“Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of 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.”
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 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.” (John 11:1–16 ESV)

It has been a very crucial journey, we started back in chapter two with the wedding in Canaan, and now we are in chapter eleven looking at the story of Lazarus, his sisters, the crowds, the disciples, and the teachers of the law.

We have looked at Jesus who turns the water into wine, the one who is healer, prophet and more significant than Moses. The one who is Lord over creation and the one who is the I am. He is the light of the world, and now we come to the last of the seven signs.

I believe that John, who is a great storyteller, is describing for us an event that took place within a family of two sisters and a brother. An event that became the talk of the town and brought more questions, wonders about Jesus. Above all, this story is about a friend of Jesus, to be more specific about two sisters and a brother that were Jesus’ friends.

Just think about this, they are not defined as part of the twelve disciples, and yet they had a profound friendship with Jesus.

Only a true friend can challenge another friend, and Mary and Martha did this. Only a true friend can feel the excruciating pain of losing a beloved friend. I know what this is like, I have lost really good friends, and I have witnessed helplessly the pain of friends at funerals.

This story is not just about deep friendship, about loss, death and hope.
There are different characters to this story like
• The disciples
• Lazarus, Mary and Martha
• The neighbours
• The crowds
• The teachers of the law
• Jesus

Chapter eleven is long, but there is one verse that is at the centre, and it is at the heart of this the seven sign of Jesus.
“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?” (John 11:25–26 ESV)

Jesus’ question to Martha is a one I believe he is asking us today. Do you believe that Jesus is the resurrection and the life? Do you believe that whoever dies will live and whoever lives and believe in him will never die? Do you believe this?

That is at the core of Jesus invitation:
Do you believe in Jesus?

The Request


“Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of 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.” (John 11:1–4 ESV)

Bethany was another ministry centre that Jesus used, it was near enough to Jerusalem but far enough for Jesus to hide. It was there, in a village where Lazarus, Mary and Martha lived.

Mary is the one who anointed Jesus, her actions are described for us in the following chapter: “Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” (John 12:3 NIV11).

The anointing had more than one purpose. It was a sign of Kingship, it was a sign of setting people apart for the work of ministry, it was a sign, and it is still a sign of the Powerful Presence of God in an individual. Yet this anointing is different, and it says more about Mary than it says about Jesus. Mary’s devotion to Jesus is for all to see. It was an in the act of total humility and love, wiping Jesus’ feet with her hair was a sign of deep reverence and in its nature a prophetic act. This anointing is a sign for us, the last time Jesus was about to be anointed happened when he was dead when the women went to the tomb to anoint his body.
Mary’s anointing of Jesus made a powerful declaration: Jesus is the Anointed One!
Another essential factor in this story is that we know from the beginning that Lazarus is sick. Jesus knows this because Mary and Martha sent a message to Jesus, saying: “Lord, he whom you love is ill.”
Now, let us think about this for a moment! These are not just words written there for us to think “oh how lovely”. These words are charged; they are full of emotional value! This is important, again, this reveals not just the love that Lazarus had for Jesus, but Jesus deep love for his friend. There is only one another friend of Jesus that is referred on those terms and was John, who wrote this Gospel.

Let us not underestimate the power of these words, they reveal Jesus cherishing close friendship, that he is a good friend and that he is moved, concerned and has a deep connection.
But Jesus says and does something that will provoke a strong reaction from his disciples, Mary and Martha.

What does Jesus say? I tell you what he is not saying! He is not saying “Come on boys time to go and see my friend Lazarus. Come on harry up, let’s leave now, he needs me, let’s go.”

He says: “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.” (John 11:4 ESV)

We know that he said something similar in chapter nine when he was about to heal the born blind man. He said it as a response to the disciples asking about who to blame for sins. He said that his condition was so that the Glory of God is revealed.

