Today I’m giddy with excitement because we are taking an in-depth look at probably my favorite miracle that Jesus performed: Jesus Raises Lazarus from the Dead!
I’m not sure if it’s the nature of the relationship that Jesus had with Lazarus that I love so much or the magnitude of the miracle (who doesn’t love a story in which someone comes back to life?), or maybe it’s the fact that Jesus waited so long to go and visit Lazarus when he was sick. Whatever it is, this story has such great meaning that you can’t help but love it!
We start off in the book of John as our story is set in the small village of Bethany. On a map, you’d find Bethany about two miles away from Jerusalem.
Scripture quickly introduces us to the family of sisters Martha and Mary, and their brother Lazarus.
The first thing that we hear is that Lazarus is sick. We can guess that his illness is serious since it is the first thing ever mentioned in the story. We hear in John 11:5 (NIV):
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.”
We don’t really hear any background information but we can assume that they were close friends or perhaps related in some way. Close enough that John mentions them by name, letting us know how much Jesus cared for them. These three siblings are mentioned several times throughout Scripture, and while information is scarce, what we do know is important.
We know that Jesus loved their family. He must have had a personal and intimate relationship with them. Perhaps they had Him over for dinner regularly. Or even entertained Him in their home. Maybe all of them walked around outside admiring their garden. Whatever the case, we know that He knew them and loved them all.
Can you imagine living back in the day when Jesus walked the earth and having Him as a close friend?
Now, that would be AMAZING!
As we are digging into this story, I think we can ask ourselves, “What can we learn from this miracle?”
I believe we can break down the lessons we should take away into three main points: Jesus’ purpose was to show God’s glory to those around Him, assurance is much more important than comfort, and all things are possible with faith.
JESUS SHOWS GOD’S GLORY
Okay, so Lazarus was sick and we hear that his sisters understood the seriousness of his illness because they immediately sent a message to Jesus to let Him know.
John 11:3 (NIV) tells us:
So the sisters send word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
Martha and Mary must have been aware of the depth of Jesus’ love for their brother or else they would not have thought to send word to Him. They sent word and expected that He would come and bring healing for Lazarus.
We hear in John 11:4 (NIV), Jesus’ response to the message He receives:
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.”
We seem to be seeing a beautiful recurring theme and purpose throughout many of these miracles of Jesus with the importance of letting God’s glory shine through.
And we see that again here, in the story of Lazarus.
I think that one of the things that I love so much about this story is that Jesus doesn’t once do what I would have expected Him to.
I mean, friends, if I received a call or a text saying that one of my family members or close friends was deathly ill, I think I would go running to be by their side. Wouldn’t you?
But not Jesus.
He heard that His friend was sick, and Scripture tells us that He stayed where He was for two WHOLE days.
Who does that?
I would have grabbed the first flight so that I could be by their side. To comfort them and spend time with them.
But not Jesus.
He chose to stay where He was for two days and THEN went back to see Lazarus. Jesus could have chosen to go back right away, but NO, He stayed away.
Why did He stay away?
I think that He needed to make sure that everyone could see that Lazarus was DEAD, DEAD!
Good and dead!
You see, this way, when He raised up Lazarus there would be no question about whose power this miracle came from. There would be no question as to whether Lazarus was sick. No, Jesus needed it to be a big deal.
So, He waited. And I’m sure His heart wept. Because He loved Lazarus.
On His way back to Judea, Jesus was trying to explain things to His disciples. He was trying to get them to understand why He had to wait and what His purpose would be in raising up Lazarus. Scripture tells us in John 11:14-15 (NIV) that Jesus said to the disciples:
Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.”
Talk about testimony!
ASSURANCE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN COMFORT
But let’s turn our talk to what happened after Jesus finally made His way back to Judea. Scripture tells us that Lazarus had already been dead in the tomb for four days.
That’s a long time for someone to be dead.
After four days, there’s really no questioning whether he was asleep and really sick or whether he was dead, right?
