A word for the heart

by Alan Bailey

John 11:27-44 - The raising of Lazarus

Bible study

Lazarus rises


Welcome to this Bible Study. Read what I have written slowly. If you have a Bible look up the reference verses given, and allow the Holy Spirit to minister to your soul through them.

John 11:27-44

We continue our reading of the Gospel of John from verse 27 of the 11th chapter.

This is the best known of three times that Jesus raised someone from the dead. In all three cases the dead were raised to live out their lives in the normal way were to die again. But when Jesus rose, He rose to live in the power of an endless life.

By way of quick revision, in verses 25 and 26, we read that Jesus said to Martha:
“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

Jesus is doing two things here. One is comforting and reassuring the grieving that all is not lost at death. Those who trust in Him are secure in the knowledge that life goes on beyond the grave with a new dimension of immortality. The other thing He is doing is testing and strengthening Martha’s faith, prior to granting a miracle. So often Jesus required people to have faith in Himself before performing something supernatural.

Verse 27 She [Martha] said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.

Though she did not understand everything about the subject of resurrection, she was certain that Jesus was the long-expected Messiah of Israel. This kind of confession was what Jesus seemed always pleased to hear.

Verses 28 & 29 And when she had said these things, she went her way and secretly called Mary her sister, saying, ‘The teacher has come and is calling for you.’ As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly and came to Him.

We can imagine that Mary was glad to leave the weeping crowd around her and anxious to speak with Jesus who meant so much to her and her brother and sister.

Verses 30 & 31 Now Jesus had not yet come into the town, but was in the place where Martha met Him. Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and comforting her, when they saw Mary rose up quickly and went out, followed her, saying, ‘She is going to the tomb to weep there.’

Jesus had remained at the outskirts of this little town and now Mary comes out to Him with the group of mourners following her.

Verse 32 ‘Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’

Mary has the same complaint as her sister. However, we must see it in the context of her grief.

Verses 33-35 Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. And He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to Him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept.

Jesus was surrounded by sadness. The sadness of human loss, but also for Him the sadness of a lost humanity, trapped and beaten by the stern enemy, death. We can only imagine the depth of feeling He had in His loving heart. There is also a degree of anger in the trouble Jesus was feeling. Anger against the pathetic situation that confronted Him. B.B Warfield comments, ‘It is death that is the object of His wrath, and behind death him who has the power of death, and whom he has come into the world to destroy. Tears of sympathy fill His eyes but His soul is held by rage. He advances to the tomb, in Calvin’s words, “as a champion who prepares for conflict.”’

Verses 36 & 37 Then the Jews said, ‘See how He loved him!’ And some of them said, ‘Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?’

These remarks indicate the attitude of onlookers. They see just the immediate; they want the cure, the relief, but don’t comprehend anything else. They are like this in other parts of John’s Gospel. Yes, Jesus loved Lazarus but there was much more to what was happening here than the temporary extension of a man’s earthly life.

Verse 38 Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it.

Yes, it was a loving Friend and a loving Saviour who approached the tomb, which was a cave, the entrance covered by a large circular stone. But He is also Friend and Saviour to all who trust in Him.

Verses 39 & 40 Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, ‘Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?’

There is no doubt about Lazarus’ death. Corruption has set in. It seems too late for even a miracle. Yet, in the face of what seems so impossible, Jesus calls for faith in Himself as Lord over life and death.

Verses 41 & 42 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, ‘Father I thank you that you have heard me. And I know that you always hear me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that you sent me.’

For the sake of the onlookers Jesus says these words. The people that day were not only going to see a spectacular and unique event but they were going to learn something that should change their lives. They should see above all else that Jesus is divine. He is one with the Father. He is creator. And He cares about people.

Verse 43 Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth!’

Who else but the One who called the worlds into space could address a dead man like this? Here is the word of authority. The greatest authority there is; an authority which cannot be denied or defeated. We should remember that it is Christ who can give life to those who are dead in sin. His life-giving word is spoken to lost human beings for whom He has died.

Verse 44 And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with grave-clothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Loose him and let him go.’

This was an unforgettable sight, no doubt. The image of what appeared to be a walking corpse would burn itself into the memory of those who saw it. But life had replaced death. The tables were turned. The future was bright. The ladies had their brother back. But most important of all, the power of the Anointed One, Jesus, Son of God, had been displayed in an awesome way.

It is of utmost importance that we see the thrust of John’s Gospel. Jesus came that we may have life. His death was a climax. Here he confronted death in a personal way, embracing it in order to defeat it. He now lives in the power of an endless life. We now can obtain that life, the life that never ends.

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