Gold, silver, and jewels; cinnamon and spices; olive oil and fine flour—all these beautiful things are the fruit of human culture. Indeed, many of them are included elsewhere in prophetic and apocalyptic writings as part of the glories of the New Jerusalem. People have been turned into things. Profitable things. Few if any empires in history have avoided this awful transmutation. Only about 6 percent were shipped to North America, while the rest were shipped to the plantations of the Caribbean and South America.
Regardless of destination, these human beings were treated in law or practice as property—profitable things. Like the people of Babylon, we behold the astonishing wealth and real beauty of our nation. Yet, that wealth is interwoven with a global economic system that has relentless incentives, centuries ago but also today, to dehumanize and exploit human lives. Not far from where you live there is a city, or you may live at its very heart. Its most coveted addresses are places of luxury, which Babylon or Rome could only dream.
However, that city also carries a legacy of violence—a history of treating people as profitable things. What is the residue of that legacy? Who bears its scars today? If that legacy were fully and truly judged, would you be one of the kings, merchants, and sailors who mourns the loss of wealth? For most of us, the best we can hope is that we would be in both groups. Lamenting, even more, the loss that has come as our economies have turned people into things. Praying for the courage to resist evil and the lure of the Babylonians of our day.
Following at a Distance: A Lenten Study for Adults
Lord, you will not overlook the destruction of Your image. Give me the grace to lament, and to mourn, and to weep over these things, that I may be set free. I desire to resist evil and cling to what is good. In your judgment, O Lord, we will lament the loss of our things—our creature comforts and conveniences that have come at the expense of human lives. We will lament the loss of our reputation and our self-adulation. We will lament the loss of our social status, our position among the wealthy and powerful.
But we will find ourselves in the esteemed place where you dwell, among the meek and the lowly. Among the cast down and the broken. You dwell with the poor and oppressed, and make a place for all to dine at your table. So we repent, Lord Jesus. And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment.
But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. For male and female, slavery was equally devastating. Both were torn from families, beaten mercilessly, and seen as property in the eyes of the law.
Despite these common factors, the circumstances of enslavement differed for men and women. However, pregnancy often provided little respite for female slaves who regularly worked up until the time they gave birth and resumed their duties shortly thereafter. For female slaves, sexual violence was commonplace. First-hand accounts of this brutality are found throughout slave narratives such as that of Harriet Ann Jacobs , Solomon Northup , and Olaudah Equiano.
This early domestication and sexualization of black female bodies have resulted in an enduring triptych of stereotypes : the mammy , jezebel , and sapphire. The mammy caricature has been employed over the decades in the marketing of domestic products such as coffee, soap, and cleaners.
One of the most recognizable examples of this is the Aunt Jemima food brand. The character of Aunt Jemima is directly linked to a minstrel song written in , developed as a derisive satire. The jezebel and sapphire stereotypes are far more insidious and have been used to simultaneously sexualize and vilify. And, unfortunately, these stereotypes are imposed at a young age.
Consequently, they are perceived as less in need of nurturing and protection than their white counterparts. This is contrary to their value as image bearers of God and directly undermines their full flourishing in society, resulting in centuries of generational suffering and trauma that continue to impact their emotional , physical , and financial well-being.
Following At A Distance: A Lenten Study For Adults
As male and female, we are all given our gender as a gift and as a reflection of the Divine. As we acknowledge the isolation and prejudice that so many black women still experience today, let us take a moment to confess our own conscious or unconscious assumptions about gender. Where have we sought to dehumanize or objectify another because of their gender or race? Let us invite God to give us to see one another as the glorious creations he has made. Holy Spirit come, search me, and know me.
Bring those instances to mind so that I may confess them before you. Come and reveal. Let your love for humanity flow freely through me. Let me see with new eyes those who were once distorted to me. Out of the abundance of a renewed heart, let my mouth speak words of love and reconciliation. Calautti, Katie. Lewis, Catherine M. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself.
Self-denial and civil disobedience can be weapons of social change. At various points in human history, principled people refused to take the easy road. These heroes resisted the temptation to jettison their beliefs and values in favor of what could have been an easier life, or at least a life that minimized conflict. They understood the words by Rev. The civil rights movement in the United States is an example of a time when faithful people, trusting the words of Jesus that peacemakers are blessed Matthew , refused to accept the injustice of a racially segregated society.
