John 11:20-28-When Martha heard that Jesus had arrived she went out to meet Him…Mary stayed in the house. He had not yet come into the village but had stopped nearby (:30). Martha tells Jesus that if He had arrived in time she knew that He could have saved Lazarus from dying. She then makes a statement that suggests that she wanted Jesus to know that while He had not made it to Bethany in time to keep Lazarus from dying…she was not upset about it and it had not affected her faith in Him. Jesus tells her that Lazarus will rise from the dead. Thinking that Jesus was referring to the future “resurrection on the last day”, she replies that she knows that. But Jesus is speaking of something different. In His next statement, Jesus basically says, “But you need to believe that I am the resurrection on this day. Do you believe this?” Jesus was showing Martha that Who He was did not just pertain to a future time, a future kingdom that would occur after the resurrection of the dead into Heaven…but that His authority and kingdom existed at that very moment. Again He uses the phrase, “I am” that speaks of the eternal nature of His existence and places the emphasis on Himself, not on the resurrection…not just a belief in a theological truth, but a belief in Him, personally. Jesus told her that He was the resurrection and the life. Life always has been and always will be under His authority. It does not begin in some future state, or time. “Martha, do you believe this?” Martha’s response is interesting. She calls Him “Lord,” signifying her trust in Him and submission to what He says. It’s as if she simply states, “Yes, Lord, whatever You say, I believe that.” It’s as if she is telling Him that she does not have a clear and complete grasp on what He has just told her…but that isn’t necessary. Just the fact that He said it is enough for her. She believes that He is “the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world,” and anything that He says that includes is fine with her. With that voice of confidence and faith in Him she turns and goes to get her sister, Mary.
John 11:29-35-Mary now goes to the same place and meets Jesus. Some of the people gathered there went with her. When Jesus saw her and the Jews weeping over the death of Lazarus, He wept. Notice that Jesus was deeply moved by the sorrow that death brought…”deeply moved in spirit, and was troubled…Jesus wept…deeply moved within” (:33,35,38).
John 11:36-37-The Jews were questioning why Jesus could not have kept Lazarus from dying…after all, He had opened the eyes of the blind.
John 11:38-47-Jesus tells them to remove the large stone that had been placed over the entrance to the burial cave. Martha has still not grasped what Jesus had told her earlier, so she is quick to remind Him that there will be a bad smell since the body of Lazarus would have begun to decompose. Jesus responds, “Did I not say to you, if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” When did Jesus tell her this? It is not recorded in their earlier discussion (verses 20-27). Perhaps when He first received the message from Martha and Mary while He was in the area of the Jordan, He had sent back a return message. He instructed the couriers to tell them that He was coming…and to also convey this thought to them. He is now reminding Martha of that message. He had told her then that this incident would bring glory to God and to the Son of God…and Mary had told Him that she believed Him to be the Son of God (:27). Jesus now prays out loud. He does so in order that those who hear Him pray will know exactly what He is asking for…so that when it happens…they will believe in Him (:41-42). He then called out to Lazarus to come out of the tomb. Lazarus came walking out of the grave…still wrapped up in the cloth that they had wrapped him in for burial. Jesus instructed them to unwrap him.
There are several key verses in this passage that help us to understand that Jesus was using this incident to develop belief in Him (:15,25-26,37,40,41-42,45). Sometimes we wonder why God has not answered our prayers the way that we want…when what He is doing is bringing glory to Himself, and using that incident to lead us to believe in Him, all the more. It’s not always easy…often it is difficult and involves sorrow. But the purpose is to lead us to Him…not just to belief in some theological truth, or to simply hope that something will happen, or be true. We are not called to believe in a theological truth…we are to believe in Jesus. Jesus again used the word formula that identifies Him with the Father…“I am”. How many times have we come to a conclusion about God…Who He is, what He can do…and rolled a stone across it as if it is over. We’ve got it all. We think that we’ve got all that there is to know about God, and we’ve got Him figured out. Jesus tells them to “Remove the stone.” Are there any stones, any limitations that we have placed on God? Is the limitation one that we have placed on His ability? Martha told Jesus that by this time the body of Lazarus would be rotten. This seemed to be a limiting factor on her faith. Or, have we relegated God to our knowledge of Him from a distance, impersonal, just the facts?
Prayer: Lord, keep me from settling for facts about You, and bring me to Yourself. It seems that the Pharisees were satisfied with doctrine and theology about You…but failed to see that those things were supposed to lead them to You (:45-46). That seems to be what You were saying to Martha. It was not enough to just believe in the resurrection…but she needed to believe in the One Who is the resurrection, You…“I am the resurrection and the life…Do you believe this?” (:25-26).