John 11:1-44

If only ...

John 11:1-44
John 11:21, 32
“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Today we’re going to focus in on Jesus’ interaction with two sisters. Jesus is returning to Bethany to see Lazarus, who he has been told is sick. On his approach he is met by Martha and Mary. By this stage Lazarus has died, and they happen to approach him one at a time. You can read this story of Jesus comforting Martha and Mary in v17-37.

Remember, these two sisters are grieving the same person at the same time. They both even say the same thing to Jesus as they approach him. Martha in v21, Mary in v32, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” This is a statement of grief, hurt and faith. Can you feel it?  Do you recognise it? Have you ever prayed a prayer like this? “Lord, if only…”

Notice how Jesus comforts Martha and Mary in two different ways. And if you’re currently in a space where you’re praying “Lord, if only…” type prayers, then I want to help you to see this is how God still comforts his people. Let’s quickly look at the two conversations Jesus has with Martha and Mary.

He meets Martha first. Have a look again at v21-27. To Martha he gives a theological answer. He both affirms and informs her theology. He affirms her belief in the resurrection that awaits creation at the last day. This was a common, and correct, belief in Jesus’ day. And he says in v25, “I am the resurrection and the life.” There is so much in this statement. It tells us that healing, redemption, flourishing and life is breaking in to our dying world now. That there is a great rescue mission of God, that even death cannot withstand. It is in Jesus that death will be defeated. It is in him that new life is spring forth. Jesus raises the dead, and he bestows eternal life on those who believe. What a comforting thought for Martha, and for us. That God’s purpose is to restore.

After this conversation Martha goes to Mary and encourages her to go to Jesus too. It is a profound encounter.

While with Martha Jesus had a conversation, with Mary Jesus simply wept. Jesus wept, John 11:35, is the shortest verse in the Bible. And it is full of significance. In this action we see Jesus’ astonishing compassion and emotion. He was clearly moved. He shares in Mary’s grief. Far from God being removed from our pain, maybe distantly aware of the suffering of his creation, here we see that God empathises with us. He knows our grief and pain and shares it with us.

If you’ve been through grief you will understand the importance of Jesus’ action here. My dad died two years ago… the comfort I most appreciate is from those who come and inhabit my pain with me, who cry alongside me. This is how God feels about our grief too, he weeps alongside us.

What an amazing God we worship.

Were you one of those people you identified with me about our “If only…” prayers to God? Like Mary and Marta who approach Jesus to say “If only you’d been here…” Do you, like me, recognise this cry of unanswered prayer in the middle of difficult circumstances?

Well then, take heart, for we are not at the end of the story yet! Take time to read the story of Jesus raising Lazarus and let these amazing truths sink into your heart today…

Jesus gifts resurrection and life to those who believe.
God is with you in your pain.
And resurrection is on its way!


  1. Do you have a “Lord, if only…” prayer? When was the last time you voiced this disappointment to God?

  2. Jesus comforted Martha and Mary in two different ways. With Martha he engaged theologically, with Mary he engaged emotionally. Which comfort do you need to receive from God today?

  3. How does Jesus individually tailored responses to Martha and Mary effect the way we seek to comfort those around us? Do you see people for the cherished individuals they are?



Thank you that you meet me in my pain. Thank you offer me resurrection and life, and that both of these things can be mine in Christ. Please comfort me today as I wrestle with my disappointments and hurt. Thank you that you’re with me now, and that one day everything sad will become untrue when Jesus returns at the resurrection of all things.

In Jesus’ name.

This Everyday Devotions was written by Andy Tuck, who is the Assistant Venue Leader in our Wimbledon Venue.

If you would like to listen to the whole of this week’s sermon on John 11:1-44 why not download the Everyday Church App or visit our website, YouTube Channel and at our Online Church Services.

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