John 11:17-27 Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already. Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off: And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house. Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou had been here, my brother had not died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee. Jesus said unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha said unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever live and believeth in me shall never die. Believe thou this? She said unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.
‘Four days’ – two days after Jesus received the message from the sisters. At least one day was spent on the road and another when the messenger went from the sisters. Bethany was about three kilometres from Jerusalem.
The rabbis had an idea that the spirit wandered about the sepulchre for three days, called days of weeping, seeking an opportunity to return to the body. When decomposition set in on the fourth day, the spirit left the grave and the people beat their breasts in loud lamentations four days, making seven days of mourning (Gen. 27:41).
It was a custom for formal visitations of friends to last several days. As soon as they returned from the grave the mourners stood in a long row, and their friends passed by, each speaking a word of comfort while passing. There were afterwards several visits of sympathy at the house. ‘Sat still in the house’ this was a customary posture in time of grief (Ps. 137:1; Isa. 47:1; Luke 1:79; Mat. 27:61).
‘Whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee’ Jesus had demonstrated His success in getting answers to prayer for years, even to raising the dead, so her statement was backed by many historical proofs. This is exactly the kind of answers Jesus promised every believer without exception (John 14:1-15; 15:7, 16; 16:23-26). Jesus also knew this to be a fact, hence His absolute confidence that He was going to raise Lazarus (John 11:11-16). Martha did not ask such a favor in direct terms; she only expressed the faith in His ability to do it. This is why many prayers today are not answered.
In Him is all life (1Jn. 5:11-12; John 1:4; 3:15-20, 36; 5:24; 14:6). ‘Though he were dead, yet shall he live’ even though Lazarus died physically (Heb. 9:27), yet he will be resurrected physically to live forever (1Cor. 15:20-23, 51-58; 1Thes. 4:13-18). Whosoever believes in Jesus in this life will live eternally.
‘Believe thou this?’ The answer confirmed Martha’s faith in His Messiahship and Sonship, but her faith went no further concerning the pressing need of her brother. She was like many others who stop short of a direct request and absolute faith for what they want.