One of my favorite stories from the Bible is described in John 11 in which Jesus raises his friend Lazarus from the dead. I think there are deeper messages here than Jesus performing the miracle of raising his friend from death. I have selected some pertinent scripture from John 11 below and offer my own commentary for your consideration.
4 When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days,7 and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
Commentary: Jesus knew that He would conquer death on behalf of Lazarus, and He would later conquer His own death on behalf of us all. Perhaps Jesus did not go to Lazarus immediately because he wanted to show (1) God answers prayers in His time, not ours, (2) The power of Jesus would be made clearer by raising Lazarus from the dead rather than stopping the sickness that was leading to his death.
8 “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?” 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. 10 It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”
Commentary: Jesus is the light of the world. Those that have Jesus in their heart have the light of Christ which will always conquer the darkness.
14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
Commentary: Jesus is using the death of Lazarus as a teaching moment for His disciples because even though they have seen many miracles they still had doubt. It is interesting to note that Thomas is the first to speak and also the first (and only) to insist on seeing His wounds after He appeared to them after His death – even though Thomas had seen Jesus perform miracle after miracle. Also, Thomas does not realize the power of Jesus over death.
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
Commentary: Jesus is declaring his power over death and giving an invitation to all to have eternal life through faith in Him.
33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. 35 Jesus wept.
Commentary: It is commonly believed that Jesus wept because of his deep love for his friend Lazarus and was also overcome with emotion by the sadness of Mary and Martha. Perhaps He also wept because He was sad that in order to prove his divinity to the Jews He was going to have to remove Lazarus from paradise.
38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” He said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” 40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
Commentary: Jesus displays kindness and patience in spite of the lack of faith that he encounters. He again emphasizes the importance of faith as a bridge to God.
41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
Commentary: Jesus is modeling the importance of prayer of thanksgiving and revealing Himself as the son of God.
Todd Shupe is the President of drtoddshupe.com and a Christian blogger at toddshupe.com and todd-shupe.com