Jesus and Abundant Life
A Bible Study of the Gospel of John
“Wait and Be Raised” – John 11
In John 2 Jesus did His first sign at a wedding in Cana which showed like God, He can turn the water of the word into the wine of redemption and like God He saves the best for last. In John 4 Jesus did His second sign of healing the nobleman’s son with a mere spoken word; a feat showing that like God His word is powerful. In John 5 the third sign of Jesus is His healing a man who had been lame for 38 years. In John 6 we see the fourth and fifths signs of Jesus as He walks on water and feeds over five thousand people with a few morsels of food. In John 7 establishes Himself as Messiah and the Source of the outpoured Holy Spirit. And in John 8 we saw Jesus proclaim Himself the light of the world and great I Am. In John 9 we saw the sixth of seven miraculous signs of Jesus mentioned by John in his gospel, the healing of the man born blind. In chapter ten we saw Jesus as the Good Shepherd declare clearly His deity and oneness with the Father. In chapter eleven we will see the seventh and final miraculous sign done by Jesus and recorded by John.
Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.
Bethany is east of Jerusalem past the Mount of Olives “about two miles away” (John 11:18). Luke tells us that Martha was one given to work and service and Mary was given to sitting before the Lord and taking in what He had to say in a worshipful manner (Luke 10:38-42).
2 It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.
In John 12 Mary will anoint Jesus with costly fragrant oil (cf. also Mark 14:3-9). Lazarus is mentioned only here and in John 12.
3 Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.”
Jesus had gone to Bethbara known for being the place where John the Baptist baptized people (compare John 1:28 and 10:40-42). This was about twenty miles from Jerusalem.
Lazarus was sick. The natural thing was for his sisters to send word to Jesus so He could come and heal him. They acted on their faith. They believed Jesus could and would heal their brother. Their confidence that Jesus would come and heal their brother was based on Jesus’ love for him.
4 When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
From the beginning of hearing of the sickness of His good friend Lazarus, Jesus is in tune with God’s plan. “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” The glory of God and Jesus is always the objective in God’s plans. When God and Jesus are glorified, as we will see, everyone profits.
5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was.
Doesn’t that sound a bit contradictory or out of sync with what we’d expect? If Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus wouldn’t He immediately run to help them as soon as He heard of their need? But Jesus didn’t do this. He waited.
John 11 contains an incredible miraculous sign of Jesus. A man dead for four days will be raised from the dead. But before that happens, there needed to be waiting. We don’t like to wait. We don’t understand why sometimes we have to wait. We don’t like to wait on God to work. John 11 speaks to us about the waiting necessary to see God work. What does it tell us about waiting?
First, waiting doesn’t mean Jesus isn’t going to work in a God-glorifying way (John 11:4). Jesus said very clearly what His plan in this situation was: “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Jesus had a plan and that plan would glorify God and the Son of God. He waited until circumstances were in place for His plan to be fulfilled. Martha, Mary and Lazarus, His disciples and probably others didn’t understand why Jesus waited “two more days” to go to help Lazarus. But it was all part of God’s plan. We need to remember that. When God requires we wait, it isn’t necessarily because He is saying “no” to our request, He may simply be orchestrating circumstances to do what He plans to do.
Second, waiting doesn’t mean Jesus doesn’t love us (John 11:5-6). Verses five and six are connected as a causal clause. It’s as though because Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus, He waited. Jesus had a greater plan than merely healing a living man. Jesus wanted to bless those He loved with a resurrection.
7 Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8 The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are You going there again?”
9 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. 10 But if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”
Jesus’ movements were directed by the Father (e.g. John 7:8). Jesus lived with purpose. He lived to follow the plan of the Father. Jesus walked in the light and those who followed Him would see in His light. By the time Jesus does leave Lazarus will already have died (John 11:11, 39). That became a dark truth. But Jesus is able to bring light even in seemingly hopelessly dark situations.
11 These things He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.” 12 Then His disciples said, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.” 13 However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep.
