The book of John has certainly been one provoking deep thought. Jennifer’s post last Saturday on “Why are we doing this?” challenged us to really think through what we are reading. What are we doing with the messages we read? This week proved no different with the themes of teaching: The Healing at the Pool, the Feeding of the Five Thousand, Jesus Walking on Water, Jesus at the Festivals, The Healing of the Blind Man, The Good Shepherd, all giving us a chance to continue to build our faith.
Today, we come to the wonderful story of Lazarus. Another example of Jesus’ power as he performs one of his 37 miracles. This miracle though seems a bit different because Lazarus is his friend. In the Bible, we see Jesus leave his parents at an early age. He then surrounds himself with the 12 disciples. Beyond this inner circle, there are only a few friends mentioned. We hear Mary and Martha mentioned a number of times including during Jesus crucifixion and resurrection and Mary washing Jesus’ feet.
In this story today, Mary and Martha sent for Jesus because Lazarus was ill. We aren’t told what he had but obviously, they knew it was severe and possibly life threatening if they sent for Jesus. They knew Jesus could potentially help or heal their brother.
What strikes me is that Jesus heard he was sick and still waited two days. If one of our best friend’s was very ill, wouldn’t we drop everything and come home or go to the hospital or be with that person, whatever was needed, right away? In this case, Jesus knew that this situation would be another one of his signs (there are 7 revealed in the book of John). He would show the believers and non-believers that his miracles come from the power given to him by God. He knew he would raise Lazarus from the dead just as he had others such as Jarius’ daughter.
When Jesus is finally approaching Bethany, Mary goes to meet Jesus. She still has hope that Jesus can help or just had the need to see him right away. Martha on the other hand stays back at their home. Is she mad that he didn’t come sooner and doesn’t believe Jesus can do anything at this point as Lazarus has been dead four days? Or is she so overcome with grief that she cannot bear to leave their home? Eventually she goes to meet him.
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.”
35 Jesus wept.
Jesus sees the grief of the sisters and the other mourners. He is overcome with grief himself, weeping, and showing his compassion.
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.
Do you ever feel like crying when you see a close friend or family member that upset over something? What a powerful moment to see these friends together, weeping and consoling each other. It also gives us an indication of what a wonderful person Lazarus must have been. We don’t know much about him in the rest of the Bible. We do not even know how old he is or what his profession is, but he must be a kind and generous man to share his home with his sisters.
The scene moves from this emotional state to the climax of Jesus’ sign. As they are at the tomb, Martha worries that the stench will be too great. She is showing a slight weakness of faith. As the stone is rolled away, we know Lazarus is alive. Calls for him Jesus brings his friend back to life.
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.
We can only imagine what joy the friends experience. Believers and non-believers see yet another sign.
As you read this story, I hope you experienced the same powerful imagery in your head as I did. It is a miraculous story of friendship, compassion, miracles and belief. We can rejoice in this miracle and believe. Our faith is strengthened.
Yet this story can’t help me think of Jesus’ death, Mary and Martha at the tomb, and then Jesus’ resurrection. Stay tuned for John 20.