John 11:1–16—The Death of Lazarus
1 A man named Lazarus was sick. He lived in Bethany with his sisters, Mary and Martha. 2This is the Mary who later poured the expensive perfume on the Lord’s feet and wiped them with her hair. Her brother, Lazarus, was sick. 3 So the two sisters sent a message to Jesus telling him, “Lord, your dear friend is very sick.”
4 But when Jesus heard about it he said, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.” 5 So although Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, 6 he stayed where he was for the next two days. 7 Finally, he said to his disciples, “Let’s go back to Judea.”
8 But his disciples objected. “Rabbi,” they said, “only a few days ago the people in Judea were trying to stone you. Are you going there again?”
9 Jesus replied, “There are twelve hours of daylight every day. During the day people can walk safely. They can see because they have the light of this world. 10 But at night there is danger of stumbling because they have no light.” 11 Then he said, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but now I will go and wake him up.”
12 The disciples said, “Lord, if he is sleeping, he will soon get better!” 13 They thought Jesus meant Lazarus was simply sleeping, but Jesus meant Lazarus had died.
14 So he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15 And for your sakes, I’m glad I wasn’t there, for now you will really believe. Come, let’s go see him.”
16 Thomas, nicknamed the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let’s go, too—and die with Jesus.”
Points of Interest
- ‘This is the Mary who later poured the expensive perfume’—again, John seems to be assuming that we’re familiar with the general storyline: ’you know, the Mary with the perfume.’ John is just filling in the story with his own favorite episodes, and with some of his own reflections on favorite episodes from the other gospels. It’s possible that John mentions the perfume episode here to indicate that these people are Jesus’ close friends.
- ‘he stayed where he was for the next two days’—Jesus’ close friend is sick, but he waits around for two days before going to see him. He knows that Lazarus will be fine. He has a bigger goal in mind, one that requires a little waiting.
- ‘But his disciples objected’—his disciples object, not to waiting two days, but to going at all. When Jesus waits the two days, they’re relieved that Jesus doesn’t rush to his friend’s bedside. Someday, the people of Jerusalem are actually going to throw those rocks. To use the passage from two days ago, the disciples are hired hands here; Jesus, the good shepherd, is willing to sacrifice his life for Lazarus (10:15).
- ‘at night there is danger of stumbling’—I think what he’s saying here is that Lazarus won’t be able to find his way out of death without a guide.
- ‘Let’s go, too—and die with Jesus’—they might not believe what Jesus is saying about death being reversible, but they’re willing to stick by Jesus to the death. That says something.
Taking It Home
- For you: Don’t you like that Jesus is in the business of bringing the dead back to life? Are there any aspects of your life that feel rather dead: Old dreams that have died? Your finances? Core aspects to your personality that you’ve shut off? Dissolved relationships? Ask Jesus to bring life back to these places. Anywhere in your life that feels like it has no hope or future, ask God for his provision and back-from-dead power.
- For your 6: It’s pretty cool that even though they disagree about when or whether to or why to go to Bethany, once they decide to do it, Jesus and the disciples are doing it together. There is some sense of community and togetherness as they face the situation in front of them. Ask Jesus to give your 6 a strong community of people who follow him. Pray that your 6 would find an abundance of support, love, and care as they face whatever is in front of them.
- For our church: Lazarus’ illness and death is a complicated piece of news for the disciples to know what to do with. There are so many factors at play: their friends’ hardship and sadness, their own feelings for their friend, the danger it could put them in, and more. They seem incapacitated by the news and its implications. Jesus, though, sees a pretty clear path ahead. Ask Jesus to help our church know how best to respond when surprising and complex news comes our way. Specifically ask Jesus to give us the wisdom to know when to wait, when to act, and how.