1Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. 3So the sisters sent word to Jesus, "Lord, the one you love is sick."
4When 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." 5Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.
7Then he said to his disciples, "Let us go back to Judea."
8"But Rabbi," they said, "a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?"
9Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world's light. 10It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light."
11After he had said this, he went on to tell them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up."
12His disciples replied, "Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better." 13Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
14So then he told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead, 15and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him."
16Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him."
17On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, 19and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
21"Lord," Martha said to Jesus, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask."
23Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again."
24Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day."
25Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
27"Yes, Lord," she told him, "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world."
28And after she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. "The Teacher is here," she said, "and is asking for you." 29When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.
32When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."
33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34"Where have you laid him?" he asked.
"Come and see, Lord," they replied.
36Then the Jews said, "See how he loved him!"
37But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?"
38Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39"Take away the stone," he said.
"But, Lord," said Martha, the sister of the dead man, "by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days."
40Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"
41So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42I 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."
43When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" 44The 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."
45Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him. 46But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.
"What are we accomplishing?" they asked. "Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. 48If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation."
49Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, "You know nothing at all! 50You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish."
51He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 53So from that day on they plotted to take his life.
54Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the Jews. Instead he withdrew to a region near the desert, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples.
55When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. 56They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple area they asked one another, "What do you think? Isn't he coming to the Feast at all?" 57But the chief priests and Pharisees had given orders that if anyone found out where Jesus was, he should report it so that they might arrest him. (NIV)
We have reached a point in the Gospel of John that is a few weeks before Jesus enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. John’s Gospel spends the greatest portion of its Gospel on the last week of Jesus’ life than the other three Gospels. The last week is prominent in all four Gospels.
So we have this story about Lazarus’ death. In chapter 10, we read that as Jesus taught, the people wanted to stone him to death. That is the reason for verse 8 where the disciples protest about going back.
But this story is to have Jesus plainly say that he is the Messiah, the Christ. There is no beating around the bush. And the story is one of death and resurrection. And what I love about this story is the reaction of Martha and Mary to Jesus not being there at the time of Lazarus’ death. There is real hurt and real pain. They both confront Jesus with the words, “If you had been here.” The unsaid words spoken are “where were you in my time of trial?” These are words we all speak at some time in our lives.
Then there is Jesus telling Martha that Lazarus will rise from the dead. You can almost her Martha reciting words she has heard before. Speaking them as she is trying to believe them. “Yes, I know he will rise again at the last day.” Martha and Mary speak our words at times. We hear the promises and we believe the promises. But they sometimes seem so far away – at the last day.
And Jesus says of his promises, not tomorrow or later, but today. This is the good news – Jesus is with us today, guiding us, listening to us, walking with us. Jesus can take our words that might otherwise seem harsh or even doubtful. He still loves always.
And we see that Jesus weeps for us, even when he knows it is going to be alright. He weeps that we struggle with life. He weeps that we hurt. He weeps. He knows our pains and our stuggles.
Martha is even put to the test. He asks, do you believe. She says yes. Then Jesus says to move the stone away and Martha protests. She says it is going to smell of death, a terrible smell. Jesus then reminds Martha of the promise, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” They roll away the stone and Jesus prays to God the Father. Then calls Lazarus out from the tomb.
John then takes us to an emergency meeting of the Sanhedrin. They are talking about what to do about Jesus. John tells us that God puts words into the mouth of Caiaphas what Jesus is truly about to accomplish. Caiaphas is thinking that they will be the ones doing the killing when it is really Jesus giving up his life so that life may come to all. This is the Gospel; one dies so that all might live.
This is a wonderful passage filled with images that speak to more than what was happening that day. It speaks to our beliefs and doubts. Martha and Mary remind me of the man who answered Jesus’ question, “do you believe?” with the response, “I believe, help my unbelief.”
In our faith journey, we naturally oscillate between belief and unbelief. I think it is in our times of unbelief or questioning that we actually grown in our faith. It is here that God listens to our complaints and our needs and answers them. Have you ever had these times of believing and having unbelief all in the same time? If they were in the past, did you grow from the experience as you saw God’s promises fulfilled? Can looking back help the trouble in the future?
Our faith journey will never be a straight line, But I hope it is moving you each year closer to God and faith in Christ.
Blessings and Peace