Third, waiting and not understanding doesn’t mean Jesus isn’t going to work (John 11:11-13). The disciples thought that when Jesus spoke of Lazarus sleeping that he was resting and would get better. Interestingly this jives with medical science. It is during sleep that the body heals. In an article published in the Washington Post (No, you’re not sleeping enough, and it’s a problem: 15 scary facts in new NatGeo doc dated 12/2/14 by Emily Yahr) “Almost all mental illnesses have associate sleep problems, experts say.”  But what ailed Lazarus was not going to be healed by sleep. The disciples didn’t understand this. But their lack of understanding didn’t inhibit Jesus working.
We don’t need to understand all of what God is planning to do in order for Him to work. In fact, more often than not we will not understand why we have to wait or what God is doing before He does it. God has a way of surprising us. All we need do is continue to follow Him and watch what He does.
14 Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.”
Fourth, waiting and the appearance that all is lost doesn’t mean Jesus isn’t going to work and include us in His plans (John 11:14-15). Jesus broke through their cloud of confusion. “Lazarus is dead” Jesus said. Can’t get blunter than that. It must have shocked the disciples. A flood of “whys?” must have entered their thinking. Now all seemed lost. If only Jesus had left immediately. But just because Jesus waits doesn’t mean He isn’t going to work. And when the time is right, Jesus invites us to join Him in His work. What a blessing His disciples were in for! What a blessing we will experience if we only wait with Jesus and join Him when He invites our participation.
"Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.” (John 11:14-15). Those are the words spoken by Jesus to His disciples about the death of Lazarus. Lazarus was dead, not merely asleep as His disciples wrongly assumed (John 11:13). And Jesus was glad for this. Not because it would cause pain or that He didn't like Lazarus, or Mary, or Martha. He loved them all (John 11:5). Jesus loves us too. Jesus was glad Lazarus had died because it was part of the Father's plan to build their faith. He wants to build our faith too.
How can our faith be built? Why should we put a priority on faith building? What do we learn from Jesus’ faith building tactics that can help us cooperate and be used in God’s faith building procedures? These are questions this teaching aims to address.
The Bible states, “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Spiritually speaking, we can’t walk or get anywhere without doing so by faith. We progress and move on in our spiritual walk “not by sight,” or not merely by what we see around us or what we understand about what is going on around us. In fact, faith building utilizes the lack of sight; not knowing. The account of the resurrection of Lazarus is a good example of this. This is a chapter about the necessity of waiting in order to see Jesus’ resurrection work. But it is also about what is involved in building faith.
Building faith involves testing. Belief, faith, is like a muscle. To grow strong faith must be tested. Faith must be tested in order to be trusted and revealed as true. The Apostle Peter was inspired to write, “In this you greatly rejoice [i.e. the prospect of resurrection, our incorruptible inheritance in heaven, and “the power of God through faith for salvation”] , though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-9). This flies in the face of making decisions purely based on financial reasons. (Which is, in and out of the church today, one of the primary if not the primary determiners in decisions in our world today.) Our faith is “much more precious than gold that perishes.” According to God and His word, our faith is more valuable than the most precious commodity this world has to offer. Nothing in this world is as valuable as your faith. Do we really believe that? Do we make decisions from that world view? Would you pass that kind of test? Would you choose faith over fortune? Are your decisions made based on building your faith or finding financial “freedom”?
A faith untested cannot be trusted. This is why life is more making money. Life is more than financial comfort. It is a great mistake to run after comfort. Comfort makes faith flabby. Comfort atrophies faith. Faith dies when we live at ease. Christian, you are called to be more than a couch potato! Challenge, difficulty, and circumstances that require perseverance and hard work are the proving ground of faith. Faith is birthed by grace. Faith is built as we by grace go to work. We are what we are by God’s grace. But that does not excuse us from “labor” (Greek kopiao in 1 Corinthians 15:10); hard wearying, fatiguing, labor. It would have been relatively easy for Jesus to heal Lazarus before he died. But Jesus knew building faith involves testing. The faith of His disciples, Martha and Mary had to be tested strong. Jesus is looking to build believers with ram-tough faith. How tough is your faith when tested? The resurrection of Lazarus is a faith building experience.
