Wednesday, March 29 “if you had been here . . .”

Scripture: John 11:17-24

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[a] 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.”

Some thoughts:

It looks on the surface like it is over. With one day of travel time to cover the forty or so miles to get to Jesus, by the time he got the message, Lazarus had already died and was buried, as Jewish burials were held as soon as possible after death. The Jewish belief was that the soul of the deceased hovered around the corpse for three days in anticipation of some possible means of re-entering the body. On the third day it was believed the body lost its color and the spirit was locked out. On the fourth day the spirit left the corpse to enter the chambers of Sheol, the place of the dead. Entering the fourth day after death meant that life on earth was over. Notice after Jesus heard the news, he waited two more days and then took another day to travel to Bethany. It meant he arrived four days after Lazarus’ death.

When Martha heard of Jesus’ proximity to their home, she went to meet him. Mary, on the other hand, remained in their home seated as guests had come to sit with her in her grief. The custom was for the grieving to remain seated and for guests to come and sit in silence with the bereaved. (Think of Job’s first week with his friends.)

In going to meet Jesus, Martha expresses a human understanding of faith. She had been around Jesus and seen him heal people before and wished that he had been there earlier because he could have healed her brother, but that was of little consolation now. When and why Jesus chooses to heal remains a mystery even today. But Martha understood the biggest picture of the resurrection which is indicated in her response to Jesus’ words, “he will rise when everyone else arises, at the last day.” This is one of those difficult moments when we have faith in the biggest picture but are still in pain and at a loss for the present time. Maybe there is someone today grieving with whom you can “sit with” to bring comfort and encouragement. You don’t have to say anything. It’s called the “ministry of presence,” not the “ministry of explanation.”

Music: “If You Will Trust in God to Guide You”    –Georg Neumark, 1641    Fountainview Academy

If you will trust in God to guide you

and place your confidence in him,

You’ll find him always there beside you,

to give you hope and strength within.

For those who trust God’s changeless love

build on the rock that naught can move.

Sing, pray, and keep his ways unswerving,

offer your service faithfully,

And trust his word; though undeserving,

you’ll find his promise true to be.

God never will forsake in need

the soul that trusts in him indeed.

Prayer: And now unto him who is able to keep us from falling and lift us from the dark valley of despair to the bright mountain of hope, from the midnight of desperation to the daybreak of joy; to him be power and authority, for ever and ever. Amen     –Martin Luther King Jr., 1928-1968