It’s impossible to sum anyone up with seven stories, let alone Jesus. So what was the point of the past seven post? To bring out key themes so that we can better understand who Jesus is. You don’t have to know everything about Jesus but you do need to be familiar with certain attributes. That’s John’s intention and mine as well.
John was Jesus best friend. We should desire that level of intimacy with him. We should seek to know Jesus on deeper and deeper level. We want to be best friends with Jesus.
Today we look at the seventh sign Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. This is the eighth post in our series over John’s Seven Signs you can find the first seven here.
Let’s dig in.
Our Sign is found in John 11:1-44. Go read it and then we’ll break it down.
It’s a crazy story with so much going on. We could talk about it for days, but today in this post we’ll be looking closely at the central theme of this sign. Jesus is the life giver.
There’s this idea that’s floating around that because Jesus loves us he won’t let anything bad happen to us. And if something bad does happen, well, it’s probably our fault. Sign number six did a good job at disproving that and sign number seven completely destroys that idea. Notice that John includes this point in his story, “Now, Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” (John 11:5) It’s important to note that Jesus loved Lazarus and his family but he still let them suffer and Lazarus die. Why? Because they were part of the greater story Jesus was telling.
You see Jesus knew what was going to go down. John includes his response to the news of Lazarus’ illness, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4) In other words, Jesus is going to use this series of events the make a grand statement about God and about who he is. Jesus doesn’t waste anything.
Jesus doesn’t go immediately he waits two days. He waits till Lazarus is dead and then he heads that way. And there’s the really awesome exchange between Jesus and his disciples where he says it’s time to go wake Lazarus up and the disciples are like, “Oh, he must be taking a nap.” And Jesus is like, “No, you dummies. He’s dead. And this is so you’ll believe that I can overcome death.” So they head that way.
Lazarus’ sister Martha meets Jesus a few miles out. She heard he was coming and couldn’t wait she had to go meet him. This is what she says, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, god will give you.” (John 11:21-22) Did you catch that? Notice how she is leading Jesus in her statements. First, you could have done something. Second, you could do something now. Jesus responds, “Your brother will rise again.” This was the equivalent of saying, “Well, he’s in a better place now.” It was a funeral pleasantry. And that’s why Martha makes a theological statement agreeing with Jesus point.
But Jesus was going for something a little differing.
Jesus responds to her, “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?” (John 11:25-26) This is a bold statement. Jesus is death defying life.
Fast-forward to the tomb and Jesus orders the stone be rolled away. And Martha makes a statement about how there’s going to be an odor because he’s been dead for four days. As if to say, “He’s really, really dead, Jesus.” But again in classic Jesus fashion he responds, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:40) That is, “Do you think that death is stronger than I?”
And then he prays, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” (John 11:41-42) Did you catch that? Jesus begins this story by saying this is going to be used for his glory and he ends it by saying it’s so they would believe him. That they would believe he is the resurrection and the life. That he is the death defying life.
Jesus not only brings light into darkness but also brings life to death. John wants us to understand that Jesus is more than prophet, more than rabbi, more than anything we have ever heard or seen before, He is life. This sign leads us to understand that without Jesus we only have death but with Jesus we can have everlasting life.