Reading the Gospel of John (13) Day Thirteen
The Raising of Lazarus (John 11:1-57)
Chapter 11 contains the last of Jesus’ signs, or miracles. The Jewish leaders have already decided to kill Jesus, so it is fitting that His last miracle is to raise Lazarus from the dead. This miracles reveals that life has come in the Kingdom of God.
Lazarus’ Death (John 11:1-16)
Jesus frequently visited the home of His friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus, in Bethany. Jesus loved Lazarus and his two sisters. This is the first time in this Gospel that John uses the words agape and philia when speaking of Jesus. Jesus loved Lazarus with unconditional love and also brotherly love as a friend. He cared about family life, as His first and last miracles reveal. His first miracle, at the wedding in Cana, blessed the new family God was creating. His last miracle occurs as the family prepares for the funeral of Lazarus. He blesses this family.
When Jesus hears that Lazarus is ill, He replies that this sickness “does not lead unto death,” but that it is for the glory of God. Lazarus did die, but death did not have the last word. Jesus knew that Lazarus had died, but He stayed two days longer where He was, to make it clear that Lazarus was actually dead, and that He — Jesus — is the one who conquers the last enemy, death.
Jesus and Martha (John 11:17-27)
Jesus meets both Martha and Mary, each one individually. As you read this, try to place yourself inside the minds of these two sisters, and notice how Jesus relates to them. Try to avoid the “over-simplification” of thinking that Martha was just a work-oriented person and Mary a people-oriented person. Both of them loved Jesus and people, and both of them ministered, although in different ways.
Jesus pronounces His 5th “I AM” statement to Martha, when she says that she knows Lazarus will rise again on the last day. But she finds little comfort even though she believes it. Jesus replies, I am the resurrection and the life. All who believe in Jesus shall never die. This means that fellowship with Christ is participating in God’s life that finds its deepest meaning in triumph over death.
William Temple expressed it this way: “Your friend is alive now; for in Me he touched the life of God which is eternal; in Me, he had already risen before his body perished.”
Martha finished her conversation with Jesus by her own confession of faith: Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.
Jesus and Mary (John 11:28-37)
Note that Martha speaks of Jesus as “the Teacher” when she tells her that Jesus is calling for her. We remember how Mary would sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to His teaching. (Luke 10:39)
Jesus is not able to meet Mary alone, however, because the friends who had come to comfort her followed her into the house. She said the same thing as Martha had said, that if Jesus had been there her brother would not have died.
Mary fell at Jesus’ feet and wept. Her Jewish friends wept with her. Jesus Himself, when He saw that they were weeping, also wept. Jesus was deeply moved in spirit and greatly troubled; He wept over the destruction of death that held the whole world captive.
Jesus’ Four Commands (John 11:34-44)
Jesus spoke four commands to bring Lazarus back to life. Notice that He includes the whole community present there to complete the restoration of Lazarus. These four commands are very powerful, and teach us how we also may become involved in restoring new life to people who are dead in their sins, or who have for some reason lost hope in life.
Where have you laid him?
Identify the problem. What is the cause? What is the situation? Bring the problem to the light so that it can be dealt with.
Take away the stone!
For Lazarus it was the stone of death. For others, it may be the stone of anxiety, worry, depression, or resentment and unforgiveness. There would an odor of death, because Lazarus had been dead for four days. It can be unpleasant for a person to open himself so that the root problem of spiritual death can be dealt with.
Lazarus, come out!
Jesus is the one who commands the dead to come to life. We can only prepare people to hear His voice. The voice of the Lord awakens the dead, and raises them up. It must be obeyed! Jesus speaks — the almighty voice of God Himself — and the dead body obeys!
Unbind him, and let him go!
Jesus works the miracle, but He asks for their help in full restoration. Lazarus rose from the dead, but he is not yet ready to return home. His friends need to remove the smelly clothes of death from him and welcome him back to life!
This speaks of the need for shepherds in the Body of Christ. People who care for others, who meet the needs of one another, even the physical and worldly needs, as well as their spiritual needs.
Jesus completes Lazarus’ resurrection with a prayer of thanksgiving to God, from whom all life comes and to whom all life returns.
The Result (John 11:45-57)
We have seen thus far in our study of the Gospel of John that there always were those who believed in Jesus because of His miracles and teaching; but always the Jewish religious leaders continued to grow more hostile in their attitudes toward Jesus.
Some of the Jewish people who had come to comfort Mary and Martha received salvation that day. Others left and reported everything to the religious authorities.
The Chief Priests and the Pharisees
Until now, the Pharisees have “defended the faith” by opposing Jesus and plotting to kill Jesus. But now the Chief Priests take the lead. The raising of Lazarus is so astounding that they are afraid of a revolt by the crowds. This would mean that they would lose their “holy positions” as well as their national existence.
A better way? Caiaphas, whose turn it was to be the representative high priest that year, gives the solution: One man should die in place of all the people.
Ironically, at a later time when John wrote this Gospel, this prophecy had already been fulfilled. The Romans had taken over their nation completely. Jerusalem was in ruins. Some have even said that the destruction of the city was due to the blindness regarding its true destiny; and this blindness led to the rejection of Christ. Jesus Himself said, as He wept over Jerusalem, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.” (Luke 19:42) You did not know the time of your visitation! (Luke 19:44)