These heroes civilly disobeyed laws that segregated Americans, putting themselves in danger of bodily harm as well as criminal prosecution. When the police brutalized them, most did not retaliate because they practiced self-denial in the form of non-retaliation. They could have spared themselves verbal abuse and physical pain, but through self-denial and civil disobedience they believed a more just society could emerge. These 20th-century heroes had good biblical precedent for their attitude and action. Readers of the Bible are familiar with the story of Daniel and his three compatriots: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego Daniel These young men were taken as slaves to serve Babylon under King Nebuchadnezzar in the 6th century BC.
According to the book of Daniel, King Nebuchadnezzar intended to create model Babylonian citizens by indoctrinating young Judeans. Stripping the young men of their Hebrew names and giving them names associated with Babylonian deities was just one way of demoralizing the newly conquered men. It was a simple act of defiance. It was an act of self-denial as well as of civil disobedience. It might even seem to have been illogical.
God did this. God blessed the young men through their sacrifice. Let God speak to you in the story of Daniel. We must resist evil structures that demoralize and dehumanize others. Dare to be a Daniel. Similarly, consider the history of African Americans in the United States.
Take a moment now to thank God for the faith and fortitude of those heroes who resisted evil laws and practiced a form of self-denial which leads to sweeping social change. Consider also how God might want to use you. Fasting can be an act of self-denial that leads to justice and societal transformation. Now, take a moment and meditate on Isaiah Sovereign Lord, you are faithful to work all things together for good. Thank you for preserving and protecting African Americans in this nation. Thank you for your faithfulness to call forth men and women of courage to lead in the way of love for their fellow man, and justice for all.
Thank you for imparting a godly heritage and a legacy of faithfulness to our African American brothers and sisters. Lord Jesus, continue to reward your people for their sacrifice. Restore to them the years of harvest that the locusts have eaten. And Lord, use me. Make me an instrument of your peace. Marsh, Charles. Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. For African Americans, theirs has been a history of wilderness experiences.
In hiding. Yet the wilderness yielded great fruit, even in its hardship. There is a unique closeness with God and dependency upon him found in the African American experience. We have been invited to learn from a people who found God in the midst of struggle, and have not abandoned him. We learn from our African American brothers and sisters how to cling to God, and how he clings to us.
We see how he embeds himself within our very flesh and bones and comes to suffer with us. And there, we learn his voice.
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He speaks to us. What a tender privilege it is to be carried by the Father. To know what it is to be held in his arms, and to be upheld by his voice. Abolitionist Harriet Tubman rescued hundreds of slaves through the Underground Railroad in response to a calling she believed was from God. Harriet Tubman relied entirely on the voice of God for direction.
How would she have known the God who rescues, the one whose voice directs us in the darkness, except that she walked the way of the Underground Railroad with him. Throughout the Scriptures, God opposes the destruction of his image bearers and he promises to judge those who participate in such abuse. But, he is also the God who is able to reveal his goodness in the midst of the most horrific circumstances. He is everywhere and so his goodness can be found there too. They can show you the way to the master healer. They can lead you to the deliverer.
They can bring you before the God of justice who acts justly on your behalf. They will carry you into the presence of the one who has sat with us in the dirt and dined with us in the presence of our enemies. Together, we will go to the one who was beaten and bruised, tortured and killed. And together, we will stand before the one who conquered the grave and raised us up with him again.
Asay, Paul. Watch the two minute, animated slave trade video referenced on day two of this week. Discuss together what it might have been like to be on those ships. From the moment you were kidnapped and taken from your home country, along the lengthy and arduous ocean voyage, to the moment you landed in America, to when you finally arrived at your final destination in a place you did not know. On the first day of this week, we were invited to consider the power of apology by researching our affiliated institutions and their connection to slavery.
Share with the group what you discovered. If there were connections to slavery, how do you feel about their response or lack of response? How can you actively participate in making amends? We also explored personalizing acts of repentance within personal relationship. This can feel awkward. Were you able to spend some time praying about acknowledging and apologizing to an African American friend for the role slavery has played in your life and theirs? Take some time to discuss with the group any apprehensions or fears that arise in considering this action.
Listen, and then take a few minutes to pray about these things together. Here I am, Lord. As the deer pants for water so my soul longs for you. My whole being thirsts for you. You are my shelter and sustenance. You are the word made flesh that dwells among us. I want to feast on your truth today.
Come, fill me afresh. Let the wellspring of my heart pour out more of your goodness, your compassion, and your justice. In the silence, remember that God is nearer than the breath you breathe. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites Exodus Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death Exodus When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.
Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you James By the mid-eighteenth century, a Christian abolitionist movement began to take shape in America. In , the Quakers renounced the practice of slaveholding, refusing to allow its members and ministers to own slaves.
In the Epistle of Caution and Advice , the Quakers stated:. Now dear Friends, if we continually bear in Mind the royal Law, or doing to others, as we would be done by, we shall never think of bereaving our Fellow Creatures of that valuable Blessing Liberty; nor endure to grow rich by their Bondage. Other leaders also spoke out against slavery. Notably, John Wesley , one of the founders of the Methodist religion, was an ardent opponent of slavery and supporter of the abolition movement, as were many involved in early American Methodism.
In Thoughts on Slavery , originally published in , he provided a detailed description of the actual workings and horrors of slavery. Wesley continued to campaign against slavery throughout his life. Let none serve you but by his own act and deed, by his own voluntary action. Away with all whips, all chains, all compulsion. The Methodist Episcopal church in the United States confirmed its opposition to slavery in and the United Brethren in Christ ruled in that slave owners could not continue as members.
The Methodist church, and other denominations such as the Baptists , later split between the North and the South over slavery. Reflect on these failures and successes in light of the divisions in the church over slavery. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has recently released a report on their involvement in slavery.
This is a possible model for the process of recognizing and repenting from our history. Consider reading the report. Does this change the way you think about repentance? The Christian abolition movement rooted its criticism of slavery in Christian values and ideas, such as brotherhood, liberty, benevolence, and judgment of individuals and nations. Are there grave, modern injustices that we as Christians are ignoring today? Lundy, Stevie Jr. Noll, Mark A. The Civil War as a Theological Crisis. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven Matthew Having rescued his people from slavery, God had in mind to set them apart as his own treasured possession. Israel would be a kingdom of priests and the rest of humanity would be their parish. This calling continues in the New Age.
Jesus told the folks who were gathered around him in Galilee that they were the light of the world and the salt of the earth. The plan of God is consistent: people, forgiven by him, represent him to the world. The reading yesterday discussed how some denominations actively opposed slavery. However, this was not the majority. The people of God, assembled in churches across the United States, mostly dropped the ball. On the whole, Christians did not develop the reputation as representatives of a God who loves with abandon and restores what has been broken.
More often than not, Scripture was quoted to preserve the status quo, even to dehumanize humans. Systematic and organized thought went into constructing arguments to prove that the Christian Scriptures supported slavery. Texts quoted out of context were used to excuse brutality and intense violence. The goal of retaining ownership of baptized Africans presented legal complications. As enslaved Africans began to enter the faith, church buildings remained segregated and denominations split to keep the races apart. The very best construction suggests that white people of God went along grudgingly with the work of God.
In reality, white Christians often stood in the way of conversion. Yet, God is determined for his Kingdom to endure. People thrown out of church mid-prayer simply started their own church rather than let hatred turn them from faith. Through the miraculous work of God, faith became a cornerstone of the African American community. Churches became rallying points for community, culture, and eventually civil rights.
This move of God among enslaved, segregated, and subjugated people happened in spite of most church-goers, not because of them. You are not exempt from these games. As a child of God, you can repent for the failings of our people in the past. Thank you, Jesus, for the gift of repentance and the assurance of your forgiveness. Thank you for unveiling my eyes to see where I have been blind.
Tisby, Jemar. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility…. Black — adj. White — adj. Additional building blocks for this dividing wall were added by Christian theologians. In his Lectures on Calvinism , Dr. Scientists and philosophers also inserted scientific blocks in the wall by asserting that Africans were less intelligent and therefore unequal with people of European descent. Transatlantic slavery was unique in that it was based primarily on skin color; the one thing a person could not change.
Unfortunately, this has resulted in a historical legacy of discrimination based on race, which continues today. Take a moment to consider your own experiences.
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Recount the story of that experience. What happened? What were you thinking or feeling in that moment? Are people of color in your workplace, school or church equitably represented in positions of leadership? Lord, thank you for empowering me to be strong and courageous. Open my eyes to see where you are inviting me to use my voice and influence. Forgive me for the times that I have turned a blind eye or wrongly judged my brothers and sisters of color. Biewen, John. Haynes, Stephen R. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers Proverbs To be more specific, we are keen on remembering the things God calls abominations as long as they coincide with our own agendas and predilections. We conveniently misremember certain things God hates when it means we may have to give up power, privilege, and status.
