Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (John 11:1)
Here are some quick observations from this phenomenal story of Jesus raising Lazarus.
Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days. (John 11:5,6)
I am challenged by the fact that Jesus waited. This is a great lesson to not just respond to the need, but wait until the Holy Spirit says, “Go!” Although I don’t want to turn this into a formula, at least in this story, in this chapter, 77% of the time was spent waiting for Jesus to act. Waiting isn’t easy to do. We often want to respond quickly when we see people in trouble. When Jesus does respond, he responds appropriately to the need and the personalities of his friends. We already glimpse the difference between these sisters from other stories of Martha’s task focused, servant approach, and Mary sitting at Jesus’s feet. Others have pointed this out, but Martha comes to Jesus alone and Jesus answers her theological questions and leads her to a reassurance of truth; Mary comes to Jesus with a crowd of friends and he weeps with her.
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept. (John 11:33-35)
I am comforted by Jesus’s emotional response. Jesus wept. This tiny phrase fills my heart with wonder. He understands. Of all the miracles and stories in the Bible, these two words are the most succinct revelation of the character of God and the Gospel. This passage offers tremendous comfort–the sufferings of this life are not the end. Sin and suffering and pain are around us, but the light of life has broken through. Dawn has come!
So from that day on they plotted to take his life. (John 11:53)
I am reminded that following God comes with a price. A case could be made that it was this specific miracle that led to the cross. I know that God’s plan was prophesied well in advance, but this passage reveals that this was the turning point for those plotting against Jesus. I wonder if the inevitability of the cross, from this moment and miracle, was part of Jesus’s hesitation. If so, imagine the weight of that decision. This I know for sure: what a tremendous contrast between Jesus giving life and those wanting to take life. The Apostle Paul said it this way, “death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.” (2 Corinthians 4:12) Only the Holy Spirit empowers us to give life instead of taking it. This personal cost is how the Kingdom advances.
As we are led by the Spirit, and invite His empowering presence in our lives, He uses us as resurrection agents. This is our true vocation.