The Gospel of John now moves to the early ministry of Jesus, both in demonstrating his authority as from God, and reaching out to all beyond Israel alone. The message of Jesus has gone out from now from multiple witnesses, not just Jesus. From John the Baptist, following on the predictions and words of the Old Testament and of Moses. And even so: I know you do not have the love of God in your hearts (5:42), how are you going to believe what I say (5:47). And the challenge has been: No fence sitting now about the person of Jesus. The miraculous signs of John’s gospels now speak to the identity and authority of Jesus as the Son of God:
- Changing water into wine at the wedding at Cana (Jn 2:1-11);
- Healing the royal official’s son (Jn 4:46-54);
- Healing the paralyzed man at the pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem (Jn 5:1-15);
- Feeding the 5,000 (Jn 6:5-14);
- Walking on water (Jn 6:16-21);
- Healing the man born blind (Jn 9:1-7); and
- Raising Lazarus from the dead (Jn 11:1-45).
The enemies of Jesus are now organizing to kill Jesus. Even so, with a family crisis of the illness and death of Lazarus, Jesus and his disciples go back to the hostile area of Judea to further demonstrate both his compassion on His followers, and his authority of life over death and the purposes of illnesses.
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26.
1. Jesus’ Instruction as to Illness and Death. Jesus and his disciples entered back into Judea at the request of Mary and Martha, devoted followers of Jesus. Their brother was gravely ill. The initial instruction reminded his disciples that the greater purposes of this family crisis was to demonstrate the authority of Jesus as the Son of God. 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.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, 7 and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” John 11:4-7.
2. Jesus Correcting for Courage, Fear and Doubt. This journey back into Judea with his disciples was not without its own questions. To Mary and Martha, when promised, he will rise again (John 11:23), they misinterpreted that as a promise of life in eternity, not the hear and now. Jesus response has echoed in the hearts of Christians from then to now.
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26. Even so, even Thomas followed with courage and fear and doubt: 16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” John 11:16.
3. Jesus demonstrating His power of life over death, and foretelling his cross and resurrection. The disciples tried everything to dissuade Jesus from this work. It was dangerous territory. We believe we will live with you in heaven. He has been dead four days, and now there is a bad odor. In the midst of all of this, Jesus, who loved Lazarus, who loved Marth and Mary, who when presented with the grave of Lazarus, Jesus wept (John 11;35), now is ready to raise Lazarus to life.
So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 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.” 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.” John 11:41-44.
There are so many lessons in this narrative. The recognition that the enemies of Jesus were committed to his destruction despite His good works and miracles, showing their fury at being exposed as charlatans. The interruption, as it were, of Jesus’ ministry and schedule to minister to ones He loved, and raise Lazarus from the dead. And certainly the ultimate purpose of the narrative…so that they may believe that you sent me. The enemies of Jesus went into a panic. ‘If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him’ (John 11:48). As a result, Jesus arrest and crucifixion is imminent.
Death is the inevitable result of life. How do you view your death? Do you have the consolation of this text? I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will life, even thought they die, and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this? Nothing else we gain in life will substitute for this hope and promise. Best to you this week.
(Image: Jesus Raising Lazarus from the Dead (Lazarus), by Carl Heinrich Bloch (62148); GAK 222; GAB 49; Primary manual 7-27; John 11:1–46)