Building faith involves God's planning. Jesus followed the Father's plan not man's plan (John 11:15). The people in this story are all in a hurry. Jesus isn’t in a hurry. Jesus is on a mission. He operates by His Father’s schedule not the schedule of those around Him. He moves about in a calm calculated way to fulfill His Father’s plan. Can you say that? Have you discerned God’s will for you in quiet waiting before Him with His open Word before you? Or do you rush around with no clue of God’s will for your life?
Faith is the assurance of things hoped for (Hebrews 11:1a). Faith invites that inner witness of the Spirit. The Spirit directs the faith-full to carry on, push forward and push through. Faith involves hope. Hope is the eye of faith for the future. Faith and hope are both guided and governed by God's plans, not our own. Faith asks, "What is God's plan for my life?" Faith waits on God for its marching orders. Then faith pursues God's plan with an assurance God will be faithful to fulfill His plan in and through us. Faith believes God’s calling is God’s enablement.
Building faith involves uncertainty. The question on everyone's mind and in everyone's heart was "Why?" Why did Jesus delay? Why did He let Lazarus die? Why did He act in such an apparently unloving way if He loved these people? (John 11:5, 21, 32). Why did Jesus wait? Faith is the belief in things not seen (Hebrews11:1b). It's in circumstances where you can't see how God is going to work things out that faith, in God, is worked out.
It's in those times where all you have is God, where He is your only hope, that you discover faith and that He really is, your only hope. It is in the death of your plans, your resources, your efforts, abilities and strategies, where nothing works anymore and all seems lost, that is where faith is born and raised. That is where God can come through and faith is strengthened. Faith is built when our time runs out and God comes through. He reserves the right to come through with plans that may differ from our own. His coming through may not mean rescue, healing or resurrection. His coming through will in every way mean we will be closer to Him and know Him more intimately. Our faith will be made stronger.
Building Faith is challenging not comfortable. It would have been so much more comfortable to heal Lazarus before he died. Jesus could have come to heal Lazarus in the comfort of his home. It would have spared these people a lot of grief, sorrow, and pain. But it is the flesh, not faith that lusts after comfort. It is the flesh, the sinful nature, not faith, that lives in comfort and ease where everything is easy, no work is required, and God is easily forgotten. Without a challenge God can't come through. God is omnipresent (e.g. Psalm 139). But if there could ever be a place where God's presence is not, it would be the place of comfort, easiness, and ease.
Faith building is the process that involves us coming to the point where we realize I can’t. . . but God can. Once Lazarus was dead, there was nothing anyone other than Jesus could do. They might have thought That’s it, he’s dead, we can’t do anything about it. Thankfully they didn’t stop there. They still went to Jesus. Only Jesus is Master over death.
If we stop and give up every time we can’t do something we miss out on the chance for God to use our circumstances to show us He can. Submit your circumstances to Jesus. Let Jesus tell you when to press on or when to give up. People who give up do so because they haven’t sought the Lord for His will. Without any awareness of God’s will or plan a person is driven only by circumstances, good or bad. Without an awareness of God’s will we become like the man tossed to and fro by the wind on the ocean (James 1:5-6). Lack of direction makes one easy prey for doubt. Untethered doubt wrecks faith.
The next time you have a big decision to make, ask first, “Father, what is Your will for my life here?” Then ask, “Father, which choice will best build my faith?” Then step out in faith. It will always be uncomfortable when God is building our faith. We don’t like to submit or surrender, even to God. We don’t like uncertainty. But discomfort and uncertainty is not something to run from. That is something to run too! These are tools God uses to build our faith.
