John 11:1-19-Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, lives in Bethany and is deathly ill. This is the Mary who anointed the feet of Jesus with oil and wiped them with her hair. This event had not yet happened (see 12:1-8; Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; a similar incident involving a different woman occurred in Luke 7:37-39), but John is careful to point it out here so that when it does happen we will better understand why she loved Jesus so deeply and would give such an extravagant gift. The sisters sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was sick. Previously, to escape the danger that the Pharisees presented, Jesus had left Jerusalem and gone to the place “beyond the Jordan” where John the Baptist had baptized (see 10:40; 1:28). When He received the message He said that the sickness would not end in death…but that God would be glorified through it. Jesus did not say that Lazarus would not die…but that he would not stay dead. And the key is that through this occurrence God would be glorified. John records that Mary herself spoke of the fact that Jesus loved Lazarus (:3), and then John writes that Jesus loved all three of them (:5; cf. :36). These words serve as a disclosure to tell us something that John wanted us to be aware of before what came next…because Jesus did not immediately respond like we might have anticipated. It is almost as if he was saying, “Now, be careful to keep this in mind, before we go any further, be aware that Jesus loved all three of them.” Because, when Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick…He stayed where He was even longer. He didn’t instantly jump up and run to Lazarus’ rescue, to keep him from dying. He told the disciples that they were going to Bethany…which is right outside of Jerusalem…and they were concerned because they had just left there because the Jewish leaders were trying to stone Him. But He said that as long as He was walking in the “light” (:9, His Father’s will), He would be safe. Jesus tells the disciples that Lazarus was asleep (they thought He meant literally asleep, not dead) and that He must wake him. Even though Jesus had just told them that they would be safe from the danger of the Pharisees, they were probably still concerned and wondered why He would risk everything just to go wake Lazarus up from sleeping…and after all, he would probably wake up on his own long before they would have time to make the trip to Bethany. So, He explained to them that when He used the word “sleep”, He was speaking of death. He then goes on to say that He is glad that they are not there in Bethany at the moment…otherwise He would not have the opportunity to do what He was about to do. But now, they would see the power of God in a miraculous manner and their faith in Him (Jesus) would become stronger because He would also be glorified. Thomas makes an almost humorous, though serious, statement…“Well, we had better go with Him, we can’t let Him die alone!” Thomas (Ryrie, 11:16), who was called “Didymus” (which means “twin”), may have been a twin of Matthew since their names are linked in Matt. 10:3, Mark 3:18, and Luke 6:15). When they arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had been dead for four days. A large crowd of family and friends were still there to console the sisters.
Prayer: Father, please help me to always know what Your “light”, Your will is…so that I might walk in it. Lord, if I have Your light…then I will always know what to do and will have courage and confidence. But Lord, I also need for Your Holy Spirit to give me the faith to walk in Your light…because it may sometimes lead me into difficult situations, as it would with Jesus. Your light does not assure us that we will not have difficulty, but only where we are to go and what we are to do. I think of Jesus when He was in the Garden of Gethsemane and prayed that if possible You would accomplish salvation through some means other than the cross…but You chose not to. Your light gave Him the understanding of what He must do…but He still needed to trust You to do it…even though He was the Son of God.