Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. 3 So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4 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.”…
17 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days… many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother.20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world…”
31 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. 32 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.” 33 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. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”
38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 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.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone … 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 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.” – John 11:1-4,17-27,31-41,43-44
The congregation to which I belong has experienced a number of deaths of saints in the past few years. This experience has made the story of Lazarus very poignant for us. There is always the mixture of deep grief and sadness with a sense of great joy and victory, the proper Christian experience of death.
This Lazarus story is revealing of both the humanity and deity of Christ. We see his humanity in the grief and sadness of death, his anger at death, his weeping and mourning with the family and friends. His divinity is revealed in his pronouncement that he is the resurrection and the life, that Lazarus will rise again, and in the final sign of his Messiahship, the raising of Lazarus from the dead. This was the sign that “cooked his goose.” From this point on, the Priests plotted how they could kill him.
Did Jesus know this act would raise the ire of his enemies to this degree? Of course, he did. He and the Father orchestrated this whole series of events leading to his death. This event was intended to bring glory and honor to Jesus as Messiah; it was also intended to set the final steps in motion for him to die for all of his children.
While reading and meditating on this passage today, I have been especially impressed with “everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” That is telling me that since I, as a living human, believe in Jesus as the Christ, I will never die. Of course, I will physically die, but I won’t die. My body will die, but I won’t. That fact puts a powerfully positive light on death. That is why Paul writes, “Oh, death, where is your sting?”
My next door neighbor passed away a few days ago. When visiting with the family, his daughter was jubilant and giving me thumbs up because of her conversation with her father shortly before he died that reaffirmed her confidence in his faith in Christ. Christian death is both weird and, strangely enough, the way it should be.
The resurrection of Christ is the firstfruits of resurrection; there are many more of us to come because we will have died “in Christ” and will be actually raised in Him as well. Isn’t it great that we have a powerful historical testimony to the reality of the God whom we worship? Lots of folks saw Jesus and got to visit with him after his resurrection and before his ascension. It is a historical fact which assures us of our future with him.