Building faith involves risk. Risk is the possibility of loss. It is the flesh that settles for safety and no risk. Mary and Martha and the disciples wanted Jesus to come before Lazarus died (John 11:3). They didn't want to risk Lazarus’ death. But faith involves risk. Faith requires we trust God in the face of danger and threat of loss. Faith is brought to life through risk that leads to reward. Therefore life worth living involves risk. God's plans involve risk. I’m not talking about presumption. Presumption is prayerless risk taking. I’m talking about obeying God even when it is risky. There is no faith building without risk.
Building faith involves facing fears. Lazarus was dead. Death is permanent. Death is scary. It is scary if you face it without faith in God. Martha and Mary feared the death of their brother Lazarus. They had faith in Jesus, but they were human. As the days went by and their brother moved closer and closer to death, their fears must have increased. The longer it took for Jesus to arrive, the more fearful of death they became. They would have to face these fears with Jesus.
It is devilishly deceptive if your faith is presumptuous or based on anything or anyone other than Jesus. Faith involves facing fear by trusting in Jesus. Jesus alone is the resurrection and the life. It’s only through faith in Jesus that we can experience salvation, resurrection and eternal life (John 11:25-26). Fear is the foe of faith. Faith in Jesus can obliterate our fears.
Building faith involves submission and obedience. Martha and Mary and the disciples were surrendered and obedient to Jesus' plan even if it meant death was involved (John 11:16, 22). His disciples accompanied Jesus on this life threatening journey (John 11:16). Martha said, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world” (John 11:27). And it was Martha who obediently ordered the stone to her brothers tomb to be moved aside even though he had been dead for four days (John 11:39-41). Because of their submission and obedience they saw a resurrection. We have to learn to wait in faith. We have to learn to submit to Jesus and obey Him. We have to learn to trust and obey. And like the classic hymn says, “for there’s no other way.” There’s no other way for faith to be built.
There's another reason to submit and obey in God's Faith building plans. If we resist God's faith building plans it can be dangerous. Unlike Martha, Mary and the disciples an Old Testament prophet named Jonah fled west when God's will was east. He resisted God's call. He hated those God loved. He proudly and indignantly rejected God's desire to call sinners to repentance. He couldn't and wouldn't accept God's plan. He refused to go where God wanted him to go. So God let him go. Jonah may have responded better if he had taken time to get alone with God in prayer. God has a way of getting us alone with Him. God prefers one on one conversations. And so God sent Jonah a storm. God had him swallowed whole in a great giant fish. He shook him in the sea monster. He stopped him, spoke with him, and brought him to his senses. God persuaded Jonah. He taught him how to walk in faith. He did what was required to get him going back in the right direction; to minister to the lost, to see a resurrection, and to build his faith. God can be very persuasive. God is all knowing and always has what looks to us like a contingency plan. God is never surprised.
Building faith involves difficulty and challenge, even failure. Jesus appeared to have failed His friends. If He had been there earlier, He could have prevented Lazarus' death (John 11:21, 32). And after four days in the tomb to remove the stone would have made a smelly defiling failure! (John 11:39). But Jesus is a Master of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. Jesus knows how to bring beauty from ashes (cf. Isaiah 61:3). Have you crashed and burned? Are you down and out? Are you perplexed by defeat? Are you running from difficulty? Are you fleeing from life's challenge? That very well may be God's will for you. Failure and falls are sometimes what are required for faith to be built. Difficulties and defeats are necessary for us to learn we can't, but God can. God steers us with these not with ease. Rise with Him in faith.
Building faith involves death. “Lazarus is dead” (John 11:14). Faith is built in despair; when there is no reasonable hope. Jesus was glad for the hopeless situation of Lazarus' death. Why? because it was the perfect environment for faith to be built. They had to be brought to the place where Jesus was their only hope. They had to trust Jesus if they wanted Lazarus back. They had to come to a point where they said, “Yes, Lord. I believe” (John 11:27). Jesus alone, builds faith.
