Peter Misselbrook's Blog
May 20 2013 - John 11:1-44 – The resurrection and the life

Mary and Martha and their brother, Lazarus, live in Bethany, a village just outside Jerusalem. Jesus was across the other side of the Jordan when word was sent to him that Lazarus had fallen ill. Jesus loved this family greatly, yet he waited two days before setting off for Bethany. Why?

This story is full of perplexities, yet one thing is clear right from the beginning, Jesus is in full control of the situation. The minute he hears of Lazarus' sickness he declares, "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it" (John 11:4). Jesus seems to have deliberately delayed so that Lazarus' condition would get worse and so that he would die. Jesus wants to bring glory to his Father and to display his own glory by demonstrating that he has power even over death.

When Jesus arrives at Bethany, Martha is troubled. She knows that if Jesus had been there when Lazarus had fallen sick he would never have died. Nevertheless, she knows that death is not the end; he will be raised to life again in the last day when death at last gives up all its captives. But Jesus tells her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live even though he dies; and whoever believes in me will never die”, and he challenges her, “Do you believe this?” Martha responds, “Yes, Lord. I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” She believes that Jesus is the promised Messiah. He has come into the world to bring in that day of resurrection, the day when death shall be swallowed up in life.

Jesus is deeply moved and troubled by the death of Lazarus. He does not treat death as simply another fact of life. He views death as an enemy that has invaded God’s world, robbed Lazarus of life and brought grief to those who loved him. It is an evil that moved Jesus to angry tears.

But Jesus is not helpless in the face of death. He has only to call Lazarus from his tomb and the dead hear his voice and live. Lazarus, bound in his grave clothes, totters out to hear the further welcome words of command, “Set him free and let him go.”

Lazarus would die again. The final day of resurrection had not yet arrived, yet his resurrection from the grave, leaving behind an empty tomb, foreshadows a greater resurrection not many days hence. That resurrection would be accomplished by the same power, for as Jesus said, “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down and power to take it up again.” (10:18). With his death and resurrection the power of death will be broken once and for all – unlike Lazarus, he will not die again. He is the firstborn from the dead, the one who gives eternal life – resurrection life – to all who come to him.

Lararus' resurrection also foreshadows that last great day when Jesus shall call to all who are in their graves, "Come out", and we shall rise. All who fall asleep in Jesus, await the day of general resurrection when at last death shall be swallowed up in victory.

Father God, thank you that the words of Jesus are not empty words, they have power to give life to the dead. Thank you that you have given us a living hope through Jesus' resurrection from the dead and the promise that we will enter into an inheritance that can never perish or fade. May your word fill me with joy and peace even in the face of death.

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Peter Misselbrook