Summary: Dealing with the death of Lazarus, Jesus performed one of His greatest miracles. While meeting a desperate and immediate need through miraculous power, Jesus also revealed an eternal truth - the dead in Christ never die! He is the Resurrection and Life.
The Resurrection and Life
John 11: 17-27
Our text today is likely a familiar account for most of us. It deals with a very difficult moment in the lives of those who were very close to Jesus. As the Lord ministered in the area of Jerusalem, He often visited the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, their brother. These three had developed a close and endearing relationship with Jesus.
Although these were very close to the Lord, their lives were not free of heartache and despair. In fact, Lazarus had suddenly died while Jesus was away. Through the death of a dear friend, Jesus would perform one of His greatest miracles while teaching eternal truth in the midst of this season of pain for the family.
As we examine this passage, we will discover the Lord working in a miraculous way to meet an immediate need, but the greater lesson revealed is of eternal value and implication. Jesus has the ability to provide for our immediate needs, but He also has the ability to secure our eternal destiny. Of the I AM statements we have considered thus far, this one is the greatest for me. I want to discuss the aspects of this encounter as we consider: The Resurrection and Life.
I. The Devastation Experienced (17-20) – The opening verses of our text reveal the devastation Mary and Martha had experienced, and the despair they felt. Consider:
A. The Context (17-18) – Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already.  Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off. We know from the preceding chapter that Jesus had spent some time near the Jordan River prior to the death of Lazarus. Having received the news Lazarus was sick unto death, Jesus stayed where He was for two more days. It seems apparent that Lazarus had died the same day news came to Jesus of his sickness. After two days had passed, Jesus told the disciples to prepare to return unto Judea. He affirmed that Lazarus was dead, before they departed to return to Bethany, V.14.
While the situation was very desperate for Mary, Martha, and particularly Lazarus, Jesus had purposely waited to return. After it seemed all hope was lost, Jesus started toward Bethany to deal with their situation. There are times in our lives when it seems we have passed a point of no return. We assume our situation will never improve, and may even think that the Lord has chosen to do nothing for us. We will soon find out that Jesus is never late, even after four days following a situation as extreme as death.
B. The Concern (19) – And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. It is evident that Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were loved by many. We find that many who knew them came to comfort the grieving sisters and offer their condolences. There was nothing they could do to bring Lazarus back, but they were there to offer comfort.
Clearly, we are limited in our ability to bring about a solution to many problems our friends and family face. The majority of us have faced a similar situation, having lost a loved one in death. While we are unable to change the situation, or even remove their grief and pain, we can be there for them and offer comfort in these most difficult of times. One of the greatest acts of kindness we can offer is simply our presence in a time of despair. Being there means more than you realize.
C. The Confusion (20) – Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house. Here we find an interesting, and somewhat confusing detail. As word came to the home that Jesus was on the way, Martha went to meet Him as He came. This is not unusual. Martha was hurting and grieving the loss of her brother. What is unusual is that Mary did not accompany her. Mary is the one who was always found at the feet of Jesus. She longed to be near Him as often as she could. However, in this moment of intense grief and pain, Mary chose to stay at the house instead of going to meet Jesus.
This reveals a valuable truth for our consideration – even the strongest believers struggle at times when faced with a devastating situation. This does not imply that Mary had abandoned her faith in the Lord, but it does appear that she had resigned to defeat. Her world was shattered and she is having difficulty coping with the reality of the situation. We all face times when our faith is tested and we are tempted to resign to defeat.