138 Jesus Raises Lazarus from the Dead Sign 7 Part 1
Updated: Nov 6
The Resurrection of Lazarus Part 1
11 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.
Bethany is east of Jerusalem. One walks through the valley where the Garden of Gethsemane is to get there. It’s on the edge of the escarpment that descends to the Jordan river.
Mary has not yet anointed Jesus’ feet. This happens in chapter 12. Mary is the central figure in this story even though Lazarus is resurrected. Connecting all the Mary’s mentioned in John is an interesting puzzle that we leave for chapter 12.
3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
How did the sisters know that Jesus loved Lazarus? Do you know who loves you? The Greek word used here is “phileo,” or friendship. This is part of the revelation of who Jesus is as a human being. He was drawn to some people more than others. This is more revealing than the general love of God for all people.
4 When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”
Did the sisters get this response before Lazarus died? At least the messengers would have been encouraged by Jesus comment. As in our discussion of the cause of the blindness in chapter 9 the affliction is not from God but in the healing or resurrection God and Jesus are glorified.
5 Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.
The sisters may have comforted Lazarus with these words and raised the hope that he would not die because of Jesus’ response if it was received in time.
One of the four identifying Messianic miracles was to resurrect someone who had been dead 4 days. The other three are healing a Jewish leper, a demon possessed dumb person, and congenital defect.
There were three thresholds Jesus had to cross to get to Lazarus. He had to go from Galilee to Judea. He had to go to Bethany, and He had to go to the tomb.
They correspond to God crossing three barriers to reach us. He had to come to earth, He had to come to the ones He loved. He had to come to the human heart. It is the human heart, the place of horror for the pure God, that must be resurrected into newness of life. Lazarus’ resurrection and subsequently the resurrection of Jesus, himself proved that God could accomplish this existentially, impossible task.
7 Then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” 8 “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?” 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world’s light. 10 It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light.”
Jesus is referring to those who walk without the light of this world. Those who refuse him will continue to stumble and will eventually destroy themselves. The Spirit is leading Jesus to Bethany, and he will go because the Spirit provides the light of life in spite of the malice of the Jewish leaders. Being led by the Spirit means that we are willing to be inspired beyond our desires, it is not the elimination of desire (Buddhism). Is our desire to honour God and tell others about him? Muller prayed for God’s motivation.
11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” 12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
Jesus promised three times in chapter 6 to resurrect people at his Second Coming. This is why he refers to what happens now at the end of life as sleep. It was not final destination, but a temporary state of annihilation caused by Adam’s sin. Jesus did not sleep on the cross he died on the cross. This is what “My God why have you forsaken me?” implies. Lazarus slept. Jesus temporarily lost faith and hope of his resurrection, but he never lost love for those around him even in his final moments (1 Corinthians 13:13). Lazarus “slept” the second time with hope in his heart. He will rise a second time at the second coming never to die again. Jesus rose with love in his heart for his disciples and tormentors never die again.
14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.”
Lazarus was a prominent person compared to the widow of Nain’s son, and Jairus’ daughter. He had also been dead for four days so his resurrection is a Messianic miracle. It was the golden opportunity for those present to believe that he was the promised, anticipated Messiah. Jesus had already completed 3 of the Messianic miracles, he had healed an Israelite leper (Matthew 8:1-4), healed a congenital dysfunction (John 9:1-7) and exorcised a dumb man (Mark 9:14-27).
16 Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
It was dangerous for Jesus to go to Jerusalem. John selects these comments to set the scene of what is happening. Thomas is committed enough to die with Jesus. Maybe all the disciples were ready to die with him, but they really desired the establishment of the nation of Israel. This hope was so meaningful to them it overcame their fear of death.
17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.
In plain language this means that Lazarus is definitely dead for the sisters and other people. There is no chance that it is a coma or that he is unconscious.
18 Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
Why did Mary not rush out with Martha? Perhaps Mary thought Jesus had abandoned them. Luke 10:38 indicates it was Martha’s house. The hired mourners were there, and Mary may not have heard the message given to Martha. Would it have been impolite for both sisters to leave the mourners? This was a rich family because they could have mourners present after four days. Tradition has it this family would support persecuted Christians later. Mary can also afford the expensive nard to anoint Jesus in chapter 12.
21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
Martha is rebuking or blaming Jesus for Lazarus’ death. She has a relationship with Jesus which allows her to be direct and honest with him. She is a confrontational (persistent) personality like his mother at the wedding in Cana. Jesus is confronted by his disciples about feeding all the people. He is confronted by the Syrophoenician woman. He is confronted by the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. He is confronted by the devil.
23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Chapter eleven comes after chapter six where Jesus has affirmed that he will raise up his friends at the last day.
25 Jesus said to her, “I am (ego amie) the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
There are many passages which teach that both believers and unbelievers will be raised. In Acts 24:15 Paul says, "There shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked" John 5:28-29 says, "For an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice and shall come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment." Read also 1 Corinthians 15:20-21. Jesus brings all to life again with their resurrection. The believers in Jesus enter into abundant or eternal life (10:10). Unbelievers enter into eternal death (Romans 6:23). Lazarus could not have died if Jesus was present because Jesus is life in himself (John 1:4). The fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) describes the life of God and Jesus.
Death has more to do with the loss of hope than the ending of body functions. Eternal life begins when we connect with Jesus in intimate relationship. We realize that the best is yet to be. At the Second Coming we will be revealed as God created us to be.
27 “Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” 28 And after she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.”
Martha believes Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah but does believe Jesus is going to raise Lazarus. It is a theoretical possibility but not a probability for her. Martha respects Jesus as a teacher but she does not grasp that he is also God and the Messiah, or the Christ. Mary is ahead of her on this journey.