" I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live." – see john 11
In the first six signs (miracles – revelations) in John’s gospel (chapters 1-10) Jesus reveals Himself through the various institutions and festivals/feasts of Israel; e.g., Tabernacles, Hanukkah (living water, light, the good shepherd), etc., showing Himself as the ultimate fulfillment of these. This seventh sign is the most powerful testimony of Who Jesus is – the resurrection and the life – the One who conquered death, our last enemy. The raising of Lazarus points to Jesus’ own resurrection from the dead yet, unlike Lazarus, Jesus never died again. His death was “once for all” – for all who put their trust in Him. His bodily resurrection is our greatest hope and assurance that we, “who are united to Him in His death, are also united to Him in His resurrection.” (Romans 6:5) "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory (over death) through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 15:55-57)
Jesus loved Lazarus, Mary and Martha and was especially close to them. Their home was His base when He ministered in Jerusalem. They knew where He was and sent word to Him but He delayed two days before He went to them for the greater glory of God. Delayed answers to prayers are meant by God to bring greater glory to Him. In these times we can grow in our intimacy with Him as we trust and obey Him in our suffering and are more conformed to Christ-likeness. His love is not a pampering love but a perfecting love.
The travel time from Bethany to the area of Perea was about a day and, as we learn later, when Jesus arrived Lazarus had been buried four days. Since it was their custom to bury their dead immediately we know that by the time the word of Lazarus’ sickness reached Jesus, he was already dead and buried and Jesus even said so (vv.11-14). A well-known Jewish belief was that the soul of a dead person remained in the vicinity of the body “hoping to reenter” for three days but once decomposition set in, the soul departed. Jesus’ delay served to show that Lazarus was clearly dead (v. 39) and He and His Father were glorified. (v.4)
The disciples had witnessed the hostility of the Jews in Jerusalem in trying to arrest Jesus or even stone Him many times. Yet He calls them to follow Him there. (Bethany was only 2 miles from Jerusalem). Sometimes He calls us to follow Him in ways that we don’t understand and that go against common sense. That is when we need supernatural sense so we will follow Him anyway.
Martha encounters Jesus as the resurrection and the life. She believed in the future resurrection of Lazarus but soon she will know Jesus as the present resurrection and life. Paul said he wanted to know the resurrection power of Jesus now in this life. “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” (Philippians 3:10) The Greek word for power (dynamis) means “the ability to overcome resistance” – the power to overcome sin and discouragement and to stand firm in faith and obedience. It is one thing to trust Jesus for the future (heaven) but are we trusting Him now in the midst of our struggles?
Mary encounters Jesus. In the gospels we see Mary at the feet of Jesus three different times – a good place to be by the way; worshiping and listening to His Word, weeping and wailing in her pain, and worshiping and washing His feet with her perfume. (Luke 10:38-42; John 11:32; 12:3) Her weeping (“klaio”) here in John 11 was actually loud wailing. This really touched Jesus. He was “deeply moved and troubled and wept”. (v.35) He was really outraged as He saw the devastation of sin and death, the tyranny of Satan and the pain it caused those He loved. Here we see Jesus’ solidarity with mankind as He is our flesh and blood and sympathizes with us. (Hebrews 2:14-15; 4:14-16) We must remember that death was not a part of God’s good creation and came only through sin and after the Fall. Soon after this on the cross, Jesus put death to death for all those who trust Him. In heaven the circle will be unbroken and we will never be separated from our loved ones in Christ ever again and we will be in the Lord’s presence forever. Jesus takes the fear out of death – our last enemy. “Because God's children are human beings–made of flesh and blood–Jesus also became flesh and blood by being born in human form. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the Devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he deliver those who have lived all their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.” (Hebrews 2:14-16)
The Lord of life confronts His opponent and our last enemy- death – “Jesus cried out with a loud voice – a shout of authority: “Lazarus come forth”. (v.43) And he did. Wow! Can you imagine? “Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.” (vv.:45-46) Yes many believed but others didn’t even as they witnessed the most powerful miracle Jesus performed. It is not miracles that brings faith but our attitude toward the miracle. And the attitude of the religious leaders was that of jealousy and the fear of loss of power. So instead of belief and worship they planned His death. (v.53)
Jesus is not just the light of the world; He gives sight to a blind man. (John 8 & 9) He is not just the resurrection and the life; He raises a man from the dead. Jesus’ words accompanied His works and His works were accompanied with words (explaining and proclaiming the gospel). Though we can’t raise the dead or give sight to the blind, we can let our life and character as well as our actions and good works point others to belief in the One Who can do all things. Yet, sharing the gospel and seeing God raise the spiritually dead (salvation) and the changed lives that come with the new birth will also cause others to believe.
Soon Jesus would face His own death and tomb and again demonstrate the power of God and authenticate that He is Who He says He is: “who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 1:4) Like Martha and Mary we need to move from “Lord, if…” (vv.21, 32) to “Lord, I believe.” (v.27)
Questions for reflection/application:
How much does knowing you will never die (spiritually) and the hope and assurance of a perfect life in heaven help you in your day to day struggles and trials in this life? And Jesus says He is the resurrection and the life now. Are you trusting Him in your trials now?
Have God’s delays in answering your prayers in the past or present served to draw you closer to Him and make you more like Him or caused you to move away in doubt or discouragement?
How often do you find yourself like Mary, at the feet of Jesus worshiping and listening, wailing in pain, or washing His feet in love and praise? Do you believe that God weeps with you?
Our faith is not built on miracles alone (i.e., the good things that God has done in our life) but in our attitude toward the miracles and blessings. Do you see every good and perfect gift as coming from God? (James 1:17)
That we would see Jesus,
Len and Kristen