John 11:21–27, 33–44comment (0)
November 21, 2013
By Jay T. Robertson
Related Scripture: John 11:21–27, 33–44
Explore the Bible
Assistant Professor of Christian Ministries, University of Mobile
DEALING WITH DEATH?
John 11:21–27, 33–44
The Savior’s Promise (21–27)
Four grief filled days have passed. Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, has slipped from time to eternity.
And now four days later, Jesus arrives in Bethany. Jewish belief, not the Bible mind you, taught that the soul of the deceased person hovers over the body for the first three days, hoping to re-enter it. But once it sees decomposition begin to take place, it departs. At that point death is irreversible until the resurrection.
When Martha heard that Jesus was getting near, she went and met Him on the way. “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” Martha’s words are not a rebuke, as if she were saying that Jesus should have been there. Rather they are words of grief and of faith. Martha is confident that if Jesus had been present while her brother lay ill, Jesus would have healed him. Martha is not only persuaded that her brother would not have died had Jesus been present, but even now in her bereavement, she has not lost her confidence in Jesus. She still recognizes the special intimacy Jesus enjoys with His Father.
Jesus responds that Lazarus will rise again. Martha understands Jesus’ word of comfort that on the “last day” her brother will be resurrected. She believes that death will not have the last word and that on the “last day” Lazarus will be restored to bodily life. Of course, Jesus is promising more immediate resurrection for Lazarus.
Jesus said to Martha, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” Jesus does not merely say that He will bring about the resurrection or that He will be the cause of the resurrection (both of which are true) but something much stronger. Jesus declares “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” Resurrection from the dead and genuine eternal life in fellowship with God are so closely tied to Jesus that they are embodied in Him and can be found only in relationship to Him.
Therefore “believes in Me” implies personal trust in Jesus. Genuine belief in Jesus brings people into Jesus, that is, they experience union with Jesus. The power to live the Christian life is derived from one’s union with Jesus and is supercharged with one’s daily communion with Jesus. The one who “lives and believes” refers to people who have spiritual life now, and they ultimately triumph over death.
The Savior’s Personal Concern (33–37)
Mary goes out to Jesus and falls at His feet weeping. Jesus is moved with profound sorrow at the death of His friend and at the grief that His other friends had suffered. Jesus is genuinely concerned for His friends. His sorrow also is intermixed with anger at the evil of death and also with a deep sense of awe at the power of God that was about to flow through Him to triumph over death.
Jesus joins His friends’ heartfelt sorrow, but He also knows that resurrection and joy will soon follow. Jesus’ example shows that heartfelt mourning in the face of death does not indicate a lack of faith but honest sorrow at the reality of suffering and death.
The Savior’s Power (38–44)
Jesus commands the people to move the stone that sealed the tomb. The resurrection of Lazarus is a revelatory act, the manifestation of the glory of God in Jesus Christ. Jesus prays publicly to Father God. The prayer assumes that Jesus has already asked for Lazarus’ life and that all He must do is to thank His Father for the answer. The public nature of the prayer seeks to draw His hearers into the intimacy of Jesus’ own relationship with the Father and it demonstrates that Jesus does nothing on His own. Jesus demonstrates that He is the Messiah and that He has power to deliver from death.