Sadly, this has largely been the case in majority culture churches throughout American history. At the close of the Civil War, the U. Congress endeavored to even the scales in the South among ex-slaves and whites. Passing the Fourteenth Amendment granted full citizenship to slaves. Passing the Fifteenth Amendment banned racial discrimination in voting. This led to Reconstruction policies like the Enforcement Acts passed between and The early results were encouraging, especially in southern states like South Carolina.
Because African Americans in South Carolina vastly outnumbered whites, the newly enfranchised voters were able to elect a majority of African American representatives to the state assembly. Many of these legislators worked to rewrite the state constitution and pass laws ensuring aid for public education, as well as greater equality for all.
This success was short-lived, however. Hayes who had lost the popular vote to Samuel Tilden agreed to remove federal troops from southern states in exchange for the electoral votes necessary to win the presidency. This effectively ended Reconstruction and ushered in the Jim Crow era. Ex-slaves were now at the mercy of their former masters. Laws making brown and black people the equals of whites were seen as absurd, and even un-Christian.
In , the Supreme Court agreed with these sentiments and deemed the Civil Rights Act of unconstitutional. That would be the last civil rights legislation signed until Jim Crow laws quickly supplanted the acts passed during Reconstruction. These policies, rooted in white supremacy, appealed to whites afraid of losing employment opportunities and economic power to blacks. Politicians exploited this fear to win the votes of poor white workers. Newspapers fed into the biases of white readers by embellishing or even inventing black crimes.
These discriminatory laws touched every aspect of life. In South Carolina, black and white textile workers were prohibited from working in the same room, entering through the same door, or gazing out of the same window. Blacks increasingly became un-hirable with several unions passing rules to exclude them. In parts of Richmond, Virginia, one could not live on certain streets unless the majority of residents were people that the individual could marry.
In , Texas had six towns in which blacks could not live. Mobile, Alabama passed a Jim Crow curfew stating that Blacks could not leave their homes after p. Georgia designated black and white parks. Oklahoma designated black and white phone booths. Segregation became the modus operandi for prisons, hospitals, and orphanages, as well as schools.
Black and white students had to use separate textbooks in North Carolina. Atlanta courts kept two Bibles—one for black witnesses and one for whites. Many of these policies were written and consented to by avid church-goers. Pastors of congregations preached sermons on the Christian argument for segregation. This means we love what God loves and hate what God hates. If Jesus cares about both, then we are to care about both also. Sadly, it often seems when addressing the issue of racial injustice, many white Americans truncate the Gospel into one focused on individuals and ignore its structural elements.
For many white Americans, racism is attributed to those who burn crosses or participate in lynchings. These types of occurrences become the rubric by which they evaluate racial injustice for themselves as well as the country. For them, racism can be relegated to an unfortunate relic from a dark past that occasionally makes intermittent cameo appearances. These beliefs are held by grandmothers and grandfathers, moms and dads, brothers and sisters, friendly neighbors, pastors, and congregants.
Yet, by embracing the idea of individual racism at the expense of structural racism, these people ignore the cumulative and disparate effects these policies have had on African American communities. The heart of God is against unjust measures. God hates unequal scales. He calls it an abomination. To have the heart of God is to say that image bearers are not just worthy of freedom, but worthy of friendship—and even better—worthy of being family.
May God give us a hatred for the things that he hates, and a deep and abiding love for those that he loves. Take some time to consider the difference between individual and structural racism. Write down your thoughts, questions, and feelings.
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Ask God to align your heart with His. Lord, I repent. I confess to you the areas of my blindness and lack of concern about unjust systems that you hate. I have loved what you do not love, and I have not hated what you hate. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. J: Princeton University Press. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others?
Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. In his timeless sermon on loving your enemies , the Rev. Nineteenth-century German Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck once dismissed the relevance of the Sermon on the Mount to politics Moran , However, black people have been proving him wrong since arriving on these shores. White people have denied black people complete or easy access to the ballot since the founding of the nation.
The Fourteenth Amendment , ratified following the Civil War, made formerly enslaved people that is, men over age 21 full citizens and bestowed on them the right to vote. That was one of the many obstacles that was erected to prevent African Americans from exercising their hard-won right to vote. The passage of the Voting Rights Act —following Bloody Sunday and the famous march from Selma to Montgomery—is a familiar chapter in the civil rights movement.
See interactive voting rights timeline. While direct disenfranchisement is not legal, indirect disenfranchisement has been on the rise. In , the Supreme Court revoked part of the Voting Rights Act, providing greater freedom for states to enact discriminatory policies. This has resulted in increased photo ID laws that disproportionately affect minorities, senior citizens, and low-income individuals; purges of voter rolls; and state laws that prevent felons from voting, after already having served their sentence.
