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 liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? (John 11:25-26)
Is there anything more feared than death? Do we fear because we don’t know how or when we will die, or is it the uncertainty of what happens after death? Many will say that death is unfair. It hits the young and the old without regard to person or circumstance. The only fair thing about death is that no one knows when their time on earth will be over. We know that everyone dies. For dust thou art and to dust thou shalt return. So far, only one person has been able to lay His life down and pick it back up again. Only one has conquered death with a bodily resurrection followed by many proofs and witnesses - Jesus Christ. We all will pass from this earthly existence, and we will all live somewhere for eternity. Our decision to serve Christ has present and eternal consequences. Our hope is in Jesus and the power of His own resurrection.
John is the only gospel to record the story of Lazarus. There is debate among commentators as to why since this is an account filled with much meaning and interpretation. John’s gospel portrays Jesus as the Son of God. Jesus tells us before He goes to the town of Bethany that the purpose of this event is for the glory of God and that the Son of God might be glorified. Jesus wasn’t caught up in the moment. The raising of Lazarus was planned. Everything Jesus does is in submission to and for the glory of the Father. The Bible says many things about the death of saints and the death of sinners. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life." He asked the question then, and we ask the same question now. Do you believe Jesus’ claim to be the resurrection and life?
In our lesson today, Jesus has been called to come to Bethany because His friend Lazarus is ill. Instead of rushing to him, Jesus tarries two extra days before heading to Lazarus. He tells His disciples that Lazarus is sleeping but then has to plainly clarify that this means he is dead. Because the religious leadership in Jerusalem have set out to kill him and have tried to stone him, Thomas, one of the twelve disciples, comments that he is willing to go to Bethany and die also. Jesus calls attention to His absence from His friend during his illness and that his friend has died before He heads to Bethany and Lazarus’ family.
17 Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already.
Jewish tradition says that a person’s spirit lingers for three days before it moves on to eternity. Scripture tells us that to be absent for the body is to be present with Christ. Jesus is removing the superstition and replacing it with the truth. Lazarus has been buried and has been dead for four days. At this point, according to tradition, there would be nothing Jesus could do now but comfort the family and mourn the loss of His friend.
18 Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off:
The fifteen furlongs is just under two miles. Removing Himself from Jerusalem because of the intent to kill Him, going back does not necessarily seem like a good idea to His followers.
19 And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.
This verse shows a community's love for this family at the time of Lazarus' death. Many came to comfort. In some instances, Jewish mourning included hired people to wail and cry. It does not say that here, just that many people came to comfort Lazarus’ two sisters.
20 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 hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.
Martha is the first one to approach Jesus. Confessing her concern and also her faith. Remember, Martha is the one who was busy serving while Mary sat at Jesus’ feet to hear his words. No doubt, during this time, she is also overseeing and tending to things that need to be done. However, Martha’s faith is showing when she tells Jesus that “even now” despite what it looks like, despite what has happened, despite things looking hopeless, she believes that whatever He asks of God, God will do. Do we believe “Even Now”?
23 Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith 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 liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.
Like so many others in the gospels, she hears Him, but does she really understand what He is saying? She believes He is the Christ, the anointed Messiah. Does she comprehend what He is saying? I am not sure. Do we? He is stating a core foundational truth that we all need to believe with certainty. Jesus is the resurrection and life. There is an earthly and an eternal life. Does Martha know and believe that death is not the end, that there is life beyond what we know and can see in this present world? Do we? Should knowing this comfort us in loss and motivate us to live a life more closely connected with the Word of God?
38 Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it.
It is interesting that we read the word here used for groaning to mean sorrow. We know Jesus is love and that he loved this family, but He knows the end from the beginning. He can see the bigger picture, including, as he stated, eternal life. The word used in Greek means to “snort” like a horse. It implies that there is anger and indignation. The word used implies more anger and frustration than sadness. There is great emotion in this passage. On the part of Martha and Mary but most importantly on the part of Jesus. He is troubled. He will weep. He will call Lazarus forth with a loud voice. Some things to consider:
Is He indignant about the sin of the first Adam and how its curse is still separating people and causing heartache and pain?
Is he frustrated that he has been with them all for such a long time, and they do not yet, even those closest to him, fully understand His authority and have a lack of faith? He has raised the dead before (widow of Nain).
Is he groaning because He will be going through the same death and resurrection process in just a few short days?
Is He frustrated because even after this is done, there will be some that believe and some that run to the Pharisees instead of believing (vs 46)?
39 Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days. Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?
Jesus re-states His purpose for being there. This event is to cause them to give glory to God. It is a foreshadowing of His ability to lay down His own life and to take it back up again. It is a picture of the shout (loud voice) at the rapture of the church. The dead in Christ shall rise. Believest thou this?
41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.
Can you imagine! Think of the wonder and joy of having Lazarus returned. Seeing this happen would be amazing! Jesus’ own resurrection was amazing, and it’s going to be an amazing sight when the rapture of the church takes place. The raising of Lazarus was a quickening back to life. Lazarus had to die again. In fact, the religious leaders of the day plotted to kill Lazarus also because of the people that now believed in Jesus. Lazarus is alive and well- eternally. Just as we will be if we accept Christ as Lord and Savior.
Even before the cross, Christ illustrated His supremacy over every other power, including death. He groaned over the damage sin has brought on all of us, but instead of turning away in sadness or horror, He calls out Lazarus from the grave. We fear death and often avoid talking about it, pretending it doesn’t lie before us, but Jesus faced death head-on and conquered it for all of us. “Oh grave, where is thy victory? Oh, death, where is thy sting?”
What is the purpose of the story of the resurrection of Lazarus? Jesus is God. He means what He says. He proves it over and over and over. Where is your hope? Where do you place the priority of your relationship with the resurrected Savior? Because He lives, we will live also. We have eternal life. There was a time before you were born, but there will never be a time now that you don't exist. You will live forever somewhere.