What a friend we have in Jesus

Lenten Devotions

March 26, 2023

John 11:1-45

Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead

“What a friend we have in Jesus.”

(I first posted this devotion in 2021. I have revised areas of it, as well as updated information. This devotion also had over 70 grammatical errors that I have corrected. Joe G)

We’ve all heard of people dying on an operating table during surgery or coding while they are in the hospital. Medically speaking, there are two types of death, biological and clinical.

Clinical death is when your heart stops pumping blood. Without CPR, Biological Death begins to set in about 4-6 minutes later. Biological death is when the victim’s brain is damaged, and cells in the victim’s heart, brain, and other organs die from a lack of oxygen. The damage caused by Biological Death is irreversible.” (AED CPR online, Clinical vs. Biological Death, Health Care Provider BLS, 2020)

As Christians, when we think of someone being raised from the dead, we generally think of Jesus. So, although I’ve posted, and you’ve read devotions about Jesus raising people from the dead, this one is a bit unique.

In the case of Lazarus, Jesus raises a friend back from the dead.

************************The Point*******************

There is much to be learned from this passage. Today, I would like to point out just several of the crucial things that were going on in this reading. As the Bible story/passage is long, I’ll break up the lesson with my remarks and questions.

(This is a bit longer than most of my devotions, take your time, I pray you learn some new things about Jesus and His miracles.)

“Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So, the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 

But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

  • If you recognize Mary and Martha’s names, it’s because you’ve read or heard about them before.
    • This is the same Mary and Martha from Luke: 38-42. Jesus had visited their house with His disciples. While Martha was busy getting food ready, Mary sat at the feet of Jesus while He taught. This raised the ire of Martha, who complained to Jesus. But Jesus told her that Mary had made the correct choice in listening and learning.
  • The Mary referenced in this story is the person John will mention in chapter 12 of his Gospel. She is the Mary who anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume.

“Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. 

Then after this, he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 

  • The Greek word used for Jesus’ love for Martha, Mary, and Lazarus is what is called Agape love. This term for the word love means more than saying you’re friends with someone.
  • “Agape is the godly love that understands those loved, cares for them, and acts in their favor.” (People’s Bible Commentary, John, Gary P. Baumler, Pp. 160.)

“The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” 

Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles because the light is not in him.” After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” 

The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. 

Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake, I am glad that I was not there so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 

So, Thomas called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

  • The disciples warned Jesus not to return to Judea because the religious leaders wanted to kill Him.
  • Jesus’ answer is a bit abstract, but He’s telling His disciples that His life will not end until the appointed time and not a moment before.
  • When Jesus tells the disciples that Lazarus has merely fallen asleep, they take what He said literally.
    • But He then clarifies Himself. Lazarus is dead, and He is going to him to awaken him.
  • This moment with the disciple Thomas is much different than the one we know him most for. Here he shows his faith and asks the rest of the disciples to follow, too, even if it means death.
    • We generally equate Thomas with the scene after Christ’s death. In that case, he does not believe Jesus is alive because he was not with the rest of the disciples when Jesus first appeared to them.

I Am the Resurrection and the Life

“Now, when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off. Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. So, when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now, I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 

Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he dies, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 

She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

  • Martha approaches Jesus and His followers as they are nearing Bethany. She believes that if Jesus had gotten there earlier, her brother Lazarus would still be alive.
  • Martha also believes that there is a resurrection after death.
    • The remarkable proclamation that comes from Martha’s lips are:
      •  “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

Jesus Weeps

“When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come into the village but was still in the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 

And he said, “Where have you laid him?” 

They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So, the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”

  • Now Martha’s sister Mary comes to Jesus and reiterates her sister’s words.
    • She, too, believed that if Jesus had been there sooner, He could have healed her brother Lazarus.
  • When Jesus saw how she and the other woman were weeping, He wept too.
    • But Jesus’ weeping was different.
      • He was not wailing and carrying on. In Greek, His weeping is different. A tear or two comes from His eye, running down His cheek.
      • Was Jesus crying for His friend Lazarus? Yes. Perhaps there was a tear for all of those who didn’t believe. And, because they didn’t have faith, they would suffer eternal death.
      • And perhaps there was a tear, for what was about to happen mirrored His own death and resurrection.

Jesus Raises Lazarus

Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” 

Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time, there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 

Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 

So, they took away the stone.

And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.”

The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips and his face wrapped with a cloth.

Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

  • Martha’s reaction is interesting when Jesus tells people to “Take away the stone.” 
  • Jesus is known for performing miracles, including raising people from the dead.
    • Instead of thinking about everything Jesus had done in the past and saying to herself, “He has something huge planned here.”
      • She is more concerned about Lazarus’ body condition and the decaying smell.
  • Like me, I’m sure you’ve watched plenty of crime shows. Often there’s a scene when two detectives enter a home or apartment. When they walk into the dwelling, the two detectives look at each other, and inevitably one of them says, “Do you smell that?’
    • What their referring to is the smell of decaying flesh from a dead body.
  • But Jesus was not concerned about this at all.
    • Perhaps He had miraculously caused the body not to decay in advance. Or, when He told people to remove the stone and said, “Lazarus, come out,” Lazarus’ body was restored, thus no smell.
  • Finally, He gives instructions to take the burial cloths off Lazarus and let him go.
    • Lazarus had been released from death’s sting. He was alive.
    • But Lazarus’ reprieve from death was temporary. He was still human, and someday he would die again.
  • Jesus’s death was coming soon, but His death was to be temporary
    • He would rise again in three days
    • He would and does live eternally
    • And because of what He did, we, too, have the hope of eternal life.

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