26th October 2013

Advice for the Despondent…
Think of What Might Be

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
John 11:21 (NIV)

John chapter 11 tells us the story of Martha and Mary and the death of their brother Lazarus.  We know the story well, how Lazarus is taken ill so Martha and Mary request that Jesus come and heal him. Bethany wasn’t that far from Jesus but he didn’t come. Well, not in time to prevent Lazarus from dying.

John 11:17 tells us that when Jesus finally arrived Lazarus had been buried four days. John told us that for a reason. A common belief at the time was when a person died the spirit hovered around the tomb for three days seeking to get back into the body and revive it. After three days, however, the spirit left because the face would be so decomposed that the person would not be recognised. I think John was making the point that Lazarus was well and truly dead and there was no hope for any revival.

Notice what happened when Jesus finally arrived. Martha rushed out to meet him. “Lord,” Martha says to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (verse 21). Martha then goes to Mary and says, “The Teacher is here, and is asking for you” (verse 28). Martha called him ‘The Teacher’ for a reason. The Teacher, the Rabbi, Mary’s Rabbi, meant a great deal to Mary. Rabbis taught men not women, and the fact that Jesus had opened the door to discipleship for Mary meant everything to her. Mary was now being asked personally by Jesus to come to Him. His asking for her, lifting her from her sadness and despondency. So “When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died’” (verse 32). It’s interesting that Mary says exactly the same thing as had Martha:  If you had come when we asked, Lazarus would be alive.

Jesus was moved and, about to act, asks those around him where Lazarus is buried. They take him and show him, “But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’” (verse 37).

What Martha said to Jesus, what Mary said to Jesus and what the other mourners said, have one thing in common. They were all thinking about what might have been:  They were all thinking, “Lord if you had come earlier everything would have been all right.” Isn’t that what we do when God doesn’t answer our prayers in the way we would like? When tragedy strikes, when life just isn’t working for us don’t we think, ‘Lord if only you had come earlier or if you had just done this, everything would be fine?’ Yes, we too focus on what might have been. Jesus, however, wants us to think about what might be.

Jesus now raised Lazarus from the dead and in doing so is glorified and shows he is life itself, and that life and resurrection are in his power. The point I want to draw out from this is that we can trust Jesus with everything, even with our lives. And even though the result may not be what we would want, we should look for what might be, because those results will always be for the best. So always think of what might be, not what might have been.

We are prone to be despondent, Lord, when things do not go as we hoped. Help us to trust in you completely and look for what might be instead of lamenting the past and focusing on what might have been.

Study by Ray Walker


raywalkerAbout the Author:
Ray Walker is an Elder in Grace Communion Church – Leeds, a congregation of the Worldwide Church of God, UK.

Local Congregation:
Grace Communion – Leeds
Garden Village Welfare Association
Community Centre
Pendas Way
LS15 8LE

Meeting time:
Saturday  2pm

Local Congregational Contact:
Malcolm Arnold
Email: malcolm.john.arnold@ntlworld.com

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One Response to “26th October 2013”

  1. Ian Woodley on October 26th, 2013 9:35 am

    Hello Ray
    Many thanks for your thought provoking article – you’ve added a perspective about our lives in Christ which has got me pondering!
    God Bless

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