Summary: Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead to help His disciples in their unbelief.
We’re about halfway through our study of John; the point of the book is so we’ll know that Jesus is the Christ and we’ll believe on Him and receive eternal life. To prove His deity John has told us about changing the water into wine, the healing of a lame man, and the healing of a blind man. Jesus can turn something plain into something spectacular. He can call things that are not as though they were (Rom. 4:17). He enables a man to walk and to see. He is truly the Son of God and the Lord of creation so that even sickness and infirmity obey Him.
Now we come to John 11 and the story of Lazarus. The point is the same as ever: John wants to show us that Jesus is the Christ to the intent that we will believe and be saved.
Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. 2(It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.) 3Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. 4When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.
Jesus is very close to this family; in the next chapter we see that Mary anointed Him and washed His feet with her hair. And so when Lazarus gets so sick they call for Jesus in hopes that He’ll come and heal him. It’s obvious that both sisters believe in Jesus and they know He has power to do amazing things. But Jesus doesn’t seem too worried about it; in fact He knows there’s a reason for it. Yes, Lazarus is sick. And yes, Lazarus will die. But to Christ it doesn’t end in death, and Lazarus is only sleeping.
This terrible thing happens to him so that God might be glorified. It sounds awfully familiar to the man born blind doesn’t it?
5Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. 6When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was.
These statements almost seem contradictory, don’t they? If someone came and told me that someone I love is sick and wants me to come help, I’m going to drop what I’m doing and leave right away. At the very least I’m not going to wait around for two days. But Jesus has a reason for doing this. He’s already said that God will be glorified in it, and He says it won’t “end” in death. Sure, he will die for a few days but he’s alive at the end of the story! Healing the sick isn’t the plan; He’s got something bigger in mind.
7Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judaea again. 8His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again?
Jesus had crossed the River to get away from the Jewish leaders, and someone comes one day trying to get Him to back for Lazarus. Now, Bethany was only a couple miles from Jerusalem (and the people who want to kill Jesus), so you can bet His disciples were relieved when it didn’t look like He was going. But then I picture after a couple days He just stands up and says, “We’ve got to Judea.” All the disciples sort of sit there stunned with their mouths open. “But…they’ll kill you. We barely got away last time.”
9Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. 10But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him.
See, the thing is that Jesus knew His hour hadn’t yet come. He wasn’t afraid of the Jews. He could walk right into the wolves’ den and He couldn’t be touched until it was time. And so He says, “The sun is still up. Once it sets we’ll be done working, but right now there’s more to do.”
11These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.
It might seem strange that Jesus is talking this way, but I think it shows us something important about Jesus. While everyone else was weeping and saying Lazarus was dead, Jesus knew it wouldn’t end that way. He’s not dead; he’s just asleep. Now, don’t get me wrong—he really was dead. But Christ could see the end as though it were now.