17 When Jesus arrived at Bethany, he was told that Lazarus had already been in his grave for four days. 18 Bethany was only a few miles down the road from Jerusalem, 19 and many of the people had come to console Martha and Mary in their loss. 20 When Martha got word that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him. But Mary stayed in the house. 21Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.”
23 Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.”
24 “Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.”
25 Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. 26 Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?”
27 “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.” 28 Then she returned to Mary. She called Mary aside from the mourners and told her, “The Teacher is here and wants to see you.” 29So Mary immediately went to him.
30 Jesus had stayed outside the village, at the place where Martha met him. 31 When the people who were at the house consoling Mary saw her leave so hastily, they assumed she was going to Lazarus’s grave to weep. So they followed her there. 32 When Mary arrived and saw Jesus, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
33 When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled. 34 “Where have you put him?” he asked them.
They told him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Then Jesus wept. 36 The people who were standing nearby said, “See how much he loved him!” 37 But some said, “This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?”
38 Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. 39 “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them.
But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.”
40 Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” 41 So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. 42 You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” 43 Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!”
Points of Interest
- ‘for four days’–Lazarus was dead before news of his illness ever reached Jesus. Jesus wasn’t waiting for Lazarus to die before he came; he was trying to show that he wasn’t worried; this isn’t an emergency situation.
- ‘many of the people had come to console Martha and Mary’–apparently Lazarus’ family is well-known in Jerusalem society.
- ‘even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask’–from what follows, it doesn’t seem that Martha has immediate resurrection in mind here. I think she’s telling Jesus that this one disappointment doesn’t shake her general faith in him.
- ‘he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day’–Jesus does a successful double-fake here. Martha has caught on to Jesus’ communication style. She anticipates that Jesus is going to take the situation in a spiritual, metaphorical direction; so she goes spiritual in her own interpretation of, ‘he will rise again.’ This time, though, Jesus is being literal.
- ‘I am the resurrection and the life’–There is no reason why they have to wait until the last day for Lazarus to rise. Jesus is here. He’s the resurrection. Why not do it now?
- ‘I have always believed you are the Messiah’–it seems to me that Martha still isn’t quite ready to hope specifically that Jesus can do something in this very circumstance.
- ‘a deep anger welled up within him’–I can’t decide whether I think that Jesus is angry at them for not believing, angry because he can’t seem to get them to understand the good news he has for them, angry simply because he doesn’t like the Jerusalemites, angry at the death of his friend, or angry at the very existence of death.
- ‘Then Jesus wept’–regardless of where exactly the emotions are coming from, this is clearly a very emotional moment for Jesus. First anger, then weeping, then more anger.
- ‘Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?’–I think this is one that all of us are tempted to wonder at one time or another: if God really cares, why doesn’t he just stop bad things from happening in the first place? With both the man born blind and Lazarus, it seems like Jesus’ answer is that the ‘why?’ question is usually difficult, confusing, and unhelpful. But no matter what happens, it’s worth believing that it hasn’t stopped God from bringing things to a good end. Neither incurable illness nor even death itself is too big for God to tackle.
- ‘he has been dead for four days’–they think Jesus wants what we call a viewing, but it’s a little late for that. I think John adds this tidbit in order to show that there’s little chance that Lazarus is simply unconscious. He’s been dead and in the grave for days; they expect that the body has already started to decay.
- ‘Unwrap him and let him go!’–I like the fact that Lazarus comes stumbling out all tangled up in his grave clothes–sort of like a cartoon mummy. This resurrection is amazing, and also quite human, and even a little awkward and funny.
Taking It Home
- For you: Regardless of what the specific source might be, I like that Jesus gives himself space to feel the emotion and intensity of what is happening around him. Whether you are one who sheds lots of tears every day or one that sheds one tear every ten years, is there something intense that has happened in your life (either currently or previously) that you just need to take some time to process and feel? If nothing comes to mind, ask Jesus if there is anything you’ve been shoving out of sight that he would like to bring up. For starters take some time just to be still and reflect. Be open to feeling whatever emotions come to the surface. Talk to Jesus about the situation, how you are feeling and how to make sense of it. If you feel devoid of emotion, take the time to just recall whatever comes to mind and ask Jesus to show you what he wants you to learn to from this situation.
- For your six: Just as Jesus’ followers get hung up in wondering why ‘couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?’, what are the ‘why’ questions that your six are hung up on? Ask Jesus to help your six make sense of them. And, in the midst of such hard questions, ask Jesus to still show up powerfully for your six like he did for Lazarus’ friends and family.
- For our church: It seems like no one has any idea of just how good Jesus is or just how miraculous are the things he is capable of. Like Michael Phelps in swimming or Michael Jordan in basketball, just when everyone thinks Jesus has reached his limit, he takes his miracle-working to a whole new level. Ask Jesus to expand our imagination of the miraculous things he is capable of.