Let’s pause for a moment to get the
perspective of John. In the first ten chapters, Christ has revealed Himself in
an ever widening circle. This began at the wedding of Cana where there
were guests and also His disciples. We are told that His disciples believed on
Him. At the Feast of Tabernacles and the Feast of Dedication, the whole
nation was before Him. He presented Himself to the nation and He was rejected:
His works were rejected in John 5:16; His words were rejected in John 8:58–59;
and His Person was rejected in John 10:30–31.
chapter is a kind of intermission. His public ministry is over and He retires
into a private ministry. Centering Himself on individuals, He no longer is
reaching out to the nation. The events of this chapter occur between the Feast
of Dedication and the Passover which would be sometime between December and
The Gospel of John is like climbing up a mountain in that each chapter brings us
a little higher than the preceding chapter. Remember that John has told us why
he wrote this Gospel: “And many other signs truly
did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:
but these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son
of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name”
(John 20:30–31). Going back to the very beginning: “In
the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”
(John 1:1). “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us”
(John 1:14). While He walked among us in the flesh, this great thesis was
sustained by miracle and parable and discourse.
Now the supreme question is: Can Jesus raise the dead? The big question in any
religion concerns death. Death is a great mystery. And life is a great mystery,
but life is practically meaningless if there is no resurrection of the dead. The
question to ask of any religion is whether it has power over death.
Gospels tell us three incidents of Jesus raising the dead. There was the
twelve-year-old girl who had just died. She was a juvenile. There was a young
man, whose body was being carried to the cemetery. Then there was Lazarus,
possibly a senior citizen, who had been dead four days and had been buried. They
were all raised, from every age group.
Allow me to be technical and state that these people were raised from the dead
but were not resurrected. Rather, it was a restoration to life. Resurrection is
this: “… It is sown in corruption; it is raised
in incorruption: it is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in
weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a
spiritual body …” (1 Cor. 15:42–44). These people were raised
from the dead, but none of them were given glorified bodies. They all faced
death again. Christ is the firstfruits of them that sleep. His is the only true
resurrection—“… Christ the firstfruits;
afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming” (1 Cor. 15:23).
While our Lord used different methods to perform His miracles of healing, His
method of raising the dead was always the same. He called to them and spoke to
them as if they heard Him. Do you know why He did that? Because they heard Him!
I think that when He returns with a shout, every one of us will hear his own
name because He will call us back from the dead.
Christ is approaching Calvary, so the death of Christ serves the
framework for the raising of Lazarus.
Note that Bethany is the town of Mary. This was written
about b.c. 90 and by that time
people knew about Mary who had anointed the feet of Jesus with spikenard. The
fragrance of the box that she broke still fills this world. Jesus said that her
act of devotion would be remembered wherever the gospel was preached.
I am of the opinion that many a humble person is breaking an alabaster
box of ointment and will have more recognition in heaven than many well-known
Christian leaders who receive much publicity down here.
was the home of Martha.
Our Lord had visited there before. Martha had been cumbered and frustrated with
her preparations for dinner. Jesus had told her that to sit at His feet and
learn of Him is better than being too busy with service.
was the town of Mary and the home of Martha.
There are different gifts. Some women are given a marvelous gift in the home.
Talk about women’s liberation! I know of no one who is the big boss more than
a wife and a mother in her home. She can hustle you out of the kitchen, make you
stay out of the refrigerator, and tell you to move when she wants to vacuum. She
is in charge of the kitchen and of the whole house. This is the calling of many
Christian women. There are others who have an outside ministry. They teach Bible
classes and child evangelism classes, and work in the church. Remember, friend,
the woman who serves in her home can be serving the Lord and the woman who
serves outside her home can be serving the Lord. The Holy Spirit bestows gifts
for many types of ministries.
Jesus, you see, was not in Bethany at the time, and a message was sent to
Jesus delays going to Bethany until after Lazarus has died. Again, the
delay was so that God would receive more glory.
Some people say that a Christian should never be sick. Is sickness in the
will of God? I wish Lazarus were here to tell you about that. Sickness is not a
sign that God does not love you.
all this I considered in my heart even to declare all this, that the righteous,
and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God: no man knoweth either
love or hatred by all that is before them”
In other words, you cannot tell by the circumstances of a man whether God
loves him or not. You have no right to judge. “Therefore
judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light
the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts
…” (1 Cor. 4:5).
