If only I had studied more for this test, I would not be failing this class.
If only I had just apologised and asked for forgiveness, I would not be in this strained relationship.
If only I had thought more before I spoke, I would not have turned so many people away.
If only I had learned how to swim as a child, I would not be so scared to go swimming on vacation.
Can you hear yourself saying any one of these or something similar? You’ve done it. You’ve said it. You’ve thought it. We’ve all done it. We’ve all said it. We’ve all thought it. There are a myriad of times when we’ve said, “If only…”. But none of them remotely compares to the greatest “If only…” EVER.
There were 2 sisters and a brother, Martha, Mary and Lazarus. They were dearly loved by the Lord Jesus Christ(John 11:5). Lazarus had died. Jesus was so moved with compassion over the sister’s grief and over the loss of his friend that when He wept the crowds looking on commented how much the Lord loved Lazarus(John 11:35-36).
In the account recorded by the apostle John, there are three responses. And they all happen to be the same. The first response came from Martha.
“Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Martha knew that the Lord who had healed the sick could heal her brother. This was part and parcel of the Lord’s earthly ministry. At the pool of Bethesda Jesus healed a man who was invalid for thirty-eight years(John 5:1-5). With the simple command from the Lord, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” the man was cured instantly(John 5:8-9). Could not Jesus have done the same with Lazarus? If only!
At another time, an official approached Jesus begging him to come to his sick child BEFORE he dies(John 4:49). With Jesus’ simple reply, “Your son will live.”(John 4:50), the boy was healed. Later on the father realized that it was at that exact time when Jesus spoke those words that his son got better(John 4:52-53). Could not Jesus have done the same with Lazarus? If only!
” And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.”(emphasis added)
Healing every disease and every affliction among the people was Matthew’s way of depicting the ministry of Jesus. Could not Lazarus been one of those that Jesus healed before he died? If only!
“That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.”(emphasis added)
Could Lazarus not have been one the “many” whom Jesus healed as Mark records? If only!
The second response came from the other sister, Mary, and it echoed the same exact sentiment of Martha’s.
“Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Like Martha, Mary knew Jesus could heal her brother and that is why she said that if Jesus had been there in time, her brother would not have died. Could not Jesus have been there in time to heal Lazarus before he died? If only!
The third response came from some in the crowd who were observing this real life drama unfold before their very eyes.
“But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”
They were referring to the account the apostle John records two chapters earlier about the man who was blind from birth(John 9:1). Their conclusion is simple. If Jesus opened the eyes of the blind man, surely He could have kept Lazarus from dying! If only!
Jesus most definitely could have healed Lazarus and prevented him from dying. Actually, when He found out that Lazarus was sick, He did not immediately go to him, but rather purposely “stayed where He was two more days.”(John 11:6). But why? Jesus said to the disciples it was for their sake that they may believe(John 11:14-15). In His prayer to the Father He said it was that the people who were standing there may believe that the Father sent Him(John 11:42; cf. John 5:24). That is why. And it is consistent with the intent for which the apostle John wrote, namely that you may believe(John 20:31).
Coming to the tomb where Lazarus was for four days, being deeply moved, and having prayed to the Father, Jesus cried out with a loud voice: “Lazarus, come out!”(John 11:43). Or as I like the way the King James Version puts it, “Lazarus, come forth!”(King James Only? Henno to use NoCo language!)
Only God raises the dead!(Acts 26:8; 2 Corinthians 1:9). So rather than healing him before his death, Jesus performed the greater miracle, raising Lazarus from the dead, to show that He was who He claimed to be, namely God incarnate, and that people would believe in Him as such. And to believe in Jesus is NOT to believe in yourself, or in your priest, or in your pastor, or in your religion or in your morality to save you. To believe in Jesus IS to believe in Him and Him alone.
If only? You better believe it. Martha did.
“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who 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 coming into the world.”