John 11:21
Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
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(21) Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.—We have exactly the same words spoken by Mary in John 11:32. They are the utterance of the thought which had already been expressed in their message (John 11:3), and had, we may think, been spoken more than once by the sisters to each other. These sisters are among the many who had received our Lord in the fulness of a true faith, of whom the Gospel narrative tells us nothing, or gives us, as here, but a passing glimpse. Their belief is stated in the definiteness of full conviction; but they, like the courtier, connect the power to save with the bodily presence of our Lord. (Comp. John 4:49.)

11:17-32 Here was a house where the fear of God was, and on which his blessing rested; yet it was made a house of mourning. Grace will keep sorrow from the heart, but not from the house. When God, by his grace and providence, is coming towards us in ways of mercy and comfort, we should, like Martha, go forth by faith, hope, and prayer, to meet him. When Martha went to meet Jesus, Mary sat still in the house; this temper formerly had been an advantage to her, when it put her at Christ's feet to hear his word; but in the day of affliction, the same temper disposed her to melancholy. It is our wisdom to watch against the temptations, and to make use of the advantages of our natural tempers. When we know not what in particular to ask or expect, let us refer ourselves to God; let him do as seemeth him good. To enlarge Martha's expectations, our Lord declared himself to be the Resurrection and the Life. In every sense he is the Resurrection; the source, the substance, the first-fruits, the cause of it. The redeemed soul lives after death in happiness; and after the resurrection, both body and soul are kept from all evil for ever. When we have read or heard the word of Christ, about the great things of the other world, we should put it to ourselves, Do we believe this truth? The crosses and comforts of this present time would not make such a deep impression upon us as they do, if we believed the things of eternity as we ought. When Christ our Master comes, he calls for us. He comes in his word and ordinances, and calls us to them, calls us by them, calls us to himself. Those who, in a day of peace, set themselves at Christ's feet to be taught by him, may with comfort, in a day of trouble, cast themselves at his feet, to find favour with him.Then Martha ... - To Martha was intrusted the management of the affairs of the family, Luke 10:40. It is probable that she first heard of his coming, and, without waiting to inform her sister, went immediately out to meet him. See John 11:28.

Sat still in the house - The word "still" is not in the original. It means that she remained sitting in the house. The common posture of grief among the Jews was that of sitting, Job 2:8; Ezekiel 8:14. Often this grief was so excessive as to fix the person in astonishment, and render him immovable, or prevent his being affected by any external objects. It is possible that the evangelist meant to intimate this of Mary's grief. Compare Ezra 9:3-4; Nehemiah 1:4; Isaiah 47:1.

21. Then said Martha … Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died—As Mary afterwards said the same thing (Joh 11:32), it is plain they had made this very natural remark to each other, perhaps many times during these four sad days, and not without having their confidence in His love at times overclouded. Such trials of faith, however, are not peculiar to them. Mary saith the same, John 11:32. They were both in an error, for Lazarus’s death was appointed and determined by an eternal counsel; and he was both sick and died for a wise end, that God might be glorified and his Son glorified in raising him from the dead; as we were before told, John 11:4. But it lets us see the vanity of our natures, who in the loss of our friends are ready to think, if such or such means had been used, we had not lost our friends; never considering our days are appointed, and we cannot pass the number of them. If any rational, probable means for continuing their lives be omitted, that also is not without the counsel of God, who having determined the issue, concealeth diseases, or the true and proper means for their cure, from physicians, or such as are about the sick persons. Nor did Martha and Mary fail in this only, but in that they made the Lord’s presence necessary to the preserving of the life of their brother, who, had he pleased, could, though absent, have kept him from death.

When said Martha unto Jesus,.... When she was come to him,

Lord, if thou hadst been here my brother had not died: which expresses much faith, but with a mixture of weakness, as if the presence of Christ was necessary for the working a cure; whereas he could as well have restored her brother to health absent, as present, had it been his will, as he did the centurion's servant, and the nobleman's son of Capernaum.

Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
John 11:21-22. Εἰ ἦς ὧδε] Not a reproach, but a lament: if Thou wert here, and stayedst not in the distant Peraea.

καὶ νῦν] Without ἀλλά (see the critical note) the expression simply connects past and present: and now, when he is dead. She then gives expression indirectly (“ob voti magnitudinem,” Grotius) to her confidence, which had quickly arisen in consequence of the arrival of Jesus, that by His prayer He would be able to raise the dead one to life. Having the confidence, she expresses the wish. We can understand from John 11:4 why, now that the healing could no longer be effected, she should think of a resurrection; for with her faith in Jesus, and her knowledge of His wonderful works, she must have felt sure that the declaration of John 11:4 would be fulfilled in some way or other. The less, therefore, may we adopt Calvin’s judgment: “magis affectui suo indulget, quam se contineat sub fidei regula.”

The position of the words αἰτήσῃ τὸν θεὸν, δώσει ὁ θεός is emphatic; their emphatic character is further heightened by the repetition of ὁ θεὸς (comp. Xen. Mem. i. 3. 2 : εὔχετο δὲ πρὸς τοὺς θεοὺςὡς τοὺς θεοὺς κάλλιστα εἰδότας). This word αἰτεῖσθαι, to beg for oneself, is not elsewhere used of Jesus praying to God (but ἐρωτᾶν, παρακαλεῖν, προσεύχεσθαι, δεῖσθαι); it corresponds to the intensity of Martha’s emotion, which would lead her to choose the more concrete, more human expression (comp. Matthew 7:9; John 15:16, al.). Thus naively, as to form, does she speak in the excitement of her feeling; for the idea of the superhuman relation of Jesus to God had not as yet presented itself in any way to her mind. But as to substance she was right; see John 11:41-42.

John 11:21. Martha’s first words to Jesus, Κύριεἐτεθνήκει, “hadst Thou been here my brother had not died,” are “not a reproach but a lament,” Meyer. Mary uses the same words (John 11:32), suggesting that this had been the burden of their talk with one another; and even, as Bengel says, before the death “utinam adesset Dominus Jesus”.

21. if thou hadst been here] Not a reproach, however gentle (she does not say ‘hadst Thou come’), but an expression of deep regret. This thought had naturally been often in the sisters’ minds during the last four days (comp. John 11:32). They believe that Christ could and would have healed Lazarus: their faith and hope are not yet equal to anticipating His raising him from the dead. The gradual progress of Martha’s faith is very true to life, and reminds us of similar development in the woman of Samaria (John 4:19) and the man born blind (John 9:11), though she starts at a more advanced stage than they do. If all these three narratives are late fictions, we have three masterpieces of psychological study, as miraculous in the literature of the second century as would be a Gothic cathedral in the architecture of that age. For the construction comp. John 4:10, John 14:28.

John 11:21. Εἰ ἦς ὧδε, if Thou hadst been here) Thus Mary also expresses herself, John 11:32. From which it may be inferred that this was their language before their brother’s death, Would that the Lord Jesus were here. Himself stirs up the spark of faith, that lies hid in these words.

Verse 21. - Martha therefore (having met her Lord) said unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here - the εἰ η΅ς ω΅δε expresses no complaint: "If thou hadst been here," a simple condition of what is now an impossible event - my brother had not died. Meyer says, "If thou weft making thy residence in Bethany rather than in Peraea." This is somewhat unnatural, and would have been a complaint. Her faith had at least ground enough for this assurance, but she mounts above it. The two sisters, with their contrasted natures, had grasped the life-giving, joy-diffusing, heaven-revealing powers of Jesus. They had believed in him, with a gracious abandonment of all prejudice and in the sweeping force of a great illuminating love. They had said often this same thing to one another, and now Martha pours her high persuasion into the ears of her Lord; but she proceeds further. John 11:21
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