Distance and time should not inhibit the Lord from helping His friends, right? In at least one other miracle, Jesus simply spoke words and kept a centurion’s son from dying (see John 4:46-53). He actually sent the centurion away (rather than agreeing to his request to “come down before my child dies”) with the short command, “Go and your son will live.” On his way home, the centurion is told that his son is fine and he is convinced that the exact time Jesus spoke those words, his son was healed. And he and his whole household believed (v. 53).
Why didn’t Jesus simply speak a word when He heard that Lazarus was sick? He didn’t have to go there to heal him. And when He learned that Lazarus had died, why didn’t the Lord simply think Lazarus’ life back into him?
He had the power over sickness and death. Why didn’t He use it? Let’s look at our text one more time ….
16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was less than two miles[b] from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
Martha’s statement, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died,” was truer than she probably realized. The text seems to indicate that Jesus had to refrain from rushing to Lazarus’ side, for His compassion would have virtually forced Him to keep His friend Lazarus from dying. Although this is a bit of speculation, I imagine that Martha’s words might well have dug into Jesus’ soul — “Lord, if you had been here . . .” But there was a deeper purpose that needed to be fulfilled.
Martha doesn’t just say to the Lord, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” She adds, “. . . even now God will give you whatever you ask.” (v. 22). It sounds like she is saying, “You didn’t come when we summoned you. Could you at least now ask God to raise my brother?”
Jesus doesn’t apologize to Martha or make excuses why He didn’t come when summoned. He makes a strange declaration: “Your brother will rise again.” (v. 23). I guess discussing eschatology at a funeral makes sense, but it probably wasn’t what Martha wanted to hear. Martha gives the right response when she says, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” (v. 24). But Martha’s heart was stuck in the now!
My heart gets stuck in the now. How about yours? (to be continued)