Sunday, January 6, 2013

John 11, Part One

The death of Lazarus (vs. 1-16)—This is one of the most remarkable stories in the New Testament which, if true, forever verifies the divine nature of Jesus.  The Jews understood this, too, of course, which is why they wanted to kill Jesus—and Lazarus (John 12:10-11).  Some have expressed surprise that the other three gospel writers did not include this story, but that is perhaps because they wrote while Lazarus was still alive and did not want to draw undue attention to him because of the Jewish leadership’s desire to kill him.  For whatever reason, John includes it.  This isn’t the only example of Jesus raising someone from the dead, but it does seem to have been surrounded with the most fanfare and consequences.

Lazarus is identified in vs. 1-2 as the brother of Mary and Martha, the same Mary who had anointed Jesus’ feet with oil and wiped them with her feet (Matt. 26:7).  The family was good friends of Jesus, and lived in the town of Bethany, a small village about two miles (“fifteen furlongs,” KJV) from Jerusalem.  Lazarus was sick (v. 3), and would temporarily die; that is the meaning of Jesus’ statement in v. 4.  In that verse, Jesus states the purpose of this whole event—to bring glory to God and Himself.  For again, if this account actually happened, then Jesus certainly is God and requires our allegiance and obedience.  The Lord waited where He was for two more days (v. 6) before making the decision to go to Bethany, probably waiting until his beloved friend was dead.  His disciples express surprise that Jesus would go anywhere near Jerusalem again, since the Jews were so threatening (v. 8).  But Jesus came to the earth to work and had to do that (during the “day”).  One doesn’t work or travel in the dark, that’s dangerous, and in a spiritual sense, will be disastrous (vs. 9-10).  Lazarus had died and Jesus was going to go to him, “that you may believe” (v. 15)—more evidence to convince the disciples who Jesus really was.  His apostles were willing to go wherever He went (v. 16).  At least for the moment.

“I am the resurrection and the life” (vs. 17-27)—By the time Jesus arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had been dead for four days (v. 17).  A crowd had gathered to comfort, and mourn with, the family (v. 19).  It was a perfect setting for a notable miracle.  When she heard that He had arrived, Martha came to meet Jesus; for unknown reasons, Mary remained in the house (v. 20).  The following conversation between Jesus and Martha is striking and enlightening.  Martha’s incomplete, yet growing, knowledge of Jesus is evident from her statement, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.  But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You” (vs. 21-22).  Jesus did not have to be there heal Lazarus, He certainly could have done it from a distance, so Martha was still confused as to the totality of His power, and thus His full identity.  Yet, she had enough faith in Him to believe that He could raise Lazarus from the dead if He asked God to do so.  Jesus tells her that Lazarus would live again, which she misinterprets as the final resurrection (v. 24).  Jesus then speaks some of the most beautiful, and comforting—and breathtaking —words, recorded in Scripture:  “I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.  And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (vs. 25-26).  If Jesus isn’t God, then He was utterly insane.  How could any mere human make a claim like this?  Many such statements by Jesus could only be based upon Him being the Son of God, i.e., God in the flesh, an earthly, living manifestation of deity.  If indeed Jesus is God, then the words here are among the most comforting He ever spoke—eternal life awaits the believer.  Martha expresses her belief in Jesus being the Christ, though, as noted, her understanding was apparently somewhat faulty.  She, like all other Jews, had been (erroneously) educated to expect certain things from their Messiah, things which Jesus wasn’t providing.  That confused them and made them fully unsure of His plans and power.  But her faith was deep enough, and her love for Jesus was certainly deep. 

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