Jesus loved Lazarus when he was sick. Not only that, Jesus will let
Lazarus die—but He still loves him.
(7-10) 7Then after that saith he to his
disciples, Let us go into Judaea again. 8His
disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest
thou thither again? 9Jesus answered, Are
there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not,
because he seeth the light of this world. 10But
if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him.
could have healed or raised Lazarus from a distance, but perhaps he wants to go
to Bethany to test the disciples willingness to follow Him into danger.
Don’t miss that word again. He had been there and had been forced to
withdraw. Now He returns and takes His disciples with Him into the danger zone.
was more preparation for the persecution they would experience after His
ascension. Interestingly, it is “doubting” Thomas who has boldness and
encourages the rest of the disciples to follow Jesus.
are twelve hours in the day, and you can’t change that. Because the Father has
given the Son a work to do, nothing can stop Him.
is a great principle here. God has given to each man a lifework. You can’t
extend that for one day any more than you can keep the sun from going down in
the afternoon. But, thank God, you are absolutely invulnerable until your work
is done. Nobody, not even Satan, can thwart God’s purpose in your life if you
are following Him. To fail to follow Him is dangerous.
(11-16) 11These things said he: and after that he saith unto
them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may
awake him out of sleep. 12Then said his disciples, Lord, if he
sleep, he shall do well. 13Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they
thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. 14Then said
Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. 15And
I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe;
nevertheless let us go unto him. 16Then said Thomas, which is
called Didymus, unto his fellowdisciples, Let us also go, that we may die with
Here we see the omniscience of Jesus.
one told Him that Lazarus was dead.
disciples did not understand what Jesus meant when He said that Lazarus was
many people today do not understand it either, we find people who talk about
soul-sleep. Friend, sleep is for the body, never for the soul. This is true of
both sleep in this life and the sleep of death.
Death means separation. The body of the believer sleeps in the grave, but
the spirit goes to be with Christ. For the believer, to be absent from the body
is to be present with the Lord (see 2 Cor. 5:8). Jesus is called the firstfruits
of them that sleep. Does this mean that Jesus is sleeping somewhere today?
Absolutely not. He is in His glorified body. The believer goes immediately to be
with the Lord, but the body sleeps until the day of resurrection when the body
will be raised.
Death, for the believer, is a sleep for his body. Are you afraid of
sleep? You shouldn’t be. Sleep is a relief from labor. It is the rest that
comes for renewal and preparation for the new day that is coming. There is
nothing quite as beautiful as the word sleep when it is used for the
death of a believer.
The body is put to sleep, to be awakened by our Lord. He is the only One
who has the alarm clock. He is the only One who can raise the dead. One day He
will come and we shall awaken in our new bodies.
The Greek word for resurrection is anastasis
which means “a standing up.” C. S. Lewis, that brilliant Oxford don,
ridiculing those who hold that resurrection is spiritual rather than physical,
asked, “If it is the spirit that stands up, what position does it take?”
There’s a question to work over! No, resurrection means a standing up, and it
always refers to the body. The soul never dies, nor does the soul ever sleep.
Death is a reality, an awful reality of the body. But, remember, the
resurrection is also reality. You see, man leaves off at death. Even in the
hospital, there is a finality about death. Doctors will work and work over a
patient. Then when he dies, they all stop working. When death comes, they are
through. Science is helpless in the presence of death. Where man must leave off,
Jesus begins. Resurrection is also reality.
when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already.
18Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off: 19And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to
comfort them concerning their brother. 20Then Martha, as soon as she
heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house. 21Then
said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. 22But
I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.
seems always to be the aggressive type. She is the woman of action. She reveals
a wonderful faith but also an impatience and a lack of bending to the will of
God. By contrast, Mary is willing to sit at home. She has learned to sit at
can see now that Martha should have been sitting at Jesus’ feet a little more.
She says, “I know that if You will ask God.” Martha, don’t you realize
that He is God? He is God, manifest in the flesh. He has been in your
home, sat at your table and has eaten your biscuits, but you didn’t realize
that He was God, did you? Oh, my friend, how we need to spend time at His feet.
