John 11:17-19, NIV
17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in
the tomb for four days. 18 Bethany was less than two miles from
Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to
comfort them in the loss of their brother.


October 4, 2011
By the time Jesus and his disciples arrived, Lazarus had been dead
and buried for 4 days. Since Bethany was within easy walking from
the big city of Jerusalem, many people came to mourn his passing.

Many people coming to mourn for him might suggest Lazarus was not
an old man when he died. Or that he was a prominent person and well
respected. Possibly his life's work involved helping others and they
came to his funeral out of gratitude for all he did. Or maybe in this
ancient culture, funerals were a forum for socializing. Families were
large and localized. When someone died, you went to mourn their loss;
when someone in your family died, they came to your home to mourn
with you. Some of these people were hanging around for 4 days already.
Neighbors would have been providing hospitality. Lots of neighbors for
lots of mourners. The supportive circle surrounding Martha and Mary
was a wide one. It's also possible that some people came, hoping
to see Mary and Martha's good friend, Jesus.

 

                                          John 11:20, NIV
20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to
meet him, but Mary stayed at home.


I would have bet on Mary to be the one rushing out the door first to meet
Jesus. Turns out, she's not as predictable as I thought. It's Martha who
goes. Martha, the one who does what needs to be done, and what is
expected of her, whether she feels like it or not.

They had been expecting Jesus for more than 4 days now, probably
even a week. And he finally arrives. 6 days ago they would have been
very happy to see him. Now when there's nothing much he can do,
well . . . . Jesus had some explaining to do.



                                          John 11:21-26, NIV
21 "Lord," Martha said to Jesus, "if you had been here, my
brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now
God will give you whatever you ask."

23 Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." 24 Martha
answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the
last day." 25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the
life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;
26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do
you believe this?"


Jesus, had you been here, my brother would not have died! I'm
sorry we can't hear the inflections in her voice. Was she accusing
Jesus of not fulfilling the bonds of their friendship? Of not really
caring for Lazarus like he pretended to? Was she just plain annoyed
with him. Why did he do this to her?

People knew of the friendship between her family and Jesus. Did
she feel snubbed? A bit humiliated because he didn't see them as
important enough to get here as soon as he could? Was Jesus taking
their friendship for granted? Too much receiving and not enough
giving on his part?

But coming face to face with Jesus, she softened her words. Maybe
even now he could do something for her. Looking deeply into those
eyes, she dared to envision him asking God for. . . . whatever he
thought best. I can feel her heart start pumping at the thought.
What miracle could he do, even now, after four days in the tomb!

Jesus brought her back by stating what she already believed. Lazarus
will rise again. Of course. At the last day he will be resurrected. Then
Jesus continued with the mysterious words, "I am the resurrection
and the life." No one at this point knew what that meant. It had not
happened yet as far as Martha knew. Yet Jesus asked her to believe
his words. Any one who believes in him will live even though he dies;
in fact anyone who lives and believes in Jesus will never really die!

Jesus seems to be hinting to Martha that Lazarus is not really dead.
Is that how she interpreted his words? While alive, Lazarus had
certainly lived and believed in Jesus.

 

                                           John 11:27, NIV
27 "Yes, Lord," she told him, "I believe that you are the Christ,
the Son of God, who was to come into the world."

 
Martha affirmed what she believed about Jesus at this point in her life. 
He was the Christ, which is another word for the Messiah. She believed 
that somehow he was the Son of God, the one long-promised to come 
into the world to save Israel. Knowledge about Jesus being the 
resurrection was still new to her and she did not know yet how to 
put that into words.

 

                                            John 11:28-32, NIV
28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister
Mary aside. "The Teacher is here," she said, "and is asking for
you." 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to
him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still
at the place where Martha had met him.

31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house,
comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out,
they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to
mourn there.

32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw
him, she fell at his feet and said, "Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died."


October 6, 2011

Still excited and not knowing what to expect, Martha went to get Mary.
Calling her away from other mourners, she informed Mary that Jesus
was asking for her. We don't know if she whispered any of the words
she had just heard from Jesus. Mary left the house quickly to go to
meet Jesus. Had she recognized any change in the face or manner
of her sister that energized her to move quickly?

Crowds always go where the excitement is, so the mourners followed
Mary, thinking she was going to the tomb to be close to her brother.
To their surprise, Mary headed to the entrance of the village where
Jesus was waiting for her.

Mary was crying and couldn't see the twinkle in the eyes of Jesus.
She simply fell to the ground at his feet and whimpered the thought
that had been hounding her for days. "Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died." Different sister; same words, same
feelings, same disillusionment. Her body language said it all. She
collapsed into a hopeless, defeated mass.

 

                                          John 11:33-37, NIV
33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come
along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit
and troubled. 34 "Where have you laid him?" he asked.
"Come and see, Lord," they replied.

35 Jesus wept. 36 Then 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 have kept this man from dying?"


October 10, 2011
Jesus had come for a resurrection, yet here were all these people
crying as though there were no hope. Again how different things look
from God's perspective.

The wheels are turning now. There's too much weeping. Jesus has
waited long enough. Now it's time to begin moving toward his most
miraculous sign. One that will bring glory to God. An unforgettable
visual in plain sight that will show off the power of God to conquer
death. One that will give Jesus the opportunity to demonstrate the
works of God in a clear and unmistakable deed. And settle the
question of whether Jesus was sent by God to accomplish the
works of God.

Show me where you have buried our dear friend. The conversation
is now with the mourners in general, and no longer with the sisters.
While walking the short distance, Jesus also wept. Is weeping like
laughing--one starts and others join in? Why exactly was Jesus crying?
And on whose behalf did the tears flow? Some of the people walking
with Jesus interpreted the tears as proof that Jesus loved Lazarus
very deeply. Others thought maybe he cried because he didn't arrive
in time to prevent the death. Possibly he felt a degree of guilt for
his negligence.

The gospel writer has set up the scene so the reader knows Jesus
arrived at just the right time. Waiting until there could be no doubt
Lazarus was physically dead. But as far as the crowd of mourners
was concerned, it was four days too late. There was no possibility
that Jesus could intervene. All anyone could do now was grieve
his passing.

                 <prev                                                                   next>