Read John 11
The Death of Lazarus
1 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
4 When 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.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, 7 and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
8 “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”
9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. 10 It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”
11 After 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.”
12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
Jesus Comforts the Sisters of Lazarus
17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When 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. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
28 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.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When 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.
32 When 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.”
33 When 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.
35 Jesus wept.
36 Then 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 have kept this man from dying?”
Jesus Raises Lazarus From the Dead
38 Jesus, 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.”
40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I 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.”
43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The 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.”
The Plot to Kill Jesus
45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.
“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”
49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”
51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life.
54 Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the people of Judea. Instead he withdrew to a region near the wilderness, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples.
55 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. 56 They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple courts they asked one another, “What do you think? Isn’t he coming to the festival at all?” 57 But the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who found out where Jesus was should report it so that they might arrest him.
At first glance, verses 5 and 6 are two of the most confusing sentences in all of Scripture:
“5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.”
These verses seem to contradict each other. Scripture makes it clear that Jesus loves Lazarus, yet when He hears that Lazarus is sick, Jesus stays where He is for two more days. Mary, Martha, and the disciples probably felt hurt and disappointed that Jesus didn’t come to the rescue. Why would Jesus, who has the power to heal without even batting an eye, simply stay where He is and not immediately heal His friend? If Jesus can heal someone yet chooses not to, does He even really love them?
Mary and Martha aren’t the only ones to ask that question. This is probably one of the greatest reservations people have in regards to Christianity. Why would a loving God, who is all powerful, chose not to act sometimes? Why would He allow bad things to happen to His people? Either 1) He must not be loving or 2) He must not be all powerful.
But could there be a third option? When Jesus heard that Lazarus is sick He says: “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” While people were disappointed that Jesus didn’t initially heal Lazarus, what He did was far more miraculous. They had their hopes set on a healing, but Jesus had a resurrection in mind! God’s plan far outweighs ours. We want what we think is best for us; God wants what’s best for His glory and His Kingdom. But, only He knows what that is. Sometimes that means we get the miracle we ask for, but sometimes we don’t. When we’re disappointed by God’s inaction, we need to comfort ourselves with the truth we see in John 11. It’s important for us to remember that God does love us and He is all-powerful. If He isn’t providing for us exactly how we want Him to, we need to trust that He has something ultimately better in mind–we just can’t see it yet.
Just as the people were eventually wowed by what Jesus did in raising Lazarus from the dead, one day (in Heaven), we too will see the full picture. And when we do, Glory be.
- Do you believe that God is all loving and all powerful?
- When has God answered a prayer and showed His power miraculously in your life?
- When has God not answered a prayer the way you wanted Him to? Have you been able to see the bigger picture yet? How has He (or how might He still) work through the pain and confusion you’ve experienced?
Did You Know?
The Pharisees are worried that Jesus’ growing popularity will eventually cause Rome to retaliate by destroying the Temple, and eventually all Jews. Because of this, Caiaphus suggests that they kill Jesus, so as to save the rest of the people from death. While that was his literal meaning, his words here are actually prophetic (without him even realizing it): it is better that Jesus die so that all people who believe in Him will not.