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:
The purpose of this seventh sign, we were reminded, is not to profile Lazarus, but rather
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:
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:
2. Jesus’ statement
Jesus introduces the idea of life after physical death by making this powerful claim:
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:
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 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?