How we need to listen.
saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. 24Martha
saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last
day. 25Jesus said unto her, I am the
resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet
shall he live: 26And whosoever liveth
and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?
believed in a resurrection. But listen, it makes less demand upon faith to
believe that in a future day we shall receive glorified bodies than it does to
rest now on the assurance that they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their
strength. It is easier to believe that the Lord is coming and the dead will be
raised than it is to believe that tomorrow I can live for God. It is so easy to
comfort people who are mourning and say, “Well, you’ll see your loved ones
someday.” That doesn’t take much faith.
takes a lot of faith to say, “I have just lost my loved one but I am comforted
with the assurance that God is with me and He does all things well.” You see,
although Martha knew from the Old Testament that there would be a resurrection
from the dead, she didn’t believe that Jesus could help her now.
says to her, “Martha, don’t you know that I am the resurrection and
the life?” If we have Jesus, we have life. “He that believeth in me, though
he were dead” is referring to spiritual death. Though a person is spiritually
dead, “yet shall he live.” Then He looks into the future and says that the
one who has trusted Him shall never die. Life begins at the moment a person
accepts the Savior. Whosoever lives and believes in Jesus will never die because
Jesus has already died for him. That is, he will never die a penal death for his
sins. He will never be separated from God. Then Jesus asks the question:
“Believest thou this?"
saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God,
which should come into the world. 28And when she had so said, she
went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come,
and calleth for thee. 29As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly,
and came unto him. 30Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but
was in that place where Martha met him. 31The Jews then which were
with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up
hastily and went out, followed her, saying,
She goeth unto the grave to weep there. 32Then when Mary was
come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him,
Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
Jews missed the point here. He wept, not because He loved Lazarus—He was not
weeping for the dead—He wept for those who were living.
notice that the Jews go back to the incident of healing the blind man. That
obviously made a great impression on them.
Even though Jesus knew He was going to raise Lazarus, He wept with the
We have an advocate with God who understands us and empathizes with us.
actions (39-44) 39Jesus
said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister
of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he
hath been dead four days. 40Jesus saith unto her, Said
I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of
subject of death is skirted by people today. The undertakers try in every way to
make death seem like a pleasant episode. But let us face it very frankly, we
can’t cover up death by embalming and painting up the face, dressing the body
in a good suit of clothes, then placing it in a pretty coffin surrounded by
flowers. Although this is done to help soften the shock, death is an awful
b. Martha said that he had been buried for four days already and his body would stink; it would be decaying. Someone may think that sounds crude. So is death crude. It is awful. This case is certainly going to require a miracle.
they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus
lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that
thou hast heard me. 42And I knew that
thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that
they may believe that thou hast sent me.
that this whole incident is for the glory of God. Jesus prays audibly to let the
people know that what He is going to do is the will of the Father so that the
Father will get the glory.
voices His prayer for the benefit of those who are present.
when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus,
come forth. 44And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and
foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith
unto them, Loose him, and let him go.
want to mention here that I think there were multitudes raised from the dead by
Jesus Christ. I think there were multitudes who were healed, hundreds of blind
people who received their sight. The Gospels record only a few instances for us.
that for Lazarus, life was restored to the old body. He came out still wrapped
in all the graveclothes. When our Lord rose from the dead, He left all the
graveclothes in place just as they had been wrapped around His body, including
the napkin which had been wrapped around His head. He came right out of them.
Why? Because He came out in a glorified body. They didn’t need to roll away
the stone for Jesus to come out. It was rolled away so the people on the outside
could look in and see that the tomb was empty. His glorified body could leave
the sealed grave and it could also enter a room with all the doors locked.
is a beautiful picture of salvation in this. We were dead in trespasses and
sins, dead to God, and are now made alive to God in Christ Jesus. But, friend,
each of us is being held back by those graveclothes. Paul could say, “… For
what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I…. O wretched man that
I am! …” (Rom. 7:15, 24). This was not an unsaved man talking; this was a
believer. Jesus wants us to be free from those graveclothes. He says, “Loose
him, and let him go.”
is the resurrection and the life” is stated in the miracle and is the main
point. Whoever believes will never die.
is the Messiah, the Son of God, sent into the world to save man.
Martha’s confession vs 27.
seeing a resurrection doesn’t make everyone believe.
should accept the timing of God. His delay (from our perspective) is for our
good and brings Him greater glory.
should find comfort in the fact that Jesus understands my pain, sorrow,
should have compassion and hurt when others hurt.
is a future hope for all who believe. At
times it seems that God gives us the first half of our life to
earth and the last
half to anticipate heaven. As our
parents begin getting sick and dying and our bodies don’t
work like they used
to, we finally recognize that this earthly life is not enough, we start longing
for heaven and the
resurrection becomes very comforting. If
there is no resurrection, there is no hope.