But now, he knows Lazarus illness is severe and deadly, so he declares that Lazarus’ illness will not lead to death, because the Glory of God will be revealed and The Glory of the Son of God, that is Jesus, may be glorified through it”.

Jesus is saying to us that what is about to happen will bring Glory to Him! What a declaration! This is one of the rare occasions where Jesus discloses who he is!

The Light

“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 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.” (John 11:5–16 ESV)

John makes very clear the strong affection that Jesus had towards the two sisters and their brother. Yet Jesus is not acting as he was asked. You may expect that Jesus will drop everything and head towards Bethany, but he does not!! He does the opposite.

Jesus has other plans that even the disciples are not impressed with. Jesus said, lets us go to Judea, and the response was an overwhelming: WHY? Why do you want to go there when the people of Judea seeking to stone you, to kill you? Why do you want to go there again?

This is where you really expect a rational explanation from Jesus. He could have said: “Well I want to be there because there are people in Judea that needs my touch, there are people in Judea that needs healing”.

Jesus answers are a little bit confusing!

He starts by speaking about daylight and night time. He said something very similar in chapter nine when he was about to heal the who was born blind. “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 9:4–5 ESV)

Here he says “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. John 11:10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” (John 11:9-10 ESV).

These two verses are very similar; they speak about walking in the day in contrast with walking in the night when the possibility of stumbling is genuine. But I think this is not just about day and night, or light and darkness. It is more profound than that! Jesus is saying that the reason we stumble at night is because we do not have not light!!

I hope we see this! Jesus is the light of this world. He is the light in your life and mine, and therefore there is no darkness, there isn’t any night that can overcome his light.

If you and I understand what Jesus is saying here, then this will enlighten our reading of Scriptures “If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.” (Psalm 139:11–12 ESV)

When Jesus comes as the light of the world, then even the darkness is not dark to him. The night is bright as the day, for darkness is light to him.”

This is true, even in death!!! Death, which is believed to be the greatest darkness is light to Jesus. Hope you are encouraged, there is no fear in death “If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” (Psalm 139:8 NIV11-GKE)

Now that we know this, then it is not that difficult to understand what Jesus says to his disciples.

“Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” John 11:12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” John 11:13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. John 11:14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, John 11:15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” John 11:16 (John 11:12-15 ESV)

What happens next will glorify God and the Son.

It isn’t too late!

“Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and 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.” (John 11:17–27 ESV)

There is something that Jesus is aware of, “the disappointment of Mary and Martha”. These two sisters are good friends of Jesus, and the death of her brother was, like any other death excruciating. Only those who have been through it will understand.

If we can summarise their sadness, hurts and disappointment towards Jesus, we could say something like:

Where were you?
We sent you a message, did you hear it?
Why did you not come when we called you?
Why took you so long?
I thought you loved us.
Was he your friend?
Are we your friends Jesus?
Are we in pieces? Yes
We are destroyed.
We miss our brother.
We call you!!

Despite the hurt, Mary and Martha engage with Jesus talking about faith in the resurrection. They both take some comfort from this. It is here where Jesus made one of the most crucial declarations he ever made “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25–26 ESV)

So to prove that he is the Resurrection and the life, he goes to where Lazarus was buried, he was dead for four days, and it is the middle east, I would like to believe that it was hot, and bodies decompose much faster.

“Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time, there will be an odour, 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.” (John 11:39–44 ESV)

Here we have it. This is the most powerful sign that Jesus ever did while he was ministering, this was not the only an act of resurrection, but a declaration of God’s glory and where Jesus was glorified. As from that point, Jesus enemies knew that he was a real threat and those who believed realised that he indeed was the Messiah.

These signs point us to Jesus, and this one is pointing to Jesus death and resurrection. These words are such a necessary encouragement for those who have lost family members and close friends. Jesus is Lord over death.

All the signs that are here in the Gospel of John are for us to realise that God has come, that God became man and dwell among us. This is what we celebrate at Christmas, and God has come, Immanuel is with us.

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