If Only

When I recently read through John’s account of the ressurrection of Lazarus, I noticed something I had missed before.

“Now Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.’

“Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’

“Martha said to Him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?’

“She said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.'” [John 11:21-27]

When Martha says, “But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You,” it almost sounds as though she is  hinting that Christ could raise Lazarus from the dead. But just a little later, Martha does not want to roll to stone from the tomb, and Jesus rebukes her by saying, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” So Martha has not understood Jesus. Usually I am satisifed that I have understood Jesus’ intention to physically raise Lazarus at that time, which is obviously (I thought) what Martha missed.

But there’s another angle to the whole exchange. Jesus said “He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live,” after Martha already said “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” When Jesus speaks of die-and-then-live, He is talking about the same resurrection that Martha is talking about. Arguably, when Jesus first said, “Your brother will rise again,” He meant on that day. Yet this is not the direction of His clarification. Martha says, “Yes, he’ll rise again eventually,” and instead of Jesus saying, “No, I mean right now,” He instead says “I am the resurrection and the life.”

He is answering her first question, or implied question. “If You had been here,” Martha said, “my brother would not have died.” Why didn’t you come? Jesus answers with an implied question of his own, a prompting if you will. He asks, in essence, “If you believe that your brother will rise again, tell Me by whom and by what power will he be raised?” Or, to further elaborate, “If your brother had eternal life in Me, and if he will live again at the end of time, then how can you say I was not here? If he was in Me, then I was in Him, and I was here.”

Although Martha is willing to call Jesus the Christ, and the Son of God, she is not able to credit Him–Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus the man before her eyes–with the power to reach across time and space. She did not understand that this same Person, not just some far-off God, would give life to every believer at that long-distant day. It was not His presence that lacked, but her appreciation of His presence.

Martha repeats the same discounting of the nature of Christ when she hesistates to remove the stone. Jesus repeats that “if you would believe you would see the glory of God.” To see His glory implies His presence. He is always present, but His glory is not always seen, because when we do not like what we have seen, we refuse to see Him.