"So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles away. And many of the Jews had joined the women around 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 was sitting in the house. Now Martha said to Jesus, 'Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give You.' Jesus said to her, 'Your brother will rise again.' Martha said to Him, 'I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.' Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever 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 to come into the world.'"
Since Lazarus had "been in the tomb four days", it is safe to conclude that he had been dead exactly four days. This is true because the custom at that time was to bury the dead the same day of their death. It was also tradition that there be seven days of public mourning and thirty days of private mourning when a prominent person died.
John notes that Jesus isn't far from Jerusalem at all at this time, but why would he record that Bethany is "about two miles away"? Certainly anyone remotely acquainted with Jerusalem would know where Bethany was. It is supposed that when John was writing this book toward the close of the first century that not only had Jerusalem been destroyed in A.D. 70, but Bethany was also in ruins. Of course, this geographical information would be helpful for Gentiles studying this book.
The short distance from Jerusalem allowed many mourners to come to be with Martha and Mary in their time of sorrow. The number of mourners present also suggests that this family was rather distinguished.
As soon as she learned that He was coming, Martha went out to meet Jesus on the edge of town (cf. 11:30). "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died" (John 11:21). This statement is not one of resentment or bitterness, but one of faith. She regrets that Jesus wasn't present earlier for she had confidence that He would have been able to heal Lazarus and prevent his death.
"But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You" - Because of this statement one might be tempted to think that Martha confidently expected the Lord to raise Lazarus, but her words in 11:39 indicate that such is not the case. What she probably means here is that even though Lazarus had died, she still believed that any request Jesus would make would be granted (she is speaking in general and not thinking of any specific request pertaining to her family). Even though her brother has died this has not caused her to lose confidence in Jesus and His relationship with God (though she doesn't even dream that He would ask the Father to resurrect Lazarus).
"Your brother will rise again" - Jesus' statement here is intentionally ambiguous (He could have said: "I will raise Lazarus today"). He wants to strengthen Martha's faith, and this could be best accomplished by discussing this subject with her.
She replied - "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." The Jews, with the exception of the Sadducees, commonly believed in the afterlife and a resurrection on the final day (cf. Dan. 12:2). Martha's response indicates that she regarded Jesus' words as nothing more than sympathy. She believes Lazarus will eventually be resurrected, but she still has no idea that Jesus intended to do it that day.
"I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live" - The meaning here is that though believers will die physically, death for such a one is merely a gateway to further life and fellowship with God. The Greek here indicates that the belief must be a continual action. Thus, those who keep on believing are those who shall experience the joys of eternal life--they will never die spiritually (cf. John 11:26).
Jesus is the One who makes such blessings possible because He is "the resurrection and the life" (both physically and spiritually). He is "the life" because He is the giver of physical and spiritual life (cf. 1:3,4; 10:28). He is "the resurrection" because all the dead will hear His voice and come forth in the resurrection (cf. 5:27-29). Spiritually, He raises those who die to sin when they obey the gospel. They are brought forth from the waters of baptism to walk in newness of life (cf. Rom. 6:4).
Jesus continued - "And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?" He asks her specifically if she believed His words. Carefully note her response in John 11:27 - "Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world." She avoids His question with this response. Although it is a beautiful and powerful confession of her convictions regarding Jesus as deity and the Messiah--convictions that had been settled in her mind in the past and which she continued to hold--she could not say that she believed His words, for Lazarus had believed in Jesus and yet he died. It is certain she didn't understand the spiritual meaning of His words in the previous verse. Thus, instead of answering His question directly, she confessed her faith in Him. Perhaps she is saying, indirectly, that since she believes in Him she accepts whatever He might say, though she surely didn't comprehend it on this occasion.