Whatever You Will Ask Of God
John 11:17-22 MKJV Then when Jesus came, He found him already being held in the tomb four days. (18) And Bethany was near Jerusalem, fifteen stadia (2 miles, 3 kilometers) away. (19) And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary in order to comfort them concerning their brother. (20) Then when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she met Him. But Mary was sitting in the house. (21) Then Martha said to Jesus, Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. (22) But I know that even now, whatever You will ask of God, God will give You.
Jesus comes at the darkest time for the family – four days after Lazarus’ death. In popular Jewish thought the soul hung around the body for three days then departed to the world of the dead. Thus Lazarus was now completely “gone”. St. John uses a few words to paint a most moving scene. Mary and Martha are true to form, Mary is quiet and passive, sitting in the house. Martha is up-front and tell Jesus off: “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” Martha, ever the activist, wants Jesus to “do something” - But I know that even now, whatever You will ask of God, God will give You.” There is also a great grief stricken procession of Jews from Jerusalem, walking the 2 miles to show their respects to the ones who Jesus loved. (In the ancient world 15-20 miles was a day’s walk, so 2 miles was easy walking distance!)
In this moving scene I would like to focus on Martha’s theology: “Then Martha said to Jesus, Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now, whatever You will ask of God, God will give You.”
Martha wants Jesus to ask God to fix things, and she is certain that if Jesus asks, then God will answer. And deep down Martha feels that she can boss Jesus around a little bit, because every time we see her, that is what she is trying to do! And this time it works! Jesus does raise Lazarus from the dead!
There is a holy persistence in intercession that Martha has and which many great intercessors also have. They know two truths a) God is all-powerful, and sovereign and does not have to do what anyone says. And b) Yet God invites us to influence Him, to pray to Him, to enter His heart and to move Him.
Now I want to move a couple of steps ahead – God hears the requests of Jesus and answers them, so when our prayers are “in Christ”, when they are truly “in Jesus name”, when they are the sort of requests Jesus would make, then God answers them, just as He would answer a request from Jesus Himself.
John 15:16 MKJV You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you and ordained you that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain; that whatever you shall ask of the Father in My name, He may give it to you.
John 16:23-24 MKJV And in that day you shall ask Me nothing. Truly, truly, I say to you, Whatever you shall ask the Father in My name, He will give you. (24) Before now you have asked nothing in My name; ask and you shall receive, that your joy may be full.
God always answers the prayers of Jesus, and we are in Him, and our righteous prayers are “in Christ” and are prayed through the Holy Spirit directly to God Himself (Romans 8:26).
1 John 5:14-15 MKJV And this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. (15) And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him.
The other part of Martha’s theology is “its never too late for God to show up”: “But I know that even now, whatever You will ask of God, God will give You.”
Nothing seems more final than death – but it wasn’t (and isn’t) final and irreversible. We are used to the finality of irreversible situations. Spilt milk cannot be put back in the bottle – so we say “there is no use crying over split milk” – it cannot be undone. Death, divorce, a broken vase, a missed opportunity - the pieces of life are all over the ground. And Humpty-Dumpy has had a great fall and all the King’s horses and all the King’s men cannot put Humpty back together again. But God can!
God brought the Israelites out of Egypt and the captives back from Babylon, Lazarus out of the grave and Jesus out of the tomb, and Israel back as a nation in 1948! God has reversed the most utterly hopeless and irreversible situations. Cancer has been beaten; divorces have been healed; drunks have become sober and lives have been turned around. This is the sovereign miraculous work of God, it is rare but it is there. No situation is greater than God. No situation can overpower Him and His grace!
Martha somehow believed that Jesus would do one of these great miracles, or reversing the irreversible in life, for her and for Mary. Martha was almost cocksure in her relationship with Jesus, she did not fear approaching Him, she came right out with it, because she knew she He was her friend and the she was His friend. In the verses a few paragraphs above it says, “if we know that He hears us” (1 John 5:14,15). Martha KNEW that Jesus would listen to her! “And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him.”
Seasoned prayer warriors come before God with amazing confidence and power in prayer. They know Jesus as their personal friend and are bold and importunate in bringing the needs of people before Him. They are sure they can come before the “throne of grace”.
Hebrews 4:14-16 Since then we have a great High Priest who has passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. (15) For we do not have a high priest who cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted just as we are, yet without sin. (16) Therefore let us come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Those who see the most miracles often are the most brazen in prayer, to the point of appearing “disrespectful” in the eyes of conventional religion. They have learned the confidence that comes from being a true friend of Jesus.