John Chapter 11 tells about Lazarus’ death and Jesus bringing him back to life. There is so much to learn from this chapter that I have broken it up into more than one day.
Verses 1-4 read,
“Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. 3 So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4 But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
Bethany was about 2 miles from Jerusalem. It was dangerous for Jesus to be there, since the Jews there were eager to kill Him. But Jesus wasn’t worried about that sort of thing. He was interested in doing His Father’s will and had peace that God would protect Him. The only mention of Lazarus in the Bible is in these two chapters of John. But we know that Jesus loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. We know that Jesus had taught them, they believed Him, and that the three of them were faithful to Him.
I’m sure Mary and Martha knew how dangerous it would be to ask Jesus to come to Judea. But they also knew that Jesus loved Lazarus and that He would want to know about their brother’s illness. And they knew He could heal Him. But when Jesus heard, He didn’t jump up and go. He said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
We know from the story that this illness did lead to physical death, so Jesus wasn’t referring to that. He was saying that like much of the suffering, illness, and pain we experience, Lazarus’ illness was for God’s glory. Since this wasn’t going to cause spiritual death, they would wait per the Father’s will. I’m sure it pained Him not to leave immediately and go be with His friends, but He stayed two days longer in the place where He was. It was the Father’s will that Jesus let Lazarus die and that He be dead for a little while so there could be no doubt.
Jesus finally said, Okay, it’s time to go to Judea. And the disciples freaked out. “Remember when we were there a couple of months ago and they tried to stone you to death?!?!? Um! They’re trying to kill you! That is not a great idea!”
Verses 9-10 read,
“Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”
The disciples had nothing to fear and Jesus didn’t fear at all. Jesus knew that He was doing the Father’s will for the glory of God, and He knew that whatever happened it would be to God’s glory. He is the light of the world and the disciples didn’t have to fear because they were walking with Him. They had Jesus to keep them from stumbling in the darkness.
Jesus, the light of the world is the giver of life and salvation and He is with you, Believer. Everything He said and did was for God’s glory. He gave us the charge of being the light of the world as well. Do you take that responsibility seriously? Are you the light of the world? Do you walk in the righteousness of Christ? Do you have faith that enables you to choose good over evil?
Being the light, being especially close to Jesus doesn’t protect you from bad things happening. Lazarus still got sick and died. Being close to Jesus allows you to understand that those bad things happen so that God can be glorified and more people can believe and so that your own faith and that of those around you can be strengthened.
Verses 11-15 read,
“After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.”12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
Jesus didn’t want His friend to die, but He knew that Lazarus death would allow a great miracle and many more people would believe, the disciples faith would be fortified, and the word of God’s greatness would be spread.
It was dangerous for Jesus to go to Judea, and now the disciples wondered what the point was. Was it worth risking death so Jesus could morn Lazarus and comfort Mary and Martha? But they did trust Jesus and they would follow Him wherever He said to go.
Verse 16 reads,
“So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
Thomas is sadly remembered as “Doubting Thomas” but here he shows the loyalty and faith of a disciple willing to enter danger and even follow his Lord to death. Whatever reasons Jesus had for going, Thomas was ready to go with Him.
Faith in Jesus means that we, like Jesus pay attention to God’s voice rather than the circumstances. Jesus could have obeyed the circumstances of the situation and run off and healed Lazarus, He could have healed him from a distance. But that wasn’t God’s will. It would have looked more like love if Jesus had reacted to the situation rather than obey the Father. Jesus wasn’t concerned with looking right, He was concerned with doing right.
Faith in Jesus means that when bad things happen we can respond with peace and joy because we know that God will be glorified and we will be conformed to Jesus’ image. God would have been glorified if Lazarus had been healed, but how much more was God glorified in Lazarus’ resurrection? How much did witnessing that miracle augment the faith of the followers?
Faith in Jesus means knowing His way is best, even if we can’t understand it. Heading into Judea didn’t look wise to anyone. Jesus trusted His Father. Sometimes He asks us to do things that frighten us or don’t make any sense to us. Faith allows us to obey with peace that the rest of the world doesn’t comprehend.