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139 Jesus Raises Lazarus from the Dead Sign 7 Part 2

In the last sign we discovered a principle that enables us to understand the book of Revelation. When Jesus does exceptional miracles there is a response that reveals the wickedness of mankind. This happens many times in the gospels and then again in Revelation when the 7 bowls are poured out and the response is recorded that casues distruction. Without understanding this principle people conclde that it is God sending the destruction when it is the response to His goodness.

139 Sign 7 Resurrection of Lazarus
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The Resurrection of Lazarus

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 another time.

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. It is calling attention to our reaction to the love of God for us.

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 from Jerusalem to Bethany, and He had to go from Bethany to the tomb.

They correspond to God crossing three barriers to reach us. He had to come haven 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 not believe Jesus is going to raise Lazarus in the next few hours. 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.

29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.

“quickly” means her exit would have been noticed since it was a time of mourning. The professional mourners present were paid to be with the bereaved and so would have followed Mary.

32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

“Falling at his feet” was part of the culture and custom of the time. It revealed her emotional stress in this situation. In our day women are taught to curtsy and men to bow when meeting the queen. No one initiates a handshake with the queen. It also means that she worshipped him which Martha did not do.

From what Mary says it is clear the sisters had discussed the failure of Jesus to come on time so he could heal Lazarus as they had encouraged Lazarus to believe.

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit (Some translations use “anger” which is direct from Greek) and troubled.

These words hardly convey that Jesus is “the resurrection and the life,” and what he must have experienced at this moment. For John to have noticed that Jesus was deeply moved means Jesus’ body language conveyed these emotions. The heart of God is confronted by death, decay, unbelief and evil. His human body reflects the unnecessary sadness of Martha and Mary at this moment.

Jesus mission is to raise Lazarus and the raising of Lazarus is a prophetic micro-enactment of what Jesus will do when He comes on the clouds. He will raise all those who have become His friends to eternal youth and celestial vigour to live with Him in deepest intimacy for all eternity. Was Lazarus expecting Jesus to resurrect him in few days? Perhaps at the last day (John 6).

34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.“Come and see, Lord,” they (Jewish leaders vs 36) replied. 35 Jesus wept. (also, over Jerusalem Mt 23:32)

Jesus did not weep after hearing the news. He did not weep with Martha. He did not weep with Mary. He wept when he was to go and see where Lazarus was buried. He was weeping because many of those he was talking to would die without hope when “hope” was pressing on the door of their heart.

“Come and see” is a common Hebrew expression. Jesus used it with disciples when they were contemplating joining him. The Samaritan woman used it when telling of Jesus. This is the 4th Messianic miracle, the most important one which confirmed his Messiahship. Jesus’ current location outside Jerusalem is paralleled by his being crucified outside the city, for all people.

Jesus wept for the following reasons:

  1. The Jewish leaders would harden their hearts at this miracle and confirm their rebellion.

  2. This rejection of Jesus’ love for Lazarus is prophetic of the end of the world and the determined rebellion of sinners against God’s love.

  3. For the suffering of the world in the desolation of the death of a loved one. This weeping of Jesus reflects the feeling of God over the loss of Lucifer.

  4. Because all the suffering that Martha and Mary had experienced was so unnecessary. If only they could have believed in the love of Jesus for Lazarus, they would have trusted him with their loss. Are you listening?

These two verses juxtapose the connection between the heart and the head. Vulnerability, weeping in public, is uncomfortable for many westerners. We are always ready to move away from the heart into the head. Is it a personality function? Can it be changed? Is it nature verses nurture. It seems some people groups more able to express emotion publicly than other groups. Hasidic wisdom informs us there are three levels of grieving or mourning. There are tears at the lowest level. Tears are supplanted by silence and finally we mourn in song. This is the highest form of grieving.

Jesus Raises Lazarus from the Dead

38 Jesus, once more deeply moved (cp. 33), came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said.

Vs. 33 and 38 both use “angry” e.g., in NLT. Jesus is groaning over the repeated rejection of the gift of life he has for all people. Compare Matthew 23:37-39 and the inevitable awful consequences.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odour, for he has been there four days.”

Martha does not comprehend that Jesus is about to raise Lazarus. Her imagination has failed her. Her trust in Jesus is minimal. He is her friend. He is her teacher, but He is not yet her Saviour.

