St. John’s Gospel (30): The Raising of Lazarus (John 11)
The Raising of Lazarus (John 11)
The Jewish understanding of the afterlife is clear from solid biblical sources. They believed that there would be a resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous (Dan. 12). This is clearly affirmed by the New Testament, see Jesus and St. Paul (Jn. 5; Acts 24). So from Job (perhaps the oldest saint) to Saul of Tarsus (Paul), the hope of a Last Day resurrection of the body is pictured, poeticized, and prosed in the Hebrew Scriptures. But now in John 11 we see it in vivid drama. Here the event that is to happen at the end of history happens in the middle of history.
Lazarus and Jesus (vv1-16) Christ clearly intended that Lazarus would die prior to His arrival. So why did He say, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it”(11:4)? At one point in time (prior to the culmination), this may seem cruel. But in the narrative of redemption, it is necessary, right, and beautiful. Lazarus deserved to die as a sinner. Jesus had already shown the Father’s power in five prior signs. Now He would show another greater sign, foreshadowing the Greater Sign (His Resurrection). In the midst of this great expectation, Christ had to deal with the dullness of the disciples (vv12-13) and the cynicism of Thomas (v16). Where are you in the Story?
Martha, Mary and Jesus (vv17-35) While Martha’s view was true (v24), Lazarus would rise in the final resurrection, now a completely new Life had entered into the world. Jesus made the astounding promise, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die” (vv25-26). Was this a mere proverbial enigma for the enlightened? There is an interesting contrast between Christ’s response to Mary vs Martha. Mary comes out and says exactly the same words as Martha before (cf. v21/v32). But this time Jesus is moved to tears. Do you believe in the presence of the future?
The Jews and Jesus (vv36-54) The Jews that were there are mixed in their response to Christ’s compassion. Some see His love; others cynically comment to the effect that Jesus should have been there to save him (v37). But Jesus steadfastly promises they will see God’s glory. Christ has the stone removed from the tomb and after prayer calls forth this rotting dead corpse. “Lazarus come forth!” This is such an astounding miracle that mouths should be shut. Some Jews do believe, but others go off and report this sign to the Pharisees. The result is the co-beligerents (Priests/Pharisees) get together, fearing the loss of their place (v48). Caiphus speaking “ex-cathedra” prophesies that Christ will die for the nation and John adds not only for the Jews but all the children of God (Gentiles). As a result of this Jesus withdrew from public ministry until the final Passover. Do you accept (present/coming) new creation or are you fearful of losing your place in the fading world?
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more