Thursday 22 January, 2015

John 11:17-37

17 When Jesus arrived, he found out that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem. 19 Many Jews had come to Martha and Mary. They had come to comfort them because their brother was dead. 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, “I wish you had been here! Then my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you anything you ask for.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again. This will happen when people are raised from the dead on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even if 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. I believe that you are the one who is supposed to come into the world.” 28 After she said this, she went back home. She called her sister Mary to one side to talk to her. “The Teacher is here,” Martha said. “He is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Jesus had not yet entered the village. He was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 Some Jews had been comforting Mary in the house. They noticed how quickly she got up and went out. So they followed her. They thought she was going to the tomb to mourn there. 32 Mary reached the place where Jesus was. When she saw him, she fell at his feet. She said, “Lord, I wish you had been here! Then my brother would not have died.” 33 Jesus saw her crying. He saw that the Jews who had come along with her were crying also. His spirit became very sad, and he was troubled. 34 “Where have you put him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, “See how much he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “He opened the eyes of the blind man. Couldn’t he have kept this man from dying?”

This story has always intrigued me. As is often the case, Jesus did not do what everyone thought He would or should do. Why did He wait 4 days after Lazarus had died to go and see him, and why did Jesus weep when He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead?

At some point we will all experience someone we love dying. This story displays many aspects of what we can feel in those times- sadness, disappointment, questioning, loss of faith. These emotions of grief are natural, not wrong or unimportant, and Jesus enters into that grief. However, Jesus’ behaviour in this situation indicates to me what is really important to Him. And keeping Lazarus alive does not seem to be His priority. He has allowed Lazarus to be dead for 4 days. Other people die (including His cousin John the Baptist) and He doesn’t bring them back to life.

I think Jesus’ priority was to teach them (and us) that death is not final. That yes, we will feel sad, (Jesus wept too) but then “whoever believes in Me will live, even though he dies”. And with that one statement Jesus gives us everything we will ever need.

In death, the world offers us nothing. In death, Jesus offers us everything.  I am filled with gratitude and hope. Let’s tell the world the good news.

Written by Shelley Witt

2 replies
  1. David Newton says:

    I really enjoyed your thoughts on this passage, particularly Jesus’ relationship to grief and loss.
    Thanks Shelley
    The question I have always wondered regarding these ‘big miracles’ of the Gospels is; Did Jesus only perform these miracles upon direct instruction from God or did Jesus via an act of compassion initiate these miracles knowing they were within the permissible will of God and according to His John3:34 authority?

  2. Richard says:


    A great question. It is hard to know a definitive answer in my view. In this instance there is nothing specific in the Scripture to help us with this question. Clearly Jesus had great power and authority while on earth. Did He minister under the direct voice of His Father or did He, at least on some issues and in this instance, work under His own authority.

    To be honest I lean toward the latter not the former which encourages us to be aware of our realms of authority and to exercise them accordingly. Although I am not ‘sold’ on this for all instances.

    I hope my thoughts are helpful!


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