According to the non-partisan Brennan Center for Justice , 25 states have enacted measures to restrict access to voting since Many of these measures disproportionately target African Americans. In light of recent events and allegations around voting suppression and fraud, we need to pray for this fundamental aspect of our democracy. Let us pray and act to make that the case for voting in our democracy, especially to those who have been historically denied this right.
Read James below in light of racism and voting discrimination. Then, consider how God might be calling you to advocate for those who are being disenfranchised. My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors James Father, I confess my desperate need for you.
I esteem others for their status and wealth, while you esteem those who are poor in spirit. You uphold the cause of the oppressed and afflicted. Teach me to love as you love. Teach me to love without partiality. Thurman, Howard. Jesus and the Disinherited. Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.
Coming off the Martin Luther King, Jr. In his speech, he states that:. When the architects of our Republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes black men, as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The thing that amazes me most about this quote and speech is that it was a voice of protest as well as a voice of reason. He was speaking to the promise of this great country and about the neglect shown to others in this great country. He was reminding us that our spiritual voices should be as active as our body and mind in addressing the issues of today.
All are relevant and important. However, it seems that there is little balance between them in our communities, in our nation, and sadly in the body of Christ. We are called not only to be reconciled with one another and to stand for righteousness, but also to reason. You are either an ally or a foe, which leaves many to ask the question: whose side is God on? I am sure his answer would be: the one who loves their neighbor as they love themselves. The good news is that in this period of social, political, and religious unrest it is the perfect time for the people of God to be a voice that speaks truth to power.
We are in a time where we cannot sit on the sidelines and allow inequality to go uncontested. Just as Moses spoke to Pharaoh, Nathan also spoke to David. As men and women of God, we have to be willing to be voices crying in the wilderness, unifying our voices until righteousness rolls down like a mighty rushing wind. Let us become God-focused, Christ-centered, and Spirit-led. Engage in difficult conversations, seeking first to understand, then to be understood. Lord, teach me to reason well.
Give me your heart, your perspective, and your voice. Help me to speak when you are speaking and to be silent when you are silent.
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Katie Warner is an energetic wife and mom, as well as a Catholic author and speaker. She loves sharing simple strategies for a more intentional faith. Katie is an avid learner of all things intentional living and Catholic family life, and she is passionate about helping others tackle issues of faith, family, and spiritual growth with the best tips and resources. Katie holds a graduate degree in Catholic Theology. Get email reminders for Catholic feast days and easy ideas for celebrating! Free bulletin inserts and other resources for your parish to help strengthen faith and families in your church community.
This is much more than a simple or external identification with the cause of Christ. We sometimes tend to make this idea of the indwelling Spirit so spiritual that it becomes meaningless. Paul sees it as an absolute reality with very real and practical consequences. The future tense refers to the eschatological resurrection of Christians in which Paul sees the role of the Spirit as central. Paul concludes the previous discussion and introduces the next section with verses However, use of the Spirit received in order to abandon those things is the debt owed to Christ.
Although mortification mentioned in verse 13 is a necessary part of the Christian life, it does not capture its essence. If one walks during the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. Let us go to him. Do you believe this? I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world. It was a cave, and a stone lay across it. It is the climax of the signs that Jesus works. The story focuses on the theme of life. This story is not found in the synoptic gospels, but Mark and Luke are parallels.
In the synoptic stories however, the dead person who is restored to life has just died. Only this story deals with someone who has been dead for a period of time. In both stories, a man named Lazarus dies. In Luke, there is a request that he return to convince his contemporaries of the need for faith and repentance, while in John, Lazarus does return and some believe but others do not. John identifies Mary as the woman never named in Mark who anointed Jesus before the passion John Once again John uses the device of misunderstanding to give Jesus a reason to explain something.
Here, however there is a double misunderstanding. In verse 4, the disciples are referring to physical death, but it is meant by Jesus as spiritual death. This points back to John and forward to the real glorification of the cross ; Later Jesus refers to physical death as sleep and the disciples think he means slumber.
In the ancient world common belief was that light was present in the eye rather than that light entered through the eye. See Luke and Matthew Didymus is the Greek word for twin Thomas is derived from the Aramaic word for twin. His given name is said in an ancient Syriac version and in the Gospel of Thomas to be Judas. A stade was feet. Martha expresses belief in the eschatological resurrection of the dead In many ways verses 25 and 26 are key to this entire story.