40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

Who at that cave believed that Jesus is about to resurrect Lazarus? Apparently, no one and certainly not Lazarus. However, they are not in opposition to what Jesus is about to do. When we understand this sign, we grasp that Jesus is the glory of God, he is the Messiah, he is the Christ, he is the Saviour of my soul. He has compassion and mercy and grace for me. This is his glory. Glory to God in the highest.

41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.

Jesus’ miracles are prefaced by his giving thanks. He is not asking God he is thanking God for what is about to happen. He knew the Father’s heart. We know some of what Jesus knew. We know that God has forgiven sin, we may thank God for this knowledge.

42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

This miracle is only reported in John. In other gospels the cleansing of the temple leads to the crucifixion but in John it is the raising of Lazarus which leads to his execution. Peter is prominent in the other gospels but not in John. Perhaps he was absent (Barclays Commentary).

43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

Who unwrapped Lazarus? Mary and Martha? When Jesus was resurrected, he did not need a human to remove his grave clothes? Did he do so himself or was there an angel?

The raising of Lazarus is the seventh sign in the book of John. The others are 1. Water turned into wine (2:1-12);2. Official’s son healed in Cana (4:46-54);3. The lame man healed eat Bethzatha (5:1-15);4. The feeding of the five thousand (6:1-15);5. Jesus walked on water (6:16-21); and6. The man born blind is healed (9:1-41).

This is the seventh sign to emphasize that this is the crowning evidence that Jesus is the Messiah. The resurrection of Lazarus is the sign that Jesus hoped would bring people to believe that he was the Messiah. Some do but many now confirm their rebellion against love by plotting to kill him.

The Plot to Kill Jesus

45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him.

“The Jews” refers to the leadership, some of whom were starting to believe in Jesus as God.

46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”

We create what we fear. This happens because the negative thoughts that have occupied our minds seize on the opportunities that present themselves which confirm our fears. This is why the OT forbids consulting the dead. King Saul was greatly influenced by the Witch of Endor and believed dead Samuel’s words about the future. Think about your thoughts when someone is late in arriving for an important appointment and the bizarre reasons the mind can come up with for their tardiness. Perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18)

Why did the leaders think Jesus ministry would result in the destruction of the nation and Jerusalem? The Messiah, in Jewish thought, would expel the Romans, but Jesus showed no inclination to do so and yet he is being recognized as Messiah by many people. There had been failed Messiah’s in the recent history of Judaism and the spectre of another was haunting.

49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man dies for the people than that the whole nation perish.”

Caiaphas might have been concerned about the position of the Sanhedrin if Jesus was proclaimed as Messiah, the descendant of David and Solomon. The Sanhedrin would lose its significance with Messiah ruling the nation.

51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one.

John’s gospel was written between 90 and 100 CE. The temple had been destroyed and the Jews dispersed but the Christians are drawn together by the love of Jesus revealed now through the Spirit. John was making this comment from hindsight rather than insight.

53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life.

Jesus did not remain in this abusive environment. He moved away from the place of conflict. This is important to keep in mind when dealing with abusive situations. Jesus never recommended that we remain in abusive situations if it is possible to move away.

Caiaphas also understood that the Jewish nation was no match for the Roman Empire

and came to a ruthless and merciless conclusion that it would be better for Jesus to die than to chance a national disaster.

Caiaphas was shrewd, ambitious, calculating and possessed insider’s information that others were not privy to. In that sense, fear led him down the path of Jesus’ execution which resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple which is exactly what Caiaphas feared.

This was the eighth time it was recorded that Jesus’ death was being plotted by the leaders (John 5:18, 7:30, 7:45, 8:20, 8:59, 10:31, 10:39 and 11:53).

54 Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the Jews. Instead, he withdrew to a region near the desert, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples.

It is not clear today where this place was. Scholars differ on its location. It was certainly outside the gambit of the Scribes and Pharisees. We can be sure the people there were blessed.

55 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover.

It is clear that ceremonial cleansing and heart cleansing are different experiences for a person. They are independent of each other. However, ceremonial cleansing was to create a greater possibility of heart cleansing.

56 They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple area, they asked one another, “What do you think? Isn’t he coming to the Feast at all?” 57 But the chief priests and Pharisees had given orders that if anyone found out where Jesus was, he should report it so that they might arrest him.

Jesus had become a force that had to be dealt with. He can no longer be ignored or toyed with. The crisis was at hand. The hour had come, in John’s language. How could it be that the people of God believed that they had to kill God when he came in person. This could happen to us for history repeats itself.

Ian Hartley, August 2023

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