John 11:17-27, 38-45 17When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles away. 19Many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them concerning their brother. 20When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him, while Mary was sitting in the house. 21Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24Martha replied, “I know that he will rise in the resurrection on the Last Day.” 25Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even if he dies. 26And whoever lives and believes in me will never perish. Do you believe this?”
27“Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” 38Jesus was deeply moved again as he came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39“Take away the stone,” he said.
Martha, the dead man’s sister, told him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, because it has been four days.” 40Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” 41So they took away the stone. Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43After he said this, he shouted with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”
44The man who had died came out with his feet and his hands bound with strips of linen and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus told them, “Loose him and let him go.” 45Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary and saw what Jesus did believed in him.
Of course, Jesus was going to save Lazarus! Martha had seen Jesus heal so many people before; why wouldn’t He save her brother – one of Jesus’s best friends?
So, when Lazarus became sick, Martha and her sister, Mary, send word to Jesus: “Lord, the one you love is sick.” And of course, Jesus will come.
The sisters’ message is really a prayer. The sisters don’t even mention how critical the situation is for their brother. Jesus will know. Their prayer doesn’t even directly appeal to Jesus for help. They simply lay Lazarus’ sickness upon Jesus’ lap. They don’t prescribe any treatment that Jesus should perform. They don’t tell Jesus what He should do in any way. They only want Jesus to be aware … and to be near.
While they wait for Jesus to come, Lazarus and his two sisters sit together telling stories and singing songs. Their conversation and singing is interrupted by Lazarus’ loud coughing. After a while, Lazarus is exhausted and needs to lay down. His sisters bring him some soup, bread, and humus. They assure their brother, “Don’t worry. Jesus will be here in the morning.”
Jesus had healed so many over the past three years. If He comes – the sisters truly believe – that Jesus will heal their brother, too.
But Jesus isn’t there in the morning. There is no healing. And Lazarus gets worse.
“Don’t worry. Jesus is coming,” Martha reminds Mary and Lazarus. “He’s coming. It’ll be OK.”
But as the sun sets that night, and Lazarus labors to breathe, Jesus didn’t come. And when the sun rises … Lazarus is dead.
Mary and Martha do not give up hope. Their brother is dead, but they believe that Jesus can raise the dead! He raised that little girl (Luke 8:53-56) and that young man (Luke 7:11-15). So, if Jesus comes in the morning, everything will be OK! Of course, Jesus will come.
But He didn’t come.
And that night, the sisters wrap their brother’s body and place it in a tomb. Jesus still hadn’t come. And the next day, as Mary and Martha mourn, Jesus didn’t come. And the next day, He didn’t come.
Finally, after Lazarus has been dead for four days, and their home is filled with mourners, the sisters hear that Jesus has come to Bethany.
Mary stays in the home to accommodate all the mourners that have traveled from nearby Jerusalem for her brother’s seven-day funeral. Martha marches out to meet Jesus. She greets Jesus saying, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you” (John 11:21-22).
Martha says some of the simplest, yet most profound words given by a grieving Christian! “Even now.”
Don’t be fooled by the tears that stain Martha’s face. All hope has not been abandoned. The devil wants her to look at her brother’s grave. He faith focuses her eyes on her Friend and Savior.
“Even now.” Two very short words. Yet, two very important words!
Even now in the face of her brother’s death, there is the confidence of the resurrection on the Last Day. Even now as mourners are gathered in her home, she believes that Lazarus is gathered to His home in heaven. Even now as she has seen her brother wither away and die, she has faith that he has been restored with a new, imperishable, glorious, powerful, and spiritual body (1 Corinthians 15:42-44).
This is faith speaking. A faith that can say with the Psalmist Asaph: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:25,26).
Martha is not charging Jesus with any wrongdoing when she says, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Martha realizes that even if Jesus had left when the messenger had first arrived, He still would have arrived in Bethany too late to heal her brother. Later, when Mary comes to see Jesus, the first thing she says to Him is, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:32). Neither is Mary giving a harsh reproach toward Jesus. She is simply pouring out her sadness and heartache as she watched Lazarus steadily getting worse, and with every hour witnessing death drawing closer.
These words, “If He had been here,” must have been voiced repeatedly from the sisters’ lips and in their hearts.
But even now, the sisters trust in their friend, Lord, and Savior.
“Even now.” We need to remember these words of hope while we are in the ICU, the hospice home, the funeral home and at the cemetery. For that is where we meet our greatest enemy – Death – face-to-face.
As you are going through your brother’s illness or your child’s diabetes or your mother’s dementia or your father’s cancer, you feel alone. Alone with your doubts. Alone with your fears. Driven to despair. Unsure what to do next.
