As Jesus’ three year ministry was drawing near its end and the cross was approaching, He received word that the brother of two of His very closest friends was seriously ill.
1 Now a man was sick, Lazarus, from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, and it was her brother Lazarus who was sick. 3 So the sisters sent a message to Him: “Lord, the one You love is sick.” John 11:1-3 HCSB)
Mary and Martha are well known in scripture as being close to Jesus and entertaining Him in their home. They are best known for the time when Mary sat at Jesus’ feet as He taught while Martha was busy about the house, attending to the guests and quite disturbed that Mary was not assisting her. Jesus gently let Martha know that Mary had chosen the better thing at that moment, as the Creator of the universe would not always be there teaching among them.
The news about Lazarus’ sickness did not surprise Jesus. He knew that the Father had a reason to permit it to happen, and a plan use it for Jesus’ glory.
4 When Jesus heard it, He said, “This sickness will not end in death but is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha, her sister, and Lazarus. 6 So when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. 7 Then after that, He said to the disciples, “Let’s go to Judea again.” 11 He said this, and then He told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I’m on My way to wake him up.” John 11:4-7, 11 (HCSB)
The disciples were quite confused by Jesus’ expression of Lazarus being asleep. He had said this to indicate that it was not a hopeless situation, but in the end, Jesus told them plainly that Lazarus was indeed dead.
17 When Jesus arrived, He found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 21 Then Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. 22 Yet even now I know that whatever You ask from God, God will give You.”
23 “Your brother will rise again,” Jesus told her.
24 Martha said, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live. 26 Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die—ever. Do you believe this?”
27 “Yes, Lord,” she told Him, “I believe You are the Messiah, the Son of God, who comes into the world.” John 11:17, 21-27 (HCSB)
In this grief-filled and painful situation, Jesus presents the joyous truth about His coming victory over death. Though we all, like Lazarus, will die, in Christ, His believers shall rise from the dead to live with Him, the source of our resurrection and eternal life in God’s kingdom. Through the tragedy of Lazarus’s death, Jesus would clearly demonstrate the truth behind His words and promises.
34 “Where have you put him?” He asked.
“Lord,” they told Him, “come and see.”
35 Jesus wept. John 11:34-35 (HCSB)
We are made in God’s image, and our tender and breakable hearts are filled with compassion and sorrow in such situations. Jesus, both God and human, has a heart filled with love like no other, and the overwhelming grief and pain experienced by His loved ones brought Him to tears, weeping despite knowing full well what He was about to do. Additionally, He was angry at the whole idea of death, which came to us because of our sin. Removing sin and the sting of death was the primary objective of His earthly ministry, and this likely gave Him further strength and conviction as He prepared to face brutal suffering and death on the cross on our behalf.
38 Then Jesus, angry in Himself again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 “Remove the stone,” Jesus said.
Martha, the dead man’s sister, told Him, “Lord, he’s already decaying. It’s been four days.”
40 Jesus said to her, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”
43 After He said this, He shouted with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out bound hand and foot with linen strips and with his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him and let him go.” John 11:38-40, 43-44 (HCSB)
It has been said that if Jesus had not specifically mentioned Lazarus by name, every dead person buried in the tomb would have come out. But Lazarus was the one who did, and Jesus’ instructed the people to remove his grave wrappings to set him free, returned to his loved ones.
Painful as the whole experience was, Jesus used it to confirm His power to do everything He has promised, even to raise His believers from the dead. It also reminds us to never lose hope, no matter how dark our situation may be, as the Power that raised Lazarus from death is there for us, to free us from any painful entanglements or trials that are overwhelming us. In Christ, all things are possible.
For those who are ready to turn to God, we pray:
Father God, Your resurrection power gives testimony to Your great glory and generosity towards us. We receive the gift of eternal life offered through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Come into our life to save and regenerate us through the power of Your Holy Spirit. We ask this in the mighty name of Jesus, Amen.