The Resurrection and the Life
Today’s Text John 11:1-44
This is a famous story about the miracle that Jesus performs in raising Lazarus from the tomb, but it is much more than that. Jesus will reveal much about His own death and the hope that we will have as a result. It probably begins in Perea where Jesus went after the last attempt to stone him, and opens with the news that His dear friend Lazarus was near death. Jesus’ reaction seems surprising, since one might expect Him to rush off to help, but He delays instead…
11:7-16 Jesus announces to His disciples that it’s time to get on to Judea. Assuming that He means to return to the temple to resume his teaching, the disciples voice the concern that His safety would be in question. Jesus uses the metaphor of day and night to tell them that it is still safe for Him to go, but the implication is that the time is short. Then He tells them that they will be going to see about their friend Lazarus and corrects the misunderstanding about him being “asleep” for Lazarus is dead. Good old Thomas is optimistic as always…
11:17-22 These verses set the stage for the miracle: Lazarus has been in the tomb four days, Martha comes out to meet Jesus on His way, and there were many people in town who had come because of the death and funeral who would be witnesses for what would happen. Martha, upon meeting Jesus both scolds and demonstrates great faith. Whether or not her faith extended to raising her brother from the grave is a matter of interpretation, but she was certainly disappointed that He hadn’t intervened in his illness, which is a thought many of us have had at one time or another…
11:23-27 Clearly Martha’s understanding of Jesus was along the lines of “funeral words” that are often spoken to give comfort to the grieving, but Jesus was talking about something else. He delivers a stunner, an “I Am” statement, double-barreled at that! “I am the resurrection and the life” meaning that Jesus is a living resurrection. Martha’s reaction is just what Jesus was looking for; she shows that she has believed His promise of eternal life; little does she know that she was about to see it demonstrated with power.
11:28-37 Martha runs back to town to get Mary who leaves so suddenly that the visitors follow to see what’s up. When she reaches Jesus, her greeting is the same that Martha’s had been. This time Jesus simply asks her where Lazarus was buried, and then He wept. The reaction of the onlookers is interesting, with some noting how much He loved Lazarus and others grumbling as usual.
11:38-44 Arriving at the tomb, Jesus orders the stone removed. There is an objection: Lazarus has been in the tomb four days and will stink! Jesus reminds all of them that he had made promises about eternal life. The stone is removed and Jesus thanks the Father in a way that demonstrates where the glory for the miracle belongs and also shows why this was all being done: So that they might believe. Lazarus is summoned, comes out and Jesus directs the burial wrappings be removed so the man can go free; free from the grave just as all who believe will be set free from the grave.
The fact that Lazarus had been dead four days is a demonstration of God’s power and a way of authenticating the miracle. He was not sleeping, nor was he in a coma; he was dead. There is no earthly way to rejuvenate someone who has been dead four days; not then, not now: Lazarus was a dead man and Jesus called him forth from his grave… and he came forth!