The devil is trying to cut you off from God. He is attempting to isolate you from God’s Word. He is pushing you to remove yourself from God’s resurrection comfort. He is laboring to sequester you away from God’s saints – their faith, assurance, and prayers.
Listen to the words of Martha: “Even now.” Speak the words of Martha: “Even now.” Boldly drive away the devil by confessing those words of Martha: “Even now.”
You have lost your job, your car has been repossessed, and now your home is being foreclosed upon. Even now you believe that the Lord is working all things for your eternal benefit. Your Christian brothers and sisters rally to your aid. An old clunker is donated to you. Money is raised to move you into an apartment. You start a new job which leads to a better job. Through it all, you trust that the Lord will provide (Genesis 22:14).
Your friend’s foot is amputated because of diabetes. You cannot begin to imagine how she will have to relearn how to walk or the painful therapy she will undergo or the phantom pains she will feel. Yet, she believes that even now the Lord is her strength and shield; her heart trusts in Him and He helps her (Psalm 28:7). She trusts that the Lord will allow her to walk with a prosthetic foot. But even more than that, she knows that at her resurrection on the Last Day, she will be changed to have two feet once again to walk the streets of New Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 15:52).
Your mom’s eyesight and hearing are failing. Soon, she will be isolated in a cocoon where she cannot hear or see. Yet, even now she is looking forward to seeing the Lord with her own eyes (Job 19:27) and hearing the song of the saints in heaven (Revelation 14:3).
You are standing at the gravesite of your child. Your heart has been ripped from your chest. You never imagined pain like this. Yet, even now you confess with Job of old, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21).
Martha is right! “Even now.” Even in the face of her brother’s death, there is the confidence of the resurrection on the Last Day.
“Even now.” As Mary’s grief threatens to drown her faith, she sees her Savior who calms storms with a single word.
“Even now.” Lazarus’ friends and Jesus’ enemies have gathered near the tomb. Together they hear Jesus’ powerful words, “Lazarus, come out!”
“Even now.” The eyes of the believer and eyes of the scoffer both see the formerly dead man stagger from his tomb dressed in his grave clothes.
“Even now.” These are words to cling to when what God allows into life perplexes our hearts. “Even now.” These are the words to echo in our prayers, even though our prayers seem to go unanswered. “Even now.” These are words that signal that all is not lost, despite no cure being found, no answer being given, or no help on the horizon.
“Even now” leads to the Bethany cemetery. Jesus wants the stone rolled away and the grave opened. Martha has no objection that Jesus is late on arrival, but now she objects to the opening of the grave. Lazarus has been dead for four days. The decaying flesh will smell too bad. Jesus replies, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:40). When Jesus finishes His prayer, He calls out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” (John 11:43). He who called planets into existence and breathed life into man, now calls Lazarus back from the dead and gives him once more the breath of life.
Don’t miss what is happening in this Bethany cemetery. Do not become calloused because Jesus has raised another person from the dead. This is amazing. This is astounding. This is a miracle. Life from death. Hope following despair. Tears being wiped away and a reunion at the tomb.
What happens in the cemetery gives credence to Martha’s confident words of “even now.” What happened in that cemetery is the reason we can always speak with confidence in our prayers, “Lord, even now …”
Jesus has intruded upon the enemy’s turf. He is standing in Satan’s territory – the valley of death (Psalm 23:4). He weeps, for death has grabbed hold of His dear friend. His stomach churns as He smells the sulfuric reside of the Pharaoh of hell. He winces as He hears the oppressed wails of the mourners. Satan has been here. He has once again violated one of God’s creations.
With His foot planted on the ancient serpent’s head, Jesus speaks loudly enough that His words echo off the hills around this dark valley. “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:15). A chink has been found in Death’s armor. The tomb has been opened and will have to claim another. The decay ceases and the maggots scurry as Life confronts Death – and wins!
“Even now.” These words assure us that Christ always thwarts the devil, that the grave is always opened, and that Life always defeats Death. “Even now.” These words guarantee that even though it may seem like the Lord delays His arrival, an even greater miracle awaits us. “Even now.” These words proclaim that though Death will claim every single person as its personal victim for a time, the Lord of Life will reclaim those who are His for an eternity. “Even now.” These words testify to the power of Him whose hands still bear the nail marks and whose grave clothes have long ago been discarded.
Cancer, dementia, eviction, heart failure, divorce, diabetes – whatever is plaguing you – send a prayer to Jesus asking for Him to be aware and be near. Then include in your prayers the ever-confident words directed to your Friend and Savior, “Even now.” Amen.