‘Seven’: 7. The Neon Sign

Today David concluded the summer series on the seven signs in John’s gospel, focusing on John 11:1-44. This chapter contains the account of Jesus raising his friend Lazarus (brother of Mary and Martha) from the dead.

David began by asking us: Do you believe you will never die? This question relates to Jesus’ words to Martha after the death of her brother:

"JESUS SAID TO HER, “I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE. THE ONE WHO BELIEVES IN ME WILL LIVE, EVEN THOUGH THEY DIE; AND WHOEVER LIVES BY BELIEVING IN ME WILL NEVER DIE. DO YOU BELIEVE THIS?”

The purpose of this seventh sign, we were reminded, is not to profile Lazarus, but rather

“…SO THAT YOU MAY BELIEVE.”

One key lesson to be drawn from this gospel account is that in the midst of mess – crisis, illness or death – God can be glorified.
As David led us through the story, 3 issues stood out for me:

1. Jesus’ delay
Jesus is told that Lazarus is ill and yet he delays for two days before leaving with his disciples on the journey to Bethany:

"ON HIS ARRIVAL, JESUS FOUND THAT LAZARUS HAD ALREADY BEEN IN THE TOMB FOR FOUR DAYS"

David referred to various delays of God recorded in Scripture: for example, David was chosen to replace Saul as king of Israel and yet spent 14 years running away from Saul before becoming king. Why? Jesus didn’t begin his public ministry until he was 30 years old. Why not earlier? In this story, Jesus arrives at the home of Lazarus, apparently too late. Why the delay? As we follow the story, it becomes clear that Jesus’ timing is perfect and his words to Mary and Martha explain the reason:

“DID I NOT TELL YOU THAT IF YOU BELIEVE, YOU WILL SEE THE GLORY OF GOD?”

2. Jesus’ statement
Jesus introduces the idea of life after physical death by making this powerful claim:

“I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE. THE ONE WHO BELIEVES IN ME WILL LIVE, EVEN THOUGH THEY DIE; AND WHOEVER LIVES BY BELIEVING IN ME WILL NEVER DIE.“

Jesus brought Lazarus back to life even though, of course, he would ultimately die again. But if Lazarus, Martha, Mary and we believe Jesus’ statement, then everlasting life will both precede and follow physical death. Our profound hope as followers of Jesus is everlasting life:

"FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD THAT HE GAVE HIS ONE AND ONLY SON, THAT WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM SHALL NOT PERISH BUT HAVE ETERNAL LIFE."

3. Jesus’ compassion
As well as hinting at Jesus’ anger at a broken world, John’s account clearly reveals Jesus’ deep compassion for the bereaved and his personal sadness at the death of Lazarus. This is powerfully expressed by the shortest verse in the Bible:

"JESUS WEPT"

Jesus is present with this family in their grief, just as he is present with us in our difficulties and crises.

We were left with 3 questions to reflect upon:

  • Where do you turn to in a crisis?
  • Do you know that Jesus loves you?
  • Do you believe you will never die?
Dorothy McMillan

Dorothy McMillan

I’m Dorothy and I coordinate the Deep Dives part of the WBC website. I’ve been a member of WBC for over 25 years and have worked as a teacher, playgroup leader and college lecturer. Now that I have retired, I enjoy doing patchwork, reading and spending time with our four wonderful grandchildren.
Dorothy McMillan
I’m Dorothy and I coordinate the Deep Dives part of the WBC website. I’ve been a member of WBC for over 25 years and have worked as a teacher, playgroup leader and college lecturer. Now that I have retired, I enjoy doing patchwork, reading and spending time with our four wonderful grandchildren.