth even today. It doesn’t matter what we are going through, how many doors close (or even seal), where we are in our faith journey (whether near or far to God), or who has made peace with our non-existence. Even when we are the most dead, God can raise us back to life –and not only that but in our rising the evidential testimony will hold true inside of us (in our physical bodies and mystical spirits): we who are brought back to life demonstrate and prove an entirely new reality and pre-disposition that life after death is possible.
This scripture selection is one of my favorites symbolizing all various stories of coming out and breaking free. It focuses on liberation –not only of one person but of all of the people who are lucky enough to bear witness and believe. So many of us who are ensnared by death know its unyielding pain: relationships that tear us down, careers that fail us, diagnoses that ail us, burying our loved ones, experiences of financial turmoil, systemic bias, and oppression…
What better news to receive than a God who insists that death is not the end. What stranger and more radical hope than to believe in a God who determines that death might also be a new beginning. Our God is not binary. Our faith is not final. Our story is not linear.
Where o’ death is your victory? Where o’ death is your sting?
Prayer: God of life who liberates us from death and from dying, thank you for journeying with us in our grief and reminding us that we are not alone in our longing for something more. Call us back to life. Call us back to living. And cause us to be closer to you –eternally and forever. Amen.
Katherine Lee Baker (she+/her) is an Asian American trans-racial adoptee and queer minister who currently serves as the Global Manager for Diversity and Inclusion at Meijer. Having served in various parish, clinical, campus, corporate and non-profit ministry settings on the East Coast and in the Midwest, she is passionate about community engagement, intersectionality and all things cultivating emotional agility and spiritual resiliency. Find her work at revkatherineleebaker.com.