During these four days, the community would have come to comfort Martha and Mary and express their condolences about their brother’s death. That’s a normal response. After all, they were sad, grief stricken, confused and probably angry. All of the emotions that we all go through at the loss of a loved one.
We talked about how Jesus’ primary purpose was to bring Lazarus back to life so that God’s glory would be seen by all. We can also see a secondary reason if we continue in this story. He loved this family and needed to bring them assurance of eternal life.
We know that Jesus loved them and that their relationship would have had a strong bond. Jesus knew that the death (no matter how short of a time) of Lazarus would bring much pain and grief to Martha and Mary. They would need great healing.
They needed Jesus.
As Jesus arrived back in Judea, Martha ran out to meet Him in anticipation, while Mary sat silently in her thoughts, grieving. Martha approached Jesus with a statement that contained both her grief and anger, as well as the faith she holds close to her heart. She says to Jesus in John 11:21-22 (NIV):
Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
Martha’s grief was evident as she began to blame Jesus for Lazarus’ death. She tells Him that if He had been there, this would have never happened.
But the second half of her response shows the faith that was buried under her pain. Even in her grief, she tells Jesus that she knows God is good and faithful and will hear her prayers. Whatever we ask, He will grant.
We see the depth of her faith as she lets Jesus know that she believes He is the Son of God. She understands that if His heart is in line with that of the Father, then whatever He asks God will hear and grant out of His great love for us!
Jesus goes on to have a really beautiful faith-filled conversation with Martha telling her that Lazarus will indeed rise. She doesn’t fully understand what this means. She thinks Jesus is talking about Lazarus and his death but Jesus lets her know that He is talking about eternal life and resurrection on the last day. Jesus says to Martha in John 11:25-27 (NIV):
I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
Jesus asks her the salvation question. And we see her faith and testimony lift through the clouds of her sorrow and grief as she replies, saying:
Yes Lord, I do believe you are the Son of God!” (Jn 11:27)
The blessed assurance of eternal life through Jesus.
It is much more important than the comfort Jesus could have given to Lazarus’ sisters. Sure, He cared for them and saw how much they were hurting.
But He had something so much more to offer to them. Eternal life. And that assurance is so much more important.
ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE WITH FAITH
We see Martha’s faith in Jesus’ assurance as she tells Him she believes. She immediately goes to find her sister, Mary, and share the news with her.
As Mary meets up with Jesus, Scripture tells us that she falls at His feet consumed in her sorrow, saying to Him:
Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Jn 11:32 (NIV)
At this moment, Jesus was silent. He was, I believe, deeply troubled by the amount of pain and anguish His friends were experiencing.
He quickly asked Mary, “Where have you laid him?” Jn 11:34 (NIV)
Jesus proceeded to go to the tomb where Lazarus was laid and Scripture tells us that Jesus wept.
Jesus cried for His friend.
He cries out of His great love for us. Think about that for a moment. Jesus wept for Lazarus. And He weeps for us. That’s how much He loves us!
The crowd began to question Jesus and why He didn’t save Lazarus from death and we read that Jesus became frustrated. He immediately went to the tomb and said, “Take away the stone.” Jn 11:39 (NIV)
Martha, who we may remember, is concerned about the details of this situation. I mean, after all Lazarus had been dead four days.
What would it smell like? What would he look like?
But Jesus took away her worries and reminded her to have faith and that she will see the glory of God!
Jesus looked up to Heaven and prayed, thanking God for hearing His prayers and then Jesus summoned Lazarus to rise and come out!
And out walked Lazarus!
With faith, all things are possible! With God, all things are possible. If we believe in Jesus the Son of God and that miracles can and will happen in our lives, we will start to see God moving mountains in our circumstances.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for your great love for us. Thank you for your blessed assurance of eternal life in Heaven. Help us to see your glory and purpose in all things. Open our hearts to have faith to believe that all things are possible with you! In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Do you need to catch up on previous parts of this Bible Study?
You can find all of the posts below.