John’s Gospel: Chapter 11:17-46 (“Lazarus, come out!”)

(John 11:17-19 ESV)  17 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.  18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off,  19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother.

“The Jews” seems to refer to residents of Judea, the province that included both Bethany and Jerusalem.

(John 11:20-22 ESV)  20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house.  21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”

Martha obviously had great faith. She is close enough to Jesus — Savior of the world — to point out that he could have saved Lazarus from death. And, indeed, the scriptures are plain that God and Jesus are plenty big enough to take the hard questions. She spoke the truth.

(John 11:23-24 ESV)  23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”  24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

Martha, of course, is speaking of the belief among most Jews (not the Sadducees) in a bodily resurrection. “Resurrection” is a technical term for a bodily resurrection as opposed to merely having a wisp or spirit survive in Hades, as the Greeks taught.

(John 11:25-26 ESV) 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,  26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

Jesus then asks for a declaration of faith. Why? Is he a faith healer?

No, it’s really about framing the miracle. It’s not enough for Jesus to prove that he’s a great prophet. He needs to be acting plainly as the Messiah — and no one else.

(John 11:27 ESV) 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

“Christ” means Messiah. “Son of God” is from Psalm 2, where it is a reference to the king anointed by God, that is, the Messiah.

Odd to modern ears is “who is coming into the world.” Jesus was standing right in front of her! The idea seems to be that Jesus has a Pre-existence outside the world (in heaven), and that his ministry is about entering the world from outside.

Had Jesus fully entered the world yet, when Martha spoke? In a sense, yes, because he was fully human. But he did not fully enter humanity until he died and was buried. Then again, he had not fully come into the world until he came as King — which occurred at his resurrection.

(John 11:28-31 ESV)  28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.”  29 And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him.  30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him.  31 When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there.

Martha had met Jesus on the road. She ran back to the house and told Mary to run outside to meet him, evidently as Jesus was nearing the tomb.

(John 11:32 ESV)  32 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Mary says exactly what Martha had said. Except this time, Jesus is overcome with emotion —

(John 11:33-35 ESV)  33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.  34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.”  35 Jesus wept.

Jesus wept for Lazarus’ sisters, feeling their grief.

(John 11:36-37 ESV)  36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”  37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”

Of course, many who mourn deal with it by bargaining or through anger. And, indeed, they were right.

It’s an important point. If Jesus wills it, he could make certain no one is ever diseased, suffers, or dies. He could have healed every blind man and woman in Judea and raised every corpse from the dead.

But that’s not the deal. God does miracles for his own purposes, and he doesn’t do tricks on demand. Indeed, those who demanded signs from Jesus were often disappointed. No, the miracles are real and important, but they happen for God’s own purposes in God’s own time.

(John 11:38-39 ESV)  38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it.  39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.”

Was Martha showing a lack of faith? Or was just being true to her practical personality?

(John 11:40-43 ESV)  40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”  41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.  42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”  43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.”

“The glory of God” refers to the very, immediate presence of God. If you want to see God, see Jesus through the eyes of faith.

Jesus prays so that the audience knows that he is acting by the power of God. There would always be critics ready to credit Satan with the works of God.

(John 11:44 ESV)  44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Imagine the scene! The joy of Mary and Martha. The delight of their friends. The astonishment of everyone. Yes, it’s one thing to call Jesus “Messiah,” but to actually be there to see the miracle … !

(John 11:45-46 ESV)  45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him,  46 but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.

And so, welcome to the life of a Messiah. Jesus raises the dead and many believe — but others tattletale. They run to the Pharisees to complain! Just who does he think he is?!

It’s the nature of people. It’s the nature, sadly, of many churches. Many of us take far greater pleasure in complaining than in seeing miracles before our very eyes. It’s just a question of what you enjoy.

One final point: Notice that the text never refers to Lazarus as “resurrected.” Jesus said he would “rise again.” You see, “resurrected” is a technical term for what happens at the time when our bodies are redeemed, never to die again. It’s also what Jesus experienced after his crucifixion — up from the grave he arose never to die again because he had been given a spiritual body.

(1Co 15:20-23 ESV) 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.  22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.  23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.

Jesus was not the first person raised from the dead, but he was the first raised never to die again.

(1Co 15:35 ESV)  35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?”

(1Co 15:44 ESV) 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

“Spiritual” here refers to a body given by the Spirit, not made out of Spirit. Jesus’ body was not a mere spirit or ghost. He cooked fish. He walked. He ate. He spoke audibly. But he also walked through doors and was only recognizable to mortal men when he so chose.

Lazarus, however, was raised with his old body, fully repaired and healed. And later on, he died.

But, of course, if Jesus has the power to raise someone with their old, broken, diseased body fully cured and healed, he has the power to raise someone with a new and better body.

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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