Building faith involves fire. The fire of testing is where faith is proven. When a person dies decay sets in like a slow burning degenerating consuming fire (John 11:39). Eremacausis is the gradual oxidation of matter from exposure to air and moisture. Eremacausis is a fire of death that burns up the dead body with decay. When the fire of life leaves, the fire of death takes over. When your faith is tested will it burn you out, burn you up, or burn you bright?
Where are you going? Why are you going there? What are you doing? What do you want to do? What is your dream, your destination, your destiny? Life is more than ease and retirement. Are you walking by faith? Is faith building your priority? Or are you looking for an easy way out? Are you ready to retire? Some old preacher once told me, "I'm not retired, I'm re-fired!" Are you looking for an early retirement, or a refirement? Faith fires us up.
Building faith involves destiny. Lazarus' destiny seemed set. But Jesus wasn't finished with him. Lazarus' death was his destiny and would become his greatest means of telling about Jesus' life giving ways. For Lazarus to be mightily used for God's glory he had to die. Death is part of faith building; death to self; death to my ways, my expectations. If you would have asked Lazarus while still alive if he wanted to live, he probably would have said "Yes!" But if he could have seen how he would be used for the glory of God and Christ as a result of his death and resurrection, he would have said “For the glory of God and my Savior Jesus, let me die a thousand times over!” Lazarus had to die to truly live for the glory of God (John 11:4). So do we. Are you willing to die?
At the end of the road of life what will your story be? Will it be a story of boring comfort and ease void of challenge and victory; void of faith? Will it be a life of complaints over the challenges you faced and the hardships you surrendered to? Will you lament the lost opportunities to build your faith? Will you have to admit you hated what God loved and rebelled against His will? Or will you be able to say through the wise eyes of faith, "Yes, life was a challenge, but I accepted the challenge and pressed on with Him in faith. Yes, it was hard and high but I pressed on harder and higher by faith. My life has been a living sacrifice to God by faith. I went where He wanted by faith. I stayed where He wanted by faith. I lived by faith. I worked, pressed on and overcame, by faith. I have come to see why Jesus was glad that Lazarus was dead and why He has purposely allowed deaths in my life; dangers, doubts, defeats, and discouragements in my life. It was so I may believe. And because of that I am glad too." What will your life testimony be?
16 Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” 17 So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles away. 19 And many of the Jews had joined the women around Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.
Fifth, waiting that causes pain and grief doesn’t mean Jesus isn’t going to work (John 11:16-19). Lazarus was dead. He was dead for four days now. Martha and Mary were grieving the loss of their brother. And the delay of Jesus coming compounded their pain. God doesn’t joyfully inflict pain on people. Yes, Jesus was “glad” that He wasn’t there to heal Lazarus because He knew the greater joy that would come from what He was about to do. But sometimes pain and sorrow are a necessary part of God’s plan. In the end there will be no regrets.
We need to hope in Jesus until His plans fully come to pass. Faith is what bridges the gap between our request and God’s answer. Hope is the faith that gets us through to the conclusion of God’s plan.
When a loved one dies, the chances of them being resurrected like Lazarus aren’t high. But we don’t grieve their loss like those who have no hope (1 Thess. 4:13). We grieve and sorrow in the hope God provides. That hope is that one day, if we know Jesus as our Savior, we and our departed loved ones, will be reunited in eternity with glorified perfect bodies with Jesus. When that happens we will see that anything suffered temporarily in this life will be worth the glory we have with Jesus (e.g. Romans 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:17). Waiting may be painful even though it is a part of God’s plan. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). Any pain involved in God’s plan now will be worth it when we reach our final destination.
20 Now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. 21 Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.
Sixth, waiting that causes us to think, “what if?” doesn’t mean Jesus isn’t going to work (John 11:20-21). When we are required to wait and things look bad, and we are tempted to think, “what if?” it doesn’t mean Jesus isn’t going to work. Our finite minds often aren’t capable of understanding God’s big picture or His ultimate plan. But that doesn’t prevent Jesus from working.
22 But even now I know that whatever You ask of 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 at the last day.”
Seventh, waiting while things don’t look good doesn’t mean we should give up on Jesus (John 11:22-24). Things looked bleak to Martha. There was no denying Lazarus, her brother, was dead. But rather than react with bitterness toward Jesus, she responded in faith. Rather than berating Jesus about not coming sooner, she expressed her faith in Jesus. She said in faith, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” She hoped in God and was willing to continue on with Him and Jesus even though her brother, (who she thought could have been healed if Jesus was there) had died and it would be the rest of her life before they would be reunited. When we wait on Jesus to work we need to trust Him; no matter what!
Sometimes we can be very subtle about disbelief. We can disbelieve Jesus and do so with theology. For instance one commentator explains:
Jesus gives a promise to Martha. But rather than embracing it joyfully and expectantly, Martha looks at it as a theological principle. Do you ever do that? The Lord opens a promise to you in the Word about a situation, a relationship, or a financial struggle and you think, well, this probably doesn’t apply to this dispensation. This can’t really be true for me today. Come on, the Lord isn’t really going to bless, heal, restore, or help. There must be some other meaning theologically. It’s just too good to be true. But in so doing, you share the mind-set of Martha.
There are some things God seeks to do that can’t be broken down into neat theological packages. There are some things God does that defy our understanding. That’s why they are called miracles.
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever 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 to come into the world.”
Eighth, waiting doesn’t mean time is wasted. Jesus uses waiting to build our faith. (John 11:25-27). Waiting is an ingredient in building faith. Waiting puts us in a position where our faith is stretched, deepened, and broadened. Waiting reveals faith or exposes lack of faith. That’s what He did with Martha, Mary, His disciples and no doubt when Lazarus is resurrected his faith will be pretty strong too! Jesus uses waiting to build our faith and trust in Him and His ability to work; even when all seems lost. Waiting reveals faith, or exposes the absence of faith.
This is an incredible assertion by Jesus. He says, “I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.” Jesus is claiming power over death! Death is the greatest enemy. Death is something every person must experience. And Jesus is claiming the solution to death (John 11:25).
Then Jesus asks Martha, “And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” Jesus is preparing Martha’s heart. He is tilling the soil of her heart to bear faith fruit. He creates a situation where she has to make a decision about believing in Him. Faith is the product of choosing Jesus in decisive situations (John 11:26).
Martha’s response is the right one (as far as she was informed of what the ultimate plan of Jesus was): “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” Notice Martha’s faith is in Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” In faith she affirms Jesus is the fulfillment of Messianic prophecies. In faith she expresses her faith in Jesus (John 11:27).
Yes, I believe Jesus can do a miracle, but do I believe He is willing to do it for me? Now while Martha asserts her belief in who Jesus is, she may have been expressing a bit of doubt as to His willingness to do what He was saying He would do. We may belief in Jesus ability to do miracles, but we doubt His willingness to do them for us; in particular, “for me.” Jesus is able, and we will soon see in this passage He is willing to do what He said He would do with Lazarus.
The Bible says God is for us. God proves His love to us by sending His only Son Jesus to die for us (cf. Romans 8:31-32). We don’t question God’s ability. We do question His willingness. It’s true; God will never contradict the truth of His word. That He will never do. But we question whether or not God is interested and willing to work on our behalf. To that idea we need to remember, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). God is able. God is willing. “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him?” (Matthew 7:11). Or, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:13). “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17). We need to receive that and worship Him. “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).
Judgment is getting what you deserve. We all deserve condemnation and eternal punishment (cf. Romans 1-3). Mercy is not getting what we deserve. Through faith in Jesus, Who has bore our sins in our place on the cross, we can be forgiven our sins (cf. Romans 4-8). Grace is getting what you don’t deserve. Grace is God’s riches at Christ’s expense. Grace is God’s excuse to lavish blessing on the undeserving. He does that simply because He is gracious and loving. God loves us and wants to bless us. We miss out on a lot because we think God is out to get us. God isn’t against us. God is for us! We are products of God’s grace through and through (e.g. 1 Corinthians 15:10). Therefore, God’s blessings aren’t contingent so much on us as they are on Him. We need only receive by faith.
28 And when she had said these things, she went her way and secretly called Mary her sister, saying, “The Teacher has come and is calling for you.”
An evidence of vital genuine faith in Jesus is not only vocal declaration, but it involves a heart for evangelization (John 11:28). The word “evangelism” means to bring good news. Martha brought the good news of Jesus’ arrival to her sister. While Martha and Mary had hoped Jesus would have come earlier to heal their brother, and while they were certainly disappointed their brother had died, news that Jesus was finally there was good news to them. The arrival of Jesus is always good news even if the outcome we had hoped for is not realized.
29 As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly and came to Him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the town, but was in the place where Martha met Him. 31 Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and comforting her, when they saw that Mary rose up quickly and went out, followed her, saying, “She is going to the tomb to weep there.” 32 Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Another evidence of vital genuine faith is that when you hear Jesus has arrived on the scene you run to Him (John 11:29). Mary demonstrates her faith by running to Jesus. She didn’t understand all that was going on. She was grief stricken over the loss of her brother. But she still ran to Jesus. Nothing should prevent us from running to Jesus; not disappointment, grief, sorrow, or anything. When you run to Jesus no matter what, it demonstrates the genuineness of your faith.
33 Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. 34 And He said, “Where have you laid him?”
They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, “See how He loved him!”
Ninth, waiting in sorrow doesn’t mean Jesus doesn’t sorrow with us (John 11:33-36). Mary ran to Jesus, fell at His feet and wept. She wept for what might have been. She wept for a seeming miscalculation on the part of the One she loved and trusted; Jesus. She wept for the loss of her brother. There’s something about the weeping of a grieving person. It is a deep, deep sorrow. Jesus was impacted by this weeping sorrow.
The word “groaned” (Greek enebrimesato from embrimaomai) interestingly means scold, to be angry, charge sternly, snort with anger, indignation, sigh with chagrin, or groan. Jesus didn’t snort with anger at those who wept. He wept with them. But I believe Jesus, the Son of God, the Redeemer and Savior, snorted with a deep passionate anger at the death effects of sin and Satan. It’s as though Jesus snorts with deep passion and commitment to His mission. It’s as though he snorts in anger at the enemy of death. It’s as though He is overtaken with the purpose of His calling to defeat death. It’s His, “Ah, yes, this is why I came.”
And as Jesus is angry over the grief death causes, He is filled with a deep loving compassion for the sorrowing people; for Mary, for Martha, for His friend Lazarus. “Jesus wept.” The word “wept” (Greek dakryo) means to weep, to shed tears. Jesus wept when He saw others weep. Jesus weeps when we weep. Jesus takes no satisfaction in the physical and emotional pain experienced in life. He grieves with those who grieves and weeps with those who weep just as the Spirit inspired Paul to write (cf. Romans 12:15).
37 And some of them said, “Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?”
Tenth, waiting may make others critical of the plans of Jesus (John 11:37). The onlookers were well aware of Jesus’ reputation of being able to work miracles. They were critical though of Jesus apparent poor timing. Notice neither Martha nor Mary join in with these critics. They simply weep in the presence of Jesus. They simply submit to Jesus and His plan.
38 Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, 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 him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?”
Eleventh, waiting is instrumental to Jesus increasing our faith (John 11:38-40). Martha was locked in to the physical realities. She perhaps wanted to prevent Jesus from attempting a seemingly impossible work, even if it did involve the resurrection of her brother. She also may have been concerned over the sanctity of her brother’s dead body and his tomb.
But Jesus strengthens Martha’s faith. How does He do that? He reminds her of His word. “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” Jesus was willing to walk Martha through His plan. He was willing to increase her faith to do what she needed to do in order for Him to complete His plan. She needed to express her faith by giving approval to open the tomb of Lazarus. Jesus always works in a totally efficient way. He not only gets us through to the final destination and outcome of His plan, but He builds our faith in the process. Jesus moves us from grief to belief.
41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” 43 Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” 44 And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.”
Twelfth, waiting doesn’t mean Jesus won’t do what He said He would do (John 11:41-45). Someone has said if Jesus had simply said, “Come forth!” that all the dead in the tombs there would have been resurrected. Jesus has the power over life and death. Notice how Jesus did this work:
1. Jesus first prayed to the Father (11:41b).
2. In His prayer He affirmed in faith that He knew the Father always heard Him (11:42a).
3. His prayer was said aloud so that those in earshot would know and believe that this miraculous sign was by God in Christ (11:42b).
4. Jesus performed this sign “that they may believe that You sent Me” (11:42c).
5. Jesus cried out loudly, for all to hear, “Lazarus come forth!” (11:43). Jesus didn’t approach this casually or half-heartedly. Jesus did this miracle in public for all to see.
6. And what Jesus commanded dead Lazarus did; he “came out bound hand and foot with grave clothes, and his face was wrapped with cloth” (11:44c).
7. Finally, Jesus commanded “Loose him, and let him go” (11:44b).
Resurrection is preceded by waiting. Waiting is often involved in God’s working. Waiting is an efficient way for our faith to be built in the process of God’s working.
Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him. 46 But some of them went away to the Pharisees and told them the things Jesus did. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, “What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. 48 If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation.”
This is always the case. An incredible undeniable miracle had been done by Jesus. Some chose to believe. Others chose to disbelieve. If people are open to the truth and gospel and genuinely interested in coming to God, God will make a way for that to happen. But if people are going to discount and reject Jesus no matter what, then God will allow them to do that as well. How will you respond to Jesus?
49 And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, 50 nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.
God isn’t limited as to who He can speak through. Caiaphas was a disreputable, dishonest, conniving and sinful leader. And yet God spoke truth through Him. On commentary states:
So wealthy did Annas, the high priest, become from the money-making schemes that surrounded the temple, to avoid a conflict of interest, he appointed his son-in-law, Caiaphas, to serve as high priest. From his office of high priest, Caiaphas spoke more profoundly than he could possibly have known when he said, “It’s prudent that one man dies in order that the whole nation might live.”
Little did Caiaphas know that what he said was inspired by the Spirit. This shows me something about our Lord. God can use anyone to speak His heart, to reveal His truth. Caiaphas was a loser, a charlatan, a fleecer. Yet the Spirit still inspired him at this moment to speak truth. Just as Caiaphas prophesied, one Man did indeed die—not only for the nation, but for the sins of all men. God can use a Caiaphas; God can use a donkey (Numbers 22), a neighbor, a professor, or any other voice He chooses to speak truth. Be wary of the mind-set that thinks if a person isn’t born-again, he cannot speak truth. God can use anyone.
53 Then, from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death. 54 Therefore Jesus no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there into the country near the wilderness, to a city called Ephraim, and there remained with His disciples.
55 And the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went from the country up to Jerusalem before the Passover, to purify themselves. 56 Then they sought Jesus, and spoke among themselves as they stood in the temple, “What do you think—that He will not come to the feast?” 57 Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a command, that if anyone knew where He was, he should report it, that they might seize Him.
These are transitional verses to the next section of John’s gospel. We will now enter the final week of Jesus ministry leading up to the cross and culminating in His own resurrection. It’s estimated that for the week of Passover nearly two and a half million Jews crowded Jerusalem. Nearly 250,000 sheep were offered in sacrifice. Walking in the midst of all this commotion, walking in the midst of the bleating sheep was the Good Shepherd Jesus who was the Lamb of God come to remove the sins of the world (John 1:29).
 Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 533). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
 Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 537). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.