Topic:The God of the Here and Now
Lord, Martha said to Jesus, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask. Jesus said to her, Your brother will rise again. Martha answered, I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Jesus said to her, 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?
Martha greets Jesus with a phrase that must have been frequently on all of their lips when Lazarus was sick: Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died. I do not believe this is a word of reproach. Martha is not saying, Lord, why didn’t you come sooner? We sent for you. If you had responded we wouldn’t be in this pickle. It is clear that she realizes the message did not reach him until Lazarus was dead. There was no way he could have responded and gotten there before Lazarus died. Martha’s word is not one of reproach, but rather one of regret: Lord, I wish you could have been here, because if you had, my brother would not have died.
Then she goes on to say, But even now, whatever you ask of God, he will give it to you. Many ask at this point, What does she expect? What is it that she wants from him? Some say that she really did expect Jesus to raise Lazarus from the dead. But they seem to miss the point because the very next word of Jesus is, Your brother will rise again. If Martha had any idea that that would happen then, she would have said, How wonderful, Lord! That is exactly what I expected you to do now that you have come. But she does not say that. What she says is, Yes, I know. He will rise again in the resurrection at the last day. No, Martha is not looking for the immediate resurrection of her brother.
What, then, is she looking for from Jesus? What does she mean by the words, Even now, whatever you ask of God, God will give it to you? We have to conclude that she is looking for his comfort, for the release that God can give to a heart that is burdened and saddened, torn with grief, anticipating the loneliness and emptiness of the days ahead. God can give marvelous inward peace. Many have testified to that.
As we listen to this we can see that Martha’s faith is placed right where ours often is, in what she thought would happen, not in who Jesus is and whom she is dealing with. How many times have you said to yourself, I know God has worked in the past, and I know that he will work again in the future, but today, well, this is not the day of miracles? In the daily grind of life our world seems to be so barren of miracles that we think, Those days have gone. God can’t work now. He will work again, though… This is Martha’s faith—in the future, at the resurrection of the last day. Her theology is accurate, but she has forgotten that God is right there in the here and now.
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That is what Jesus brings to her attention. Notice how he shifts the focus back from the program to his Person, in the words, I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this? Even in the grammar of this passage the focus is on the first word, I, I am the resurrection and the life. Jesus is saying that wherever he is, then anything God ever did or can do can happen! That is where faith ought to be fastened. That is what we ought to remember.
Thank you, Father, for this encouraging word, this reminder of the mighty power of our Lord, he who is Master of life and of death.
Do our theological boxes serve to limit our expectations and/or experience of God’s wisdom and sovereign power? Do we live each day with joyful trust in His agenda?