"LAZARUS, COME OUT"
Lazarus Has Died
John introduces a man named Lazarus who is sick. He lived in Bethany, and his two sisters are worried about him. This illness had become severe, and they thought it would be wise to send for Jesus. Mary is identified as the one who anointed Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The sisters send word to Jesus that his friend Lazarus is very sick in the hopes that he will come. The messengers find Jesus and deliver the news about Lazarus. The disciples must have wondered what Jesus' response would be to this news, and Jesus asserts that the illness will not end in death, but he offers some clarification about his condition. Lazarus was gravely ill to the edge of death, and his suffering was for the glory of God that Jesus might be glorified through it. Jesus enjoyed friendships and camaraderie in his relationships, and he dearly loves this family from Bethany. After Jesus receives the news about Lazarus' illness, he remained where he was for two more days, and then he states that they are going to Judea. The disciples are concerned about the news and remind Jesus that the Jews in that area want to kill him. Jesus makes a statement about walking during the day because of the light, indicating that Jesus is walking safely in the Father's will. He tells the disciples that Lazarus had fallen asleep and that he was going to wake him up. The disciples are not keen on returning to a place where people are seeking to take Jesus' life, so they express a willingness to let Lazarus recover on his own. Jesus then makes an unexpected announcement to the disciples declaring that Lazarus has died and that he is glad that they were not there so that they may believe. Jesus sets out, and Thomas shows great courage and devotion in calling the rest to join in the journey to Bethany no matter the cost. As Jesus nears the village, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days and many people from Jerusalem made the journey to Bethany to grieve with the family. Martha received word that Jesus was coming and she left her family and friends to meet him, but Mary remained in the house. Martha must have been relieved to see Jesus, and she declares her faith in Jesus, saying that if he had been there, Lazarus would not have died and that she knows that God would give him anything he might request. Jesus offers comfort to this grieving sister by telling her that Lazarus would rise again and we discover that Martha believes in the resurrection on the last day. Jesus declares that he is the resurrection and the life and that belief in him is eternal life and the power of the resurrection. He asks for a personal affirmation of faith, and she declares that he is her Lord, the Christ, the Son of God, and the fulfillment of God's promise.
Martha leaves Jesus and returns to the people. She pulls Mary aside privately and tells her that Jesus is looking for her. She left immediately and went to see Jesus. Jesus has not made it into the village yet, and when Mary left in haste, the people followed her thinking that she was going to the tomb to weep. When Mary got to Jesus, she fell at his feet and repeats what Martha had said earlier. Jesus is moved by the weeping, and he begins to weep in both anger and grief. Jesus asks where the body of Lazarus has been laid to rest. The people respond with different thoughts. Some see Jesus' tears as evidence of his great love, and others question why he didn't intervene and prevent Lazarus' death.
Unbind Him, And Let Him Go
Jesus arrived at the tomb, which was a cave with a stone against the opening. Jesus instructs the people to move the stone, but Martha objects because the body has been inside for four days. Jesus asks a rhetorical question, and they took away the stone. Jesus prays to the Father, explaining that the words he said were for the benefit of his hearers, that they may believe that Jesus is sent from the Father. When Jesus finished his prayer, he commanded Lazarus to come out in a loud voice. The crowd must have gone silent as they waited to see what would happen. Could it be that a man who had been in the grave for four days would come out alive? The people would not have to wait for long as Lazarus came out still covered with linen strips and Jesus instructs them to unbind him and let him go. How long did it take before the whispers started and the sisters ran to their brother and embraced Lazarus? What was it like for Lazarus? Many of the Jews believed when they saw the miracle and others went straight to the Pharisees to notify them about what had taken place. The chief priests and the Pharisees did not celebrate the miraculous sign; instead, they gathered to decide what needed to be done to this Rabbi. They are afraid that if Jesus continues to perform these signs, they will lose their power and their place with the Romans. Caiaphas, the high priest, corrects their thinking and assures these men that it is better for Jesus to die than to let the nation suffer. Jesus is not at the mercy of these leaders, God is sovereign over all that is taking place, and Caiaphas had prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation and those scattered abroad. The high priest speaks in sacrificial terms and nationalistic terms as these religious leaders begin planning to put Jesus to death. Jesus got word of their plans, and he no longer moved publicly among the Jews. The Passover was at hand, and many of the people were looking for Jesus and wondering if he was coming to the feast at all. The chief priests and Pharisees gave orders to report Jesus' location so they could arrest him.
Things To Consider:
- Is it hard for you to imagine Jesus with his friends? Why or why not?
- What do you think the disciples thought about the way Jesus responded when he got the news about Lazarus?
- Why does Jesus describe death as sleep?
- What do Martha and Mary believe about Jesus?
- Why must faith be personal?
- Why did Jesus weep if he knew Lazarus was coming back to life?
- Why do people respond differently to the claims of Jesus?
- How do we see the glory of God by Lazarus' resurrection?
- What can be learned about public prayer from Jesus?
- What is significant about Jesus being the resurrection and the life?
- How is God sovereign over all that is taking place?
- Why did the Jews